The most stylish men’s clothes are often utilitarian; jeans, bomber jackets, and baseball caps are all workwear if you’ve got the right job. The same is true for crewneck sweatshirts, which were developed in the 1920s by Alabama Crimson Tide player, Benjamin Russell Jr., as an alternative to wool jerseys for football players trying to stay warm without the itch. These days, crewnecks aren’t uniformly gray, but they are a uniform for many — a simple, comforting and stylish staple that also happens to be having a moment courtesy of 1990s nostalgia.
As fate would have it, Benjamin Russell Jr. had a Sr. His father owned Russell Athletic, which put the nepo kid’s idea into production. In the 1920s and 1930s, cotton/poly blends replaced the original all-cotton construction and fleece became more common than cotton terry, but the profile stayed the same: raglan sleeves and V-stitching at the collar.
Precisely because they are so practical and because they are made of affordable materials, sweatshirts can be cheap. A basic cotton/poly Russell runs toward $20, but brands like Sunspel and Todd Snyder sell premium styles — with all-cotton construction — for north of $150. Russell Jr. inspired a million designers to make their version of his warmup.
It’s worth noting that the crewneck is closely associated with college and college athletics. Every crewneck with a word arched across it in a serif font is understood to be a play on the old Ivy League standard (remember that “KALE” sweatshirt everyone wore in 2018?). But it’s actually not a Harvard thing. In the 1930s, Abe Feinbloom, co-founder of Champion, convinced Moe’s Sport Shop to make sweats and tees with the University of Michigan insignia. From there, the brand “pioneered a new market of casual campus wear sold from campus bookstores,” according to Jay Escobara, Global Vice President of Design at Champion. As more people went to college, more people came home comfy.
The Best Sweatshirts For Men At a Glance
What The Experts Say
A sweatshirt is a simple garment, but with two distinct types to choose from and it’s worth knowing the difference. There’s fleece, which is more common and cheaper, and french terry, which is worth it.
“The differences lie within the finishing of the fabric,” according to Escobara. Terry has a knit loop construction, similar to a towel. Fleece is “brushed to a lofty pile” for a fluffy, fuzzy feeling. Fleece tends to be heavier and warmer, and it’s mostly what Champion uses. Terry is often made from 100% cotton, while fleece will almost always have some polyester content.
The fabrics suit different seasons. Escobara recommends terry as the “perfect layering or warm-weather” piece while citing fleece’s “more mid to heavyweight construction for all season [wear].”
Todd Snyder x Champion Pocket Sweatshirt
What makes the Todd Snyder x Champion sweatshirt roughly $50 better than a regular Champion sweatshirt? It’s not just the pocket (though that certainly helps). For Snyder’s ongoing collaboration with Champion, he’s updated things by focusing on what worked in the past.
Snyder swaps cotton/poly fleece for all-cotton French terry, which is an old-school, authentic detail that heritage menswear heads will appreciate. Crucially, Snyder nails the fit. Neither boxy nor tight, the tailored fit is flattering. And with over a dozen stylish colors to choose from, it’ll be hard to resist buying just one.
Russell Athletic Dri-Power Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: Russell may have invented one of the best sweatshirts for men, but they don’t feel the need to be showy about it. They make a simple product in a lot of colors. Hard to object.
ROI: With sweatshirts weighing in at $20, it’s hard to beat Russell for value. The sweats are made from a 9 oz fleece in a 50/50 cotton/poly blend.
Prinkshop 1973 Retro Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: 1973 isn’t just a random year. This sweatshirt commemorates the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade, an anniversary that’s especially vital today.
ROI: The sweatshirt is designed and printed in the US. The retro design looks cool, and it also gives back; $10 from each sale goes to The National Institute for Reproductive Health.
Nike Club Fleece Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: Despite being known for shoes, Nike’s basics are where a lot of the heat is.
ROI: This Nike crewneck sweatshirt is made from a cotton/poly blend that’s at least 80% cotton, resulting in a sweatshirt that combines the softness of fleece with the durability and quality of cotton.
Hot Take: With so many muted colors to choose from, Nike’s club fleece sweatshirt can be worn with anything (except for Adidas sneakers).
Tracksmith Trackhouse Amateur Crew
Why It Stands Out: Being a beginner never looked so good. Design-forward label Tracksmith makes gear for runners of all stripes, not just the pro marathoners.
ROI: Tracksmith nailed the classic detailing of this sweatshirt, with the classic V-notch, ribbed panels and reverse weave fabric. This will never go out of style.
Champion Men’s Reverse Weave Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: Champion’s Reverse Weave crewneck sweatshirt is beefier than it looks, so it’ll deliver in the warmth department.
ROI: Sweatshirts should be able to withstand multiple washes, and that’s exactly what Reverse Weave was invented for. The sweatshirt costs a modest $55 and resists pilling and shrinking.
Hot Take: Make no mistake, Champion Reverse Weave still hits hard. It’s more expensive than Champion’s Powerblend, but it’s more durable, with considered details like double stitching and a heftier, cotton-rich fabric.
Sunspel French Terry Crewneck Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: Many brands do basics well, but few have been at it as long as Sunspel. Founded in 1860, the brand has a legendary reputation for t-shirts, and its sweats excel, too.
ROI: Sunspel’s sweatshirts cost more, but the premium construction is worth the splurge.
Adidas 3 Stripe Crew Sweat
Why It Stands Out: For a sweatshirt with a little extra detail, it’s hard to argue with Adidas’ iconic 3 stripes motif, which runs down the sides of the sleeves.
ROI: Adidas’ affordable men’s sweatshirt is made with cotton and recycled polyester, while the raglan sleeves are a heritage detail that make for easy movement.
Hot Take: Adidas may be a classic, but it’s fair to say the brand is having a moment.
Fear of God Essentials Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: Fear of God Essentials is everywhere right now. Jerry Lorenzo’s diffusion line brings better basics to the masses.
ROI: FOG Essentials branding can be loud, but the extremely subtle logo of this sweatshirt means it’ll work in any situation. This new, seemingly vintage sweatshirt has a boxy, 90s-inspired fit with an oversized collar.
Hot Take: Canary is an excellent name for this sweatshirt color. Be warned; this pale yellow color is popping up everywhere.
Levi’s Gold Tab Crewneck Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: Levi’s new Gold Tab collection is an homage to NorCal, the place jeans were born. “Big Sur Monterey County” isn’t a college, it’s a place. Actually, it’s a state of mind.
ROI: This sweatshirt nods to classic collegiate apparel, including traditional details like 100% cotton terry fabric.
Carhartt Crewneck Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: It may be trendy now, but the hard-wearing wares of Carhartt will never actually go out of style.
ROI: Boxy and stretchy, Carhartt’s 50/50 cotton poly sweatshirt is as cozy and affordable as they come.
Hot Take: Why more crewneck sweatshirts don’t come with pockets will remain one of life’s great mysteries, but at least this sweatshirt sets things right.
Richer Poorer Raglan Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: The short sleeve sweatshirt is a scene-stealer in movies like Jaws and The Great Escape, but the style works just as well off the screen.
ROI: This sweatshirt is made from a blend of 60% cotton and 40% recycled polyester. The mineral-washed fabric adds a worn-in, comfortable look.
Hot Take: Richer Poorer’s basics aren’t flashy, but they are standouts. This short sleeve is great on its own on a cool summer morning or layered under a jacket.
Chicago Cubs Rarefield 47 Harris Scrimmage Crew
Why It Stands Out: The Rarefield ’47 Harris Scrimmage Crew is ‘47 Brand’s upgraded sweat, featuring heritage details like a felt applique team script.
ROI: The Rarefield sweatshirts may clock in at a higher price point, but they look like vintage grails.
Hot take: Fan gear that you’d actually want to wear on non-game days is rare, but ‘47 brand has nailed it. It’s not just the Cubs, of course. 47 brand has a lot of teams on their roster.
J Crew Wallace & Barnes Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: Cotton may have been a replacement for itchy wool when the sweatshirt was first developed, but merino is soft, warm, and temperature-regulating.
ROI: The boiled wool fabric adds a luxe hand feel to the basic silhouette, which explains the steeper price point.
Hot Take: The colors are killer, and the fabric is luxe. Whether or not J Crew is back, this sweatshirt is a hit.
Hanes Men’s Sweatshirt
Why It Stands Out: Hanes’ sweatshirt stands out precisely because it doesn’t stand out. Affordable, logoless, and no-frills, it’s hard to go wrong with this sweatshirt.
ROI: Hanes’ sweatshirt is by far the most affordable option on this list, and it’s the ideal option for anyone looking for something that they don’t have to be too precious with.
Hot Take: Hanes has been through a lot in its 122 years in business; the Michael Jordan ads, being owned by Sara Lee. Through it all, the brand has kept nailing the basics.
Frequently Asked Questions About Men’s Sweatshirts
What’s the difference between a hoodie and a sweatshirt?
It’s a square/rectangle situation. A hoodie is a specific type of sweatshirt with a hood, while sweatshirts can include crewneck, quarter-zip, and hooded styles. Most commonly though, a sweatshirt refers to a collarless crewneck style made from fleece or French terry.
Why do sweatshirts have that V or a triangle under the collar?
According to Russell Athletic, manufacturer of the first sweatshirt, the V helped absorb sweat, with the added benefit of helping the collar keep its shape.
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