Sweatshirts Made in USA

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Mainpoint: clothingmadeinusablog goes searching for sweatshirts made in the USA.

Sweatshirts have been a staple of the male wardrobe since the 1920’s. Casual, comfortable and inexpensive, they are omnipresent like T-shirts or jeans. Sweatshirts are an American invention and up until the 1980’s, just about all sweatshirts were made in the U.S. But with the loss of trade restrictions and the widespread expansion of outsourcing, finding any American-made garments is difficult, but with sweatshirts, it is doubly difficult to find. We will attempt to find US made American sweatshirts and we will examine the history of sweatshirts.


The sweatshirt was invented in the 1920’s. It filled a special niche that wasn’t being met. In the early 1920’s, sportspeople, people doing track events or playing football or baseball, in order to keep warm, had to wear these knitted woollen sweaters. These sweaters were typically grey, often quite heavy and they were worn against the skin causing them to feel scratchy and uncomfortable. Additionally, because of perspiration, these garments needed to washed frequently, but they were horrendously slow to dry (they didn’t have electric clothes dryers at that time) and quite prone to shrinkage.

The new idea: in 1922, Bennie Russell, a keen University of Alabama football player suggested to his father that if they could modify a women’s union-suit top made of soft, thick cotton (which his father made) to create shirts that were loose, collarless pullovers for him and his teammates. The father was Benjamin Russell who had been making women’s and children’s underwear since 1902. These new “sweatshirts”, named by an anonymous Russell employee, were an instant hit. Within a decade, Russell had created a new division, solely for the sweatshirt business. This division was called Russell Athletic, still a major manufacturer of sweatshirts today, although, no longer in the U.S.


The Knickerbocker Knitting Company(KKC) (est. 1919) created by brothers, Abe and Bill Feinbloom, patented a process that greatly enhanced the sales of sweatshirts in the 1920’s. The process was a flocking process that enabled raised lettering to be printed on fabric, which was ideal for high school sports. KKC, trading under the name Champion, made other improvements as well, such as the hooded sweatshirt and the zip-up. They also developed the first reverse-weave sweatshirt; the light ribbing ran horizontally across the body rather than vertically up it, which meant minor shrinkages did not affect its length, no matter how many times the garment was washed. These were manufactured by loopwheels which minimized any tension when the thread was being woven and arguably created a better garment. Loopwheels fell out of use in the 1950’s, because they were slow. These loopwheels are considered collector’s items now.

Sweatshirts were abundant but not really cool until 1963 with the release of The Great Escape, when Steve McQueen, wore one under his A2 flight jacket and during his motorcycle escape attempt.

Wrong Turn (you may skip this paragraph if you don’t want to hear about economics and politics)

In 1980, The United States made 80% of all of its manufactured goods. Wal-Mart was a speck on the map, McDonald’s hadn’t even sold 10 million burgers, China was the world’s 10th largest economy behind Argentina and Spain. The big three sweatshirt manufacturers: Russell Athletic, Hanes, and Champion, all made their clothing in the U.S. But at the end of 1980, began the “Greed is Good” Era (from the fictional Wall Street character, Gordon Gecko who was based on Wall Street Inside Trader Ivan Boesky). I am not sure why this started, but I presume it was because the public bought into “Reaganomics” and his “Trickle-Down” Theory, which said if you give money to the rich it will help the poor and the middle class (which has been proven patently false). It never made sense to me, it is like saying if you give more food to the obese, you can help the skinny gain weight. Keeping with this same analogy, if the poor and middle class are to have any money come their way, they are going to have to forage through the monetary digestive waste of the rich. Conversely, if you gave money directly to the poor, then you would see money put back almost immediately into the local economy. (Maybe a theory for the future – let us call it ‘The Trickle Up” theory.) Now that the corporations had more governmental and political power, plus more money as well as being incentivized to move jobs overseas, outsourcing started and continues to run rampant, this has improved corporate margins of profit (however, it did not increase, but actually decreased US jobs) and most importantly (to the people that passed these laws), increased executive salaries. (In 1980, the average CEO salary to the average worker ratio was 42:1; in 2010, CEO to average worker ratio increased to 343:1.) All this outsourcing has majorly injured all American manufacturing, but clothing manufacturing received an additional blow when in 1995 Congress ended all import quotas and restrictions on clothing (repealing the 1974 Multifiber Agreement). There was a full phase out by 2005, the next year, 2006, China increased its exports to the US by 100%, which continues to increase. The effect of “dumping” cheap clothes, through foreign government  subsidies, illegal manipulation of the Chinese yuan, slave labor, and illegal (if it were in the US) kickbacks to executives had caused almost all of the American manufacturers to be “Wal-Marted” out of existence. (The Wal-Mart effect – through volume and greater monetary resources a company can keep prices artificially low for an indefinite amount of time for the sole purpose of putting the small shop out of business. It is borderline illegal like colluding companies that fix prices or monopolies. Maybe if the courts said that WalMarting was illegal in 1980, then we would not have all these Mega-Stores, Mega-Banks, Mega-Insurance Companies, Mega-Chain restaurant/stores, and Mega-Communication/Utility companies). The effect of all this has had a devastating effect on the clothing manufacturers – almost daily US manufacturers folded or moved their operations overseas.

Present Day and Where to Find US Made Sweatshirts

The United States, in 2012, manufactures only 2% of the clothing it needs., but lately we have seen a few  companies bring manufacturing back to the United States. The major sweatshirt companies (Russell Athletic, Hanes, Champion) presently, have all their sweatshirts made in Honduras, Vietnam, China or elsewhere. In fact, sweatshirts are one of those very difficult items to find made in the U.S., because for many consumers, sweatshirts are casual and inexpensive to start with and, therefore, quality is usually not a big issue with many buyers. But there are some high quality sweatshirts out there, but you will have to search.

American Giant Sweatshirts

One of the newest makers of US made sweatshirts is American Giant. They are based in San Francisco and sell directly to the consumer which keeps costs down. The way that they get their brand recognition is through the internet, through blogs and clothing websites.Their prices are reasonable and of very high quality.

Listing of US Made sweatshirts – Retail – Men’s (Found in stores)

  1. American Apparel
  2. Aviator Nation
  3. Day After
  4. Envae
  5. Fieldscout
  6. Filson
  7. James Perse
  8. Joe’s
  9. Land’s End
  10. Local Green
  11. NSF Clothing
  12. Obey
  13. Patrick Ervell
  14. Retro
  15. Rogan
  16. Sol Angeles
  17. Steven Alan
  18. Threads for Thought
  19. Tim Coppins
  20. 1901

Listing of US Made Sweatshirts – Retail – Women’s (Found in Stores)

  1. Abbot and Main
  2. Allen Allen
  3. American Apparel
  4. Eileen Fisher (uncommon)
  5. Hard Tail
  6. Haute Hippie
  7. h.i.p.
  8. Jason Wu (rare)
  9. Juicy Couture (rare)
  10. Living Doll
  11. Make and Model
  12. NSF Clothing
  13. Patterson J. Kincaid
  14. Peek
  15. Pink Lotus
  16. prANA
  17. Rag & Bone
  18. Retro
  19. Soul, Mind, Breath, Life
  20. Splendid
  21. Textile
  22. T2
  23. Wildfox

Partial Listing of US Made Sweatshirts – Internet


  1. Aether Apparel
  2. AKWA
  3. All American Clothing
  4. American Giant
  5. American Joe
  6. Bayside
  7. Camber USA
  8. Campbellsville
  9. Daisy’s Swimwear
  10. Dehen
  11. Dyer and Jenkins
  12. Eagle USA
  13. Flint and Tinder
  14. Fresh Produce
  15. Jest Sweatshirts
  16. Kellsport
  17. King Louie
  18. KL Apparel (King Louie)
  19. Leftfield (NYC)
  20. Lightning Bolt
  21. Lifewear, Inc.
  22. My Boxercraft (Hoodie)
  23. Pop Outerwear
  24. Red Ant Pants (Hoodie)
  25. Rising Son and Co.
  26. S & H Athletics
  27. Schoodie
  28. SOS
  29. Sweatshirts USA
  30. Union House
  31. Velva Sheen (at hickorees.com)
  32. West is Dead
  33. 1791 Supply and Co.


Conclusion: Sweatshirts can be found in the USA, but it takes a little bit of searching – a helpful hint would be to use my blog entry;”Nordstroms, NiemanMarcus, etc. Links to clothing made in USA”. Find the store link: under” search”, type in: ‘sweatshirts made in usa’ (or ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’ prior to ‘sweatshirts made in usa’). I still prefer to go to the stores and try the garment on before purchasing it.

I saw a TV commercial yesterday. Old Navy was advertising $5 polo shirts for Easter. You know, if you bought one, you are still being ripped off. My personal opinion is that they should take all the clothing off the shelves of Old Navy and put them directly into the landfill, and bypass you the middleman, who will ultimately send them to their proper place (the landfill) after one or two wearings. Just say NO to slave labor.

“I saw a women wearing a sweatshirt with Guess on it. I said ‘Thyroid Problem'” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Reference:  Icons of Men’s Style by Josh Sims, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2011

(Updated April 18, 2014)


1 Response to “Sweatshirts Made in USA”

  1. 1 Nancy
    October 15, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Well written. Thank you for the history lesson.

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