Sweatshirts, once an inherent part of gyms and workout routines, are fast becoming a symbol of personal style and self-expression throughout the world. While these hooded garments have been in use since the late 1930s, they have been successful in enjoying a renewed popularity in recent years. This new breed of sweatshirts, generally referred to as fashion or statement sweatshirts, has today emerged as a high fashion hero piece for men, women and kids alike and a trendy alternative to the fine knit sweaters of yesteryears.
While the history of hooded garments can be traced to the monks and outdoor workers of Medieval Europe, it was only in the mid-20th century that the modern sweatshirt was introduced. It was created in 1930s in the US as a utilitarian garment for workers in the freezing temperatures of New York. But it was only during the 1970s that hoodies took off as a fashion statement,with the rise of the hip-hop sub-culture.
“Without a doubt! Sweatshirts and hoodies have that whole rap/hip hop and the underground connection. Rap music is pretty popular in India now-a-days, and hoodies are number one choice of the fans who follow this culture,” says Ranjiv Ramchandani, Director, Tantra.
“With the emergence of the ‘rap culture’ in India, the enthusiasm for sweatshirts and hoodies have gone sky high. It always comes to what you see celebrities carrying and then getting influenced by them,” adds Nivida Kohli, Design Manager, Numero Uno.
Sweatshirts are the ultimate crossover of style and comfort, and in an age where comfort and practicality take centrestage in fashion, it’s no surprise that this cross functional piece of apparel has become a wardrobe staple across the world.
“There is a lifestyle shift in the consumer requirement to get more out of clothes. Their demand is for versatility, form, function and comfort from the products. And the basis of this sweatshirt category is a knitted fabric. That inheritably has mechanical stretch and comfort in it and hence the increase in consumption for knit based category sweatshirts,” states Kohli.
As relatively inexpensive, wash-and-wear and convenient outerwear, sweatshirts are especially popular among the young and Millennial generations, especially in India.
“Sweatshirts, as a category, is attracting a lot of Millennials. They are easy to wear and maintain and also provide the desired warmth for the early and mild winter season. Its share in the winterwear category has increased to 30 percent from 15 percent earlier. We are projecting the highest growth in this category over previous years,” states Vinit Doshi, Head – Product, Planning and Sourcing, Celio.
Over the years, just like other fashion categories sweatshirts too have been subjected to evolution of massive proportions. Today, sweatshirts have come a long way from being just a functional winter wear category to become a fashion statement of the new generation.
“The sweatshirt market has changed drastically over the years.
Earlier sweatshirts were largely driven from the utility perspective but today the driving force is fashion, as it is big part of the three biggest trends for the youth currently—Athleisure, Sportswear and Streetwear,” says Saurabh Singh, Head of Design Menswear, Being Human Clothing.
Modern sweatshirts are light weight and feature a contemporary range of colours and designs. “The shift towards light weight fabrics have also been witnessed in the sweatshirt segment. It has transformed from heavy fleece and with hoods to easy light weight or crew neck products offered in bright shades and with fun graphics. As a product it has become more younger inlook and feel. Lighter sweatshirts have allowed for extension of category usage occasion,” states Doshi.
Echoing similar thoughts, Kohli states that sweatshirts are no longer a winter trend; they can be seen flaunted throughout the year. “They have definitely changed a lot in recent years. Today, with fabric heterogeneity, the demand for sweatshirts has not just been restricted for the cold, but sweatshirts have now become a product that can be flaunted in all climatic conditions,” she adds.
According to Singh, the most recent trends in sweatshirts are driven by 90s sports and street style with pronounced colour blocking, logo mania and tie-dye effects.
“This season we designed a line of sweatshirts with lot of sporty details like Reglan sleeves with piping and taping details, colour blocking, etc. We have also experimented with more sophisticated, structured, knitted fabrics apart from the classic French Terry with great results. This season we have experimented with a heavy weight pique fabric in fine count which is giving a very sophisticated look to the new sweatshirts, elevating them to smart casual category,” he adds.
Being Human is also planning a line of sleeveless sweatshirts in its Summer/ Spring’20 collection.
Celio has been concentration on shelling out lightweight sweatshirts in contemporary designs and colours. “Our latest collection features a unique type of suede sweatshirt that can either be used as panels or as complete products. Dip dyed, suede and double face fabrics are new things that we have experimented with this season,” reveals Doshi.
According to Kohli, utility, outdoor, street styling and sportswear are the driving trend directions for sweatshirts now.
“As far as the materials goes the trend line is towards lightweight,stretch, clean surfaces, blends and a visible growing openness for purchasing of polyester rich performance sportswear products. In all of this comfort and fit is key. In the assortment mix crew neck and hooded sweatshirts are heroes,” she adds.
Numero Uno’s Autumn/Winter’19 collections offer an expressive,youthful range of sweatshirts with new wave designs that break the rules of tradition and design codes. In each of these designs, a strong focus has been kept on play, creativity, dressing up and radical self-expression to cater to Millennials looking for something unique and new.
Retro Sporting, Print Sweats and Plaid Play are three noteworthy collections from the brand’s new offerings in sweatshirts.
Retro Sporting features primary bright colour blocking highlighted with text taping and off beat print placements especially printed in a vertical pattern running along the length of the sleeves, hood and side seams. The Graphic/ Print Sweats collection encompasses logo sweatshirts, bold type attitude slogans in solid bright coloured sweatshirts and camoufl age patterns. The Plaid Play collection features check patterns, crew neck check sweatshirts, and pattern play with taped sleeve highlights and fabric blocking on chest.
Sweatshirts have been enjoying superior demand in the recent years not only in the metro cities but also in the smaller town of the country.
With the new generations’ increased engagement with internet and social media there has been an increased awareness and desire to be more fashion conscious and this is going to drive the demand of sweatshirts throughout the length and breadth of the country. “Compared to metros the markets in the Tier II and III are maturing quite rapidly with the rise of smart phones consumers are as aware of trends as people in other big cities and they are now demanding what they see on the internet in real time,” reveals Singh.
As a whole, sweatshirts are considered to have a very bright future, considering the fact that India is one of the youngest nations of the world. “It’s a young growing category driven by a majority of youth consumers. India has a population of 1.3 billion approximately and the average median age is 25 years making it a very promising marketplace for sweatshirts,” concludes Kohli.
(With inputs from Gurbir Singh Gulati)