The best hoodies for men span traditional to modern styles: the Champion template to the modern cropped or oversized fleece.
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They build upon the garment’s history as both a layer and counterculture symbol while further taking into account fashion’s natural progression. Specifically, streetwear intertwining with high-end designer aesthetics to blur the line between truly casual and upscale.
Where the Hoodie Comes From
Today, we associate men’s hoodies with hip-hop stars and skaters, viewing it as a subculture garment that emerged into the mainstream over the past decade.
In a traditional sense, the typical hoodie uses midweight cotton jersey fabrication and features an attached hood. Beyond this distinction, they’re divided into pullovers and zip-up hoodies.
The hooded garment itself goes back centuries, all the way to the Greeks and Romans and later to religious head coverings in subsequent eras.
The most modern version – and one still setting the standard today – started in the 1930s with the Knickerbocker Knitting Company, a sweater mill that would eventually evolve into Champion Products. The garment – essentially a hooded sweatshirt based on cold-weather underwear fabrication – was developed for laborers working outdoors through winter or in cold-storage warehouses and needing combined warmth and head protection.
At the same time, Champion listened to the needs of local high school athletic programs and developed double-thickness sweatshirts specifically for football and track players needing to practice in cold, damp weather. This relationship eventually led to Champion supplying high schools with athletic gear, while student athletes would then wear the garments casually outside of practices and games.
Outside of athletic and workwear, the hoodie’s slow ascent into popular culture began in the ‘70s, an era that saw the growth of college merch in relation to athletic programs, the burgeoning hip-hop movement, and the first Rocky movie, complete with its sweatshirt-sported training sequences, that turned Sylvester Stallone’s character into a working class icon. As such, the hoodie’s identity was split: associated with serious, strenuous athletic training and, on the other, a symbol of do-it-yourself urban ethos.
Skater and punk cultures in the ‘80s and ‘90s took this last point and ran with it, using hoodies as a garment to shield the face and garner a sense of mystery. As such, high school dress codes started banning the hoodie in the ‘90s and 2000s.
As the second mainstream factor normalizing the hoodie, the growth of startup and tech-bro culture in the 2000s and 2010s saw male CEOs and executives sporting hoodies along with jeans and T-shirts as a symbol of effortless innovation, extreme focus, and the relaxing of company culture. While this change ultimately softened the boundary between work and life, it also made the hoodie an acceptable white-collar garment, particularly in smart-casual workplaces.
Men’s Designer Hoodies
Men’s designer hoodies are another byproduct of the 2010s: particularly, the gradual merging of streetwear and subculture scenes, including hip-hop and skate culture, with mainstream, high-end fashion. Today, stylish hoodies for guys span the classic heathered looks Champion introduced decades ago but also the oversized to crop silhouettes with mixed materials and detailed designs.
Considered strictly an athletic-to-casual style in the ‘90s, the first designer hoodies came about sometime in the 2000s, introduced by preppy-leaning brands with some street cred, like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. Celebrity endorsements also didn’t hurt, and as sports organizations gradually loosened player dress codes during these two decades, you’d spot leading players like LeBron James in one off the court.
Nevertheless, defining stylish hoodies for guys, these designer digs veer vastly beyond Champion’s 20th century template:
- Called “statement sweatshirts” toward the end of the 2010s, designer hoodies frequently sport more than heathered material, including leather and satin, and incorporate embroidery, color-blocking, and quilted textures.
- Parody styles, meanwhile, poke fun at the appropriation of low-end garments by high-fashion brands. Rising in conjunction with men’s designer hoodies, parody sweatshirts play on words, logos, and commonly recognized designs. Among the more commonly spotted are Homiès hoodies, nodding to Hermès, and “Féline,” in reference to Céline.
Yet, designer hoodies have also turned into a symbol of accessible luxury. Whereas men’s runway styles seem like works of art or impractical, the designer hoodies’ streetwear-meets-luxury confluence offers a style upgrade and a higher-end interpretation of a long-time wardrobe staple.
Finding Your Favorite Hoodie
Whether you take the traditional or designer track, multiple factors come into play when you’re looking for the comfiest hoodie:
Pullovers Versus Men’s Zip-Up Hoodies
Hoodies take two generally different forms, which ultimately affect your level of comfort and how you’ll wear them.
Men’s zip-up hoodies are traditionally worn like a jacket: These fully zip up the front and usually feature two hand pockets. More of a casual style, these get an athletic edge when they feature a scuba neck for more coverage and thicker fabrication. In general, because you’ll throw one over like a lightweight coat, it’s assumed that you’re wearing at least a T-shirt underneath.
Men’s pullover hoodies, meanwhile, can function as a layer – or they can be worn by themselves, as is the case with lighter-weight 100% cotton styles. Generally, these feature a one-piece design with a kangaroo pocket in front. More active styles, on the other hand, may remove this feature and add a scuba neck, turning it into a long-sleeve performance shirt with an attached hood.
Traditionally, men’s hoodies have been made with a midweight cotton/polyester jersey or French terry blend, heathered on the exterior and brushed on the inside for softness. The material is heavy enough for warmth yet not so thick it overheats your body. The cotton/polyester combination often combines wicking, breathability, and shape retention.
Yet, this general fabrication is changing. More active styles feature a touch of spandex for stretch and flexibility, while sweatshirt fleece – heathered on the outside and napped on the interior – holds a place amongst heavier-weight materials.
On the traditional end, hoodies have always been a bit oversized: that goes back to their early history as a workwear layer for warmth. Yet, evolving trends have added more variety. Beyond the whole pullover versus zip-up debate, two silhouettes have emerged in recent years. The oversized hoodie reflects the recent menswear trend for wider-cut, more relaxed fits. We’ve seen it with suiting, pants, and jackets, so hoodies seem like the next step. An oversized men’s hoodie often has a lower hem, wider body and arms, and a slouchier fit.
Cropped hoodies, meanwhile, are primarily experiencing their popularity in the womenswear sphere, but they’re not unheard of in the menswear world. Rather than highlighting the midriff area, men’s cropped hoodies hit above the hips – but don’t fall above the waist – and have a slimmer, boxier form that’s meant to be worn more as a shirt than a layer.