Champion: Celebrating 100 Years & Reverse Weave Fabric
Best recognised for their selective blue, red and white colour scheme and stylised ‘C’ logo, Champion has made a significant return to the centre of streetwear in the last decade. Remaining the brand of choice for both modern streetwear fans who seek throwback ‘90s style typography and those who never lost faith in original styles from the first time around. Notable collaborations with the likes of Rick Owens - who as part of his ‘TECUATL’ SS20 presentation reworked sports clothing from the ‘70s into togas, loincloths and briefs - shows how the brand has its place within both high and low end fashion culture.
A split of opinion from those who remember Champion from the ‘90s conveys appreciation for the quality, comfort and fit of apparel which was once solely made for athletic wear, in comparison to less supportive opinions of it being a faded sportswear label. 2019 marks the brand’s 100th anniversary and it is apparent throughout history that regardless of the ebbs and flows the original ethos has never been forgotten. Founded by brothers Abraham and William Feinbloom in Rochester, New York the pair set out to improve traditional sports kits which led to various partnerships between college sports teams. Initially named the ‘Knickerbocker Knitting Company’, sweatshirts, t-shirts and athletic socks became a trademark for the brand and were later adopted by the US Military Academy thanks to a proven level of durability and a cut that was perfect for the rigorous training programmes.
After receiving feedback from team coaches about their frustrations with garments shrinking during batch washes, the brothers began developing a transverse knitting process with an aim to offer durable, made to last styles that were resistant to shrinkage. Fifteen years later the process was patented and in 2012 a celebration of the advancement’s 60th anniversary saw the Reverse Weave collection relaunched in Europe.
As a way to ensure players stayed warm on the sidelines, Champion used this development to create the first hooded sweatshirt - which of course has become one of the most famous designs in history - as well as reversible t-shirts and breathable nylon mesh. From track to American football, progression within basketball has had a prolific effect on the company and between the ‘90s and '00’s it was the go-to label for the NBA both on and off the court.
A combination of affordability, cut and durability lead to a soar in demand amongst skate and hip-hop scenes during the ‘90s, and it’s here that Champion’s association with streetwear started to gain momentum. In contrast to its popularity with the older generation favouring it for casual leisurewear - which is how the brand gained its less than impressive reputation - the introduction of the hoodie became associated with street culture and acquired both positive and negative connotations following graffiti artists and skaters using the design to hide their identity, and the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan and Lords of the Underground flaunting the brand.
Regardless of this, Champion remains steeped in nostalgia for many and currently appeals to a younger generation seeking vintage sportswear. What has remained throughout time is a dedication to quality, which is proven within various upcycling collaborations that highlight the brand's famous ‘C’ emblem as a badge of honour. 2010 marked the first collaboration with Supreme through coach jackets adorned with joint branding, and has since led to further projects with BAPE, Only NY, Wood Wood, Vetements and an ongoing partnership with UNDEFEATED. Like the majority of trends, things have come full circle and the logo remains a sign of reliability whether it's worn for purpose during athletics or for more style driven leisurewear. Brands such as Bronze 56K and Quartersnacks favour Champion blanks as a base for their seasonal graphics, whilst bolder trend influenced creative experiments saw stripes and tape branding appear as part of Champion’s SS19 collection. Furthering their placement within youth culture, the end of 2018 saw the Champion x London Youth charity capsule collection celebrate young Londoners, and for the first time in almost twenty years, the brand awarded sponsorship to British boxer Josh Kelly.
Remaining true to their signature aesthetic, the latest batch of Reverse Weave Crewneck Sweatshirts and Small Script Crewneck T-Shirts continues to utilise the pioneering shrink resistant construction process to provide noticeably high quality essentials highlighted by original embroidered script branding and signature ‘C’ emblems in place on the left cuffs. Wide cut flexible ribbing and side panel inserts promote a full range of movement and a secure fit, whilst the oversized silhouette - originally destined for jocks - offers a classic look for both the street and gym.
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