A marker of all things sporting Americana, the Champion logo is widely recognizable. It’s a lot like Nike’s Swoosh or the Three Stripes – unmistakable.
Today, Champion is also in a relatively new position. The brand represents the upper echelons of streetwear hype. Thanks to a relatively recent revival, the Champion logo finds itself in brand new cultural contexts. Considering its roots, this may come as somewhat surprising. And yet, there’s a question here worth asking: how did we get here?
Of course, quality and authenticity – as the company puts it – are at the forefront. After all, Champion starts out its journey as an athleticwear provider. However, being around for such a long time means it also goes through a number of visual changes. The Champion logo itself exists now as something notably different to what it starts out as.
From its early origins to its modern position within hype circles, a pattern emerges. Champion is about performance and innovation. Essentially, the product itself matters more than anything. But, that sense of craftsmanship also makes an association with their branding.
That C logo now equates to a bygone era of stylistic substance. Champion comes with the history of some of the first hoodies and sweatshirts to ever release. That position of authority is a big part of why the Champion logo is so recognizable.
So, where does it all begin?
Champion has a bit of an All-American story. Even by original USA brands standards, it’s a pretty typical journey.
The story starts out all the way back in 1919. Somewhere in Rochester, New York, two brothers come together for a business venture. William and Abraham Feinbloom hatch up a plan to start a knitwear company. That’s right, the brand kicks off by manufacturing knitwear and wasn’t exactly struggling at it.
The original name of the label was the Knickerbocker Knitting Company. As far as the logo goes, it’s pretty straightforward at this point. A large C is on the front of many shirts. Today, that original Champion logo is a marker of retro athleticwear. In fact, much of college athletics takes branding inspiration from this original look.
Speaking of which, university athletic programs are the first to benefit from Champion’s existence. Between the 1920s and 1930s, the Knickerbocker Knitting Company gets into the business of supplying university sports teams. By this point, the brand’s experimentations with athleticwear begin to inspire a few onlookers in the industry.
The Champion logo quickly builds a connection with constant innovation. In fact, the brand is still known to be the original inventors of the modern hoody.
So, with that sort of early cachet, it’s difficult not to get noticed. The first school to take on the Champion logo is the University of Michigan. The Wolverines, the school’s mascot, were delighted with what they saw. Their constant additions to the athleticwear category are hard to ignore at this point. The Champion logo was on everything from sweatshirts and sweatpants to the aforementioned hoody.
And so, this is where Champion’s business begins to really take off. They go on to make their iconic ‘big C’ branding a ubiquitous sight on fields and courts at several university programs.
The modern sweatshirt comes from a lot of inspirations. However, none quite come with the same sense of authority as those that boast the legendary ‘Big C’ Champion logo.
This sweatshirt brings to life all of the aspects and approaches that make this brand so globally recognizable. Back in the earlier years, the notion of horizontal stitching is an advancement. It adds durability to pieces such as the more vintage sweatshirts of the time. Somehow, it does this without taking away from the garment’s pliability and versatility.
Here, its most modern rendition sees some changes. The body is in a heavyweight fleece, as normal, but comes with a more contemporary stitching finish. Double-needle construction, as the brand calls it, is the order of the day. As with advancements in the label’s past, double-needle stitching makes for a more durable sweatshirt.
And, of course, the visual finisher comes in the form of an oversize Champion logo. The Big C sits prominently across the chest. Meanwhile, a chain-stitch Champion logo patch boasts a tad bit more color on the left sleeve.
Champion: Finding Utility
The fact that Champion was in the athleticwear business was interesting in and of itself. Sure, it’s a fashion niche that suffers early on from a lack of innovation – which makes for a nice window of opportunity.
But, beyond that, it means that more and more is asked of Champion. Their wears need to protect customers in a way that makes purchasing this particular brand worth it. After all, Champion makes it clear that the goal is to develop into an absolute necessity for anyone who is in contact with the outside world.
In that regard, the brand continues to make advances as the years go by. Between the 1930s and 1940s, the Champion logo features on things like wool underwear – a prototype of the sweatshirt. This underwear was intriguing because the label intends to provide protection for outdoor laborers from the cold.
To call this a success is an understatement. Eventually, even the US Military Academy decides to purchase a bunch of them. As it turns out, they are the perfect accompaniment to running drills and physical education classes in dreary weather conditions.
The brand also undergoes a bit of a change internally as well. They adopt the name Champion Knitting Mills Inc. Their strategy moves more toward a holistic direction. They need to be able to take their decision to clothes that universally wearable while maintaining the protective profile.
This is one of those designs that helps OG fans take a quick look back. The shirt itself is teeming with old school details. The cuff design on the collar and sleeves is very reminiscent of college athletic staples from decades ago. That seems to be the intention with this design as well.
This tee is an archival piece from the brand’s catalog. It sports the Champion logo script on the left chest. On the left sleeve, as always, sits a matching patch-style logo. The two-color tape detail is a subtle touch of contrast to the Oxford Grey hue here.
This tee is also specifically washed to make for a soft, vintage feel when wearing it.
Switching it Up
So, there’s a question that we are yet to answer here. How did we get here? How did the modern Champion logo become what it is today? Well, for much of its early years as the Champion Knitwear Company, the label uses a particular style. The stitch label features with a running man crossing a finish line. Even more renditions of the Champion logo play further with the branding.
However, it was between the 40s and 50s when Champion recognizes the visual we know today. The Champion logo is born, taking on a combination of Red and Blue on the now legendary C patch. It originally shows up with a White background upon its debut. This only makes it stand out even further. In short, the Champion logo was a bit of a branding dream come true.
Then, we enter the 50s, when Champion makes even more change within its visual story. The C-patch appears in its modern form for the first time. It’s an accompaniment to the usual Champion logo branding on the chest of sweatshirts. To some, it may come across as a bit much – why have the brand present in two forms?
It’s a fair question, but Champion goes beyond this in an ingeniously subtle way. The Champion logo patch starts out on the left sleeve of every sweatshirt – and stays there for decades. This enduring position choice, to always have it on the left sleeve, benefits Champion. The consistency eventually becomes part of the brand’s signature look.
As we all know, the Champion logo goes on to gain some serious fame. Whether it’s for the purposes of style or comfort, Champion is currently sitting on the hill-tops as a label. A big part of this is a modern revival that sees the athleticwear provider gain some clout.
Finding this sort of influence and following within the streetwear world, as Champion did, often seems accidental or lucky. And, of course, there’s a fair argument there. But, it’s worth remembering that the Champion logo begins its life as an association with superior garment quality.
This is one of the prime examples of the hype surrounding Champion at the moment. The Champion logo stands as a testament to the benefits of a streetwear culture that exists on waves. Right now, Champion is riding high.
These sweatpants are in a reverse weave construction, boasting signature details such as a cotton frame and heavyweight fabric.
Vetements Champion Hoodie
Champion takes on the collab services of a number of respectable names in the industry. Still, catching the attention of Vetements is perhaps their most impressive get. This hoodie is still the subject of hit pursuit online, raking in series asking prices. The classic Big C Champion logo comes together with the oversize aesthetic of Vetements. The Vetements x Champion collaboration continues to be one of the most hyped of recent times.