There was a time, along with balaclavas, swag bags and black-and-white striped tops, when a hoodie was something that would instantly mark you out as a would-be robber and all-round wrong’un.
But, as much as this humble sportswear staple has the potential to send passers-by straight to the other side of the street, right now we’re urging you to take style tips from David Cameron (remember him?) and hug a hoodie.
Why? Well, practicality aside, thanks to a designer overhaul the hoodie has gone from de facto uniform of angry adolescents to the item most likely to be covering the backs of well-dressed men this season.
The only loser here is Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, whose normcore hoodie has just gone full #menswear. Bad luck, Mark.
The History Of The Hoodie
Long before it found itself a witness to dodgy deals in darkened alleys, the hoodie was the uniform of champions. OK, so that’s over-egging it a little, but sports apparel company Champion Products does lay claim to creating the world’s first hooded sweatshirt in the 1930s.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that – lo and behold – the hoodie was designed to keep athletes warm and dry in miserable weather. Since then it’s been adopted by hip-hop culture, skaters, snowboarders, angry young adults, stag parties, university students and (the reason we’re here) the runway.
The Return Of The Hoodie
Even though, come fashion week, many news outlets delight in ridiculing the most outrageous runway looks they can find, in truth most menswear pieces were born out of practicality. And that’s exactly what the hoodie offers: comfort, comfort and more comfort.
The return of the hoodie signals that we’re now at peak athleisure. Having successfully broached upscale sportswear in its various forms, it was only a matter of time before menswear got its mitts on the near-century-old staple.
Luckily, the hoodie hysteria looks set to continue for some time yet. From streetwear peddling upstarts (Off White, Vetements) to more established menswear heavy hitters (Balenciaga, Versace) both SS17 and AW17 collections showed the hoodie some serious love.
If you’ve got too much month at the end of your money, the high street has plenty of decent entry-level options. Topman offers reasonably priced hoodies in practically every shade under the sun, as does Swedish mega-chain H&M with its sporty L.O.G.G. range.
For something more pared-back for the gym, Uniqlo should be your first port of call. Looking to make more of a statement? Head straight to online giant ASOS, where you’ll find oversized and longline options that are ideal for reverse layering.
Elsewhere, the styles turned out by Spanish fast-fashion kings Zara run the gamut from simple everyday throw-overs to designer brand ‘homages’ complete with cut-out sections and in SS17’s must-have print: camo.
By rights, streetwear hoodies should prioritise quality (heavyweight, pure cotton is a minimum) and performance over design. Despite this, among streetwear circles, the logo is everything.
Hoodies by skateboarding brand Palace are excellent (if you can get your hands on one) for those who want to appear laid-back, while higher up the chain you’ll find Tokyo-based Bape and cult New York firm Supreme, which both offer oversized streetwear hoodies with distinctly un-streetwear price tags.
Of course, if you want the best, go to the OG. Champion’s Reverse Weave line, with its classic handwritten logo, has been to hoodies what Levi’s is to denim for almost 90 years. Subsequently, the American firm has inspired many other key names in the sector, including Carhartt, Stussy and even Vetements.
High-end hoodies are ideal for pairing with smarter pieces and often comes in fabrics such as lambswool, cashmere and premium cotton for an addictively strokable wear.
Bond-favourite brand Sunspel is our tip for solid loopback construction, while fellow Brit brand Derek Rose and Italian firm Brioni are worth exploring if you’re looking for timeless designs in ultra-luxe materials.
With more than 200 years’ experience producing knitwear, it’s little wonder that Derbyshire-based John Smedley’s simple merino wool zip-ups are some of the best on the market. Though more surprising is Suitsupply’s 100 per cent cashmere offerings, which come in at less than £150.
Having made their names in sportswear, collections from designers like John Elliot, Alexander Wang and Neil Barrett are also rarely without an elevated version of the loungewear essential.
How To Wear The Hoodie
As Part Of A Layered Look
As much as we’re trumpeting the power of the hoodie, don’t think that wearing one is all about making a statement. When used as part of a layered look, the hoodie can be surprisingly unassuming.
As Mr Porter style director, Olie Arnold, says: “A cosy cashmere hoodie is a great layering piece for a day in the city, which will leave you looking sharp while keeping you warm at the same time.”
To get this look right, wear a zip-up hoodie over a simple white crew-neck T-shirt, then add an overcoat or jacket, slim jeans and a pair of box-fresh trainers.
As Part Of An Athleisure Look
Whenever comfort and coolness go hand-in-hand, you can be sure that we’ll be enthusiastic cheerleaders. Such is the case with athleisure and, thanks to those clever menswear designers, you won’t run the risk of looking like you were too lazy to change out of your gym gear.
Jaeger head of menswear, James Jee, says: “Gone are the days of the baggy, oversized logo-emblazed hoodie. Fabrics are softer and heavier – a sign of a better yarn quality and a lot more of it. The fit is a little sharper and clean.”
So, to go full athleisure, team a black fitted hoodie with black, fitted joggers and slip on a pair of minimal leather sneakers. Done.
Under A Leather Jacket
If you’re not sold by the high-low mix (it’s not for everyone), then it’s OK to stick to more familiar territory. A leather jacket and hoodie combination is one of those low octane pairings that work well, season after season.
Reiss head of menswear design, Alex Field, says: “Hoodies have dramatically improved in terms of quality and fit. Therefore, guys are looking to invest in well-fitting, well-made casual designs that can be worn in various situations. Whether that be to the gym or as part of a stylish off-duty look.”
Using a black leather jacket and black or indigo jeans as the base, experiment with hoodies in different colours beneath your jacket and wear a pair of leather or suede boots to smarten up this look.
If you’re going to wear a hoodie with a suit or blazer, you’re channelling a ‘look’ and will instantly mark yourself out as a card-carrying member of Club Menswear. That’s no reason not to give this high-low combination a whirl, though.
As Giles Farnham, head of River Island’s Style Studio, points out: “Sure, a hoodie teamed with a pair of straight-leg jeans and sneakers is a tried and tested combination that just works. But if you’re looking to sharpen up, try layering under an unstructured suit for an outfit that rips up the traditional rule book.”
To nail the sports-meets-suit look, try a mid-weight grey hoodie with a charcoal grey suit and choose white lace-up sneakers in place of dress shoes.
With Tailored Trousers
For a slightly less committed way to mix smart and casual, a hoodie worn with a pair of smart trousers is your best bet. Again, it’s an easy way to avoid that dreaded overgrown adolescent territory.
ASOS head of menswear design, Nick Eley, says: “We’re seeing a real move towards ‘high-low’ dressing, so team your hoodie with wider-leg trousers or a longer formal coat.”
Get a grip on this look by opting for a neutral colour hoodie, then add a pair of trousers and sports luxe sneakers. If you’re feeling brave, try a little pattern on the bottom half, such as pinstripes or checks.
General Hoodie Guidelines
- Don’t dig out your old Linkin Park hoodie, you’re not an angst-ridden teenager and it’s not the 2000s anymore.
- Look for pure cotton designs for optimum quality and longevity (bonus points for brushed cotton and loopback construction).
- Pullover designs typically look smarter than zip up designs.
- Don’t chase the latest must-have hoodie if you want to get the most wear out of it. Instead, go for a timeless, versatile design in a colour that complements your existing wardrobe.
- A fitted hoodie is a good way to make sure you look sharp rather than sloppy.
- If in doubt, leave the logo. Flecks or mottled weaves are a good way to add interest.
- Unless you’re on campus, university hoodies are a no-go.
- Personalised comedy hoodies are always a fail.
- Over the age of 40? A hoodie in a luxe fabric worn with tailored separates will make sure you look suitably grown up.