Originally known as the “Knickerbocker Knitting Company,” the inventors of the classic reverse-knit weave have come a long way since their birth in 1919. For decades, Champion has been outfitting top athletes, military, students and fans worldwide with the iconic “C” logo. Their commitment to long-lasting quality and focus on teams, rather than individual superstars has helped them experience a longevity and resurgence, not many apparel companies get to enjoy. In celebration of their, now 100 years in the business, here are 3 things you should know about how Champion has impacted all of us.
1. The Reverse Weave changed everything, but what exactly is it?
Since Champion was a major supplier of tees and sweatshirts to sports teams around the country, when coaches started to complain about shrinkage in their uniforms, the company came to the rescue and invented the reverse weave knit in 1934. Simply put, to help the garment maintain its shape and fight shrinkage, the grain of the sweatshirt fabric was made to run sideways instead of vertically (like most apparel) and side panels were added in for additional reinforcement. Since then, modifications were made to give the fabric a greater stretch, and an even better fit.
2. Champion developed those popular mesh jerseys you see everywhere.
In 1967, when a fabric salesman showed Champion reps a nylon mesh that was used in golf gloves, at the time, they saw an opportunity to again come to the rescue of trainers and coaches. They needed a way to reduce the heat fatigue athletes would endure, while playing and practicing. Using inspiration from these golf gloves, Champion became the first to introduce a nylon mesh fabric into their uniforms that was both durable AND imprintable. The holes in the mesh also helped heat escape from the body and made the uniforms lighter than anything they’ve worn before. Texas A&M was the first team to use these jerseys, and the material soon found its way onto players of every sport, including your favorite NBA athletes.
3. They created the market for college and military apparel.
Originally, tees were only really used by athletes as underwear to add a layer under their pads, jerseys or warm-ups. But Champion saw the potential in decorating them and introduced its flocking technology in the 1930’s, which helped popularize the mass-merchandising of imprinted t-shirts. They began decorating tees with college logos to use as team uniforms and practice wear. These shirts were so popular that coaches started complaining about students taking equipment (which was the printed team apparel.)
During WWII, Champion also helped make t-shirts with military insignia an iconic and (unofficial) part of a soldier’s uniform. When they began selling these military tees in colleges, it led to a boom in sales for college bookstores, among returning GIs and physical education classes, where schools were implementing military training exercises.
Today, Champion is more popular than ever, and their logo is the hottest one in fashion. Their dedication to quality is still second to none, the reverse weave continues to be heavily sought after and their legacy continues to grow worldwide.