This story was originally published on October 9, 2014.
I approach most things with an open mind. Please tell me about your new diet where you eschew all brown foods. It is very interesting that your band's songs are all over 15 minutes, by all means play a few. If there's one thing I'm full of prejudice and discrimination toward it's clothing. In an industry where popular opinion is quick to deem a product "everything" or "It," I've learned that a little skepticism is necessary to see things for what they are. So, when I came across a rash of articles proclaiming this American Giant sweatshirt the "Greatest Hoodie Ever Made" and "America's Best Hoodie," and one worth getting onto a wait list for, I came with one eyebrow cocked.
Compounding the hyperbolic headlines was the fact that the sweatshirt seemed like just the kind of thing that tech bros would obviously love. It's got a charming origin story (founder Bayard Winthrop was inspired by his father's U.S. Navy top from the '50s and the quality construction that went into it). It comes from a bright and shiny San Francisco start-up, with an engineer-cum-creative director who's got an Apple pedigree. And, American Giant's pièce de résistance is the zip-up hoodie, which is the most mocked part of the often-mocked Bay Area brogrammer uniform.
Let me admit outright that this is completely a pot-calling-the-kettle-black situation: I spent years in the Bay, work at a start-up, and consider the jersey fleece an integral part of my wardrobe. Perhaps because of all that my knee-jerk reaction is to pooh-pooh anything tied to that world — including the world's best sweatshirt.
So, I called in a sample of a hoodie in order to write a scathing takedown. When it arrived, I immediately wrote down a list of cons.
— Pockets way too small and shallow.
— Reinforced arm bands have a seam that runs along the exact place where your arm meets the table while typing — annoying!
— Cannot get hoodie to cover whole head. Hoodie is made for ants.
— Stiff cotton! Arms too small! Hurts to bend arms. Boo.
And, this was after I'd had my morning coffee. But, right after I typed these notes, I went on to start checking off the rest of my tasks, forgot I had the hoodie on, and went home. The next morning, it was chilly outside, and I decided that I'd wear it back to the office where I'd do another round of research. This time, it was much easier to get my arms in, as the cotton had softened and stretched. Sure, the pockets and hoodie didn't magically fit my hands and head, but I noticed for the first time how nice the zipper felt to zip up and down. The only other times I'd admired hardware like that was on designer handbags or $3,000 leather jackets — definitely not sweatshirts.
Then, I read about American Giant's design and production practices. The brand uses cotton picked in The States that then gets woven, processed, cut, sewn, and packaged here, too. An incredible amount of thought goes into each component of the sweatshirt, from its generous arm bands to the heavyweight cotton to the slim fit and modern length (it covers that crack, but isn't so long that it looks like a tunic). For all that, it costs $89, which is a lot of money to pay for something most people consider sick-day clothing, but compared to American Apparel's premium sweatshirt that costs $52 and pales in comparison, it's really not a bad deal. Plus, the baseball jacket solves my big-head problem. By the end of the day, I had changed my tune.
But, let's be clear: There are definitely sweatshirts out there that I like more. I have a heavyweight Nike hoodie in a similar cut, with slightly more forgiving fabric (I personally look for a touch of stretch in my loungewear), and a hood that actually fits my big dome. But, is it made in the United States? Is it a company that is proud of how slow its seamstresses are? Definitely not. I also have a Public School sweatshirt that fits beautifully, is made here in NY, and is flawlessly constructed. But it's definitely not $89.
While this might not be a perfect hoodie, American Giant's is pretty close to checking all the boxes. I haven't found another that combines this level of quality, ethics, construction, and good looks with this good of a price. If you're the kind of person who wears a hoodie as part of your regular wardrobe (and there are more of us every day!), this one's a great option for your next upgrade.
Fine, tech bros. You win this round.
American Giant's been on a spree ever since we first wrote this article. Here's what they've been up to:
Get These Cozy, $59 Joggers Before They Sell Out
The World's Most Famous Sweatshirt Brand Just Made Sweatpants
$35 For The "Perfect" T-Shirt? Get Yours Before It Sells Out