Although velour tracksuits were quickly becoming popular during the 1980s, almost everyone had at least one pair of cotton sweats in their closet.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, cotton sweats had become a college staple, transcending the gap from workout clothes to casual wear.
Furthermore the cotton sweats fashion trend wasn’t just for adults, it was one of those 1980s fashion trends that transcended all age groups. Even kids had their favorite pair of cotton sweats, as they were both comfortable and fashionable to wear.
So what made cotton sweats such a popular 80s fashion trend? Well to better understand that, we need to first go back and understand the history of how they came to be.
The History of Cotton Sweats
It was back in 1920 when sweatpants were first introduced to the world. These gray-colored knitted pants could be worn by athletes, without interfering with their ability to run and stretch.
By the 1930s, they had become so commonplace that virtually every athlete at the Olympics had them. The popularity of sweats continued to climb throughout the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and by the 1970s they could be found on college campuses around the country.
The 1980s saw a rise in what has become known as the workout culture, and as a result, the demand for cotton sweats skyrocketed. While some athletes preferred the lighter-weight of nylon tracksuits, others loved the more traditional cotton sweats.
At the same time, the 80s also saw the growth of the hip-hop culture, and cotton sweats quickly became a popular go-to item for those that embraced that fashion as well.
80s Cotton Sweats
Not much has changed with the design of cotton sweats since their initial release back in the early 1900s. While the original sweats were knitted by hand, newer styles feature machine-manufactured jersey material.
The material itself is very stretchy, and comes in a number of different weights which includes single, double, fleeceback, and loopback.
The pants are designed to be pulled on, and generally feature a drawstring in the waistband. The tops, on the other hand, can either be pulled on or feature a zipper up the front. The zippered style sweat tops typically came with hoodies, whereas pullover sweaters came either with a hoodie or without.
There were many popular brands trying to capitalize on the 80s cotton sweats trends, so consumers had a lot of options for cotton sweats in the 1980s. It was a fashion that was really everywhere from the mall to the local arcade, and people chose styles of cotton sweats that reflected who they were.
Cotton sweats were comfortable and fashionable, and they came in a wide variety of colors during the 80s. This made them a very popular fashion especially among teenagers and young adults, and no matter where you went, chances are you would see someone rocking cotton sweats.
Champion Athletics is one of the oldest known sporting apparel manufacturers in the United States. The company first opened its doors back in 1919 and was known as the Knickerbocker Knitting Company. Soon after the founding, Champion began producing the uniforms for the Michigan Wolverines.
The company eventually changed its name to Champion Knitting Mills in 1930 and began producing the cotton sweats that we know today. Soon after, the company entered into a contract with the US military, and began providing products for training exercises, and sweats for physical education classes.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Champion provided most of the athletic apparel for the National Football League that was used both on and off-field. They were also the exclusive supplier of cotton sweats to most universities around the country. In 1989, Champion was purchased by the Sara Lee Corporation, but its contribution to the cotton sweats fashion trend can’t be overstated.
While cotton sweats had already become extremely popular throughout the 70s, the release of the Rocky films between 1976 and 1985 resulted in an explosion in demand for this type of athletic apparel.
The first Rocky film was released back in 1976, and Sylvester Stallone was always seen wearing a pair of cotton sweats when he was exercising before a fight.
This tradition continued with the release of Rocky II. One of the most iconic scenes in Rocky II was the running up to the stair climb, during which Sylvester Stallone wore gray cotton sweats.
Are Cotton Sweats Still Popular?
These days cotton sweats are still a very popular fashion trend. Though typically reserved for working out or lounging around the house, cotton sweats are still very much here today.
What has faded though is wearing cotton sweats as a casual fashion when out and about. Back in the 80s, cotton sweats were acceptable fashion to go out with friends to the mall, but these days that is not really the case.
Regardless of their slowdown in popularity, we will always remember this colorful and comfortable 80s fashion trend, and all the countless hours of fun we had lounging in them.