Champion, a brand with a bit over 100 years of history and sweat behind it, founded by the Feinbloom bros Abe and Bill in New York 1919. The original working title was back then The Knickerbocker Knitting Company and the bros timing couldn’t be better cause during the whole 20’s sports and athletic competitions worldwide were booming. Of course, as usual the States were in the center of all this thanks to their colleges which were rapidly professionalizing sports and making students sweat.
Abe and Bill made their first major bank when University of Michigan asked them to manufacture sweatshirts for all of their various sport teams. That lead to the bros suddenly being involved in the major lobbing to regulate sports team uniforms, which up until this point had been rather chaotic. Finally in 1930 boys felt so confident that they renamed the company modestly Champion Knitting Mills.
Regulating uniforms wasn’t the only thing though why these rascals become legends. Industrial washing machines were shrinking and destroying the team’s gear, so the good fellows at Champion began brainstorming, ultimately producing the now-iconic ‘reverse-weave’ sweaters. Reverse-weave knits are made of a heavy-duty cotton fleece and are cut on the cross-grain, a deceptively simple way to prevent vertical shrinkage. At this point, sportswear was exclusively being made of cotton, which marked departure from an earlier era when almost all sportswear, even speedo’s, were made from wool.
This was also the era were every misfit’s favorite; the hoodie was created. Although back then Champion folks called it ‘side-line sweatshirts’. Elastic cuffs and waists were added to sweaters to keep the athletes warm and all of a sudden, the modern sweater was created.
Slowly the lazy non-athletic people on the campus started to adopt the sweatshirts as well. Although Champion clothes were sold nationwide on campuses they were still exclusively worn by the academics. Yet once again, like you may remember from our earlier articles, the US Army took this garment and made it to the wardrobe staple it is today. During the World War II and Korean War US Army had to train a whole bunch of new recruits who all needed sportswear, which Champion of course happily provided.
Time went on and the States got into more fights with various ‘enemies’. One of those enemies was the GOAT Muhammad Ali who wore Champion sportswear when traing for his first fight at the Wembley stadium back in 1963. His iconic look was soon outdated, as the Champion brainstormed some more and developed the new synthetic fabrics which would later revolutionize the sportswear game.
Breathable mesh shorts, nylon-lined jackets and sports bras were all invented in the 70’s and reflected both recent technological developments and the further professionalization of sports in the US.
Now we take a tiny time leap forward to the 1990’s which was a pretty important decade for Champion, and which made them what they are in the today’s world. From 1990 to 1997 season of the NBA, Champion had the exclusive right to outfit the 27 teams of the series. But that wasn’t all, in 1992 Champion also provided the uniforms for the gold medal-winning US ‘dream team’ at the Barcelona Olympics.
During the 90’s the basketball court wasn’t the only arena for Champion. Their sweatshirts, more specifically hoodies were in the spotlight at the East Coast rap scene. Seen and quoted in multiple videos and verses the Champion sweatshirts knitted it self tight together with the raw energy of the era. One of the notable verses was on Wu Tang’s debut album in track called ‘7th Chamber’, where Raekwon spits ‘Champion gear that I rock, you get your boots knocked.’ The whole Wu Tang Clan has been rocking the Champion gear throughout the years among many other masters of ceremony. A wave of coolness kept Champion on the cutting edge through ninetees.
In recent days, like many other American icons, Champion has collaborated with fashion labels like Off-White, Rick Owens and Supreme…That is no surprise considering the fact that many of the today’s designers grew up wearing Champion. Regardless of the hype, Champion couldn’t be as successful as it’s today without remaining relevant. Champion is a classic without a doubt, a perfect combination of the old school athleticism tied together with the golden era of hip hop.
Champion sweaters and hoodies now available in store.