Crewneck sweatshirts — you know them, you love them, you break them out the moment a brisk wind hits your cheek and a leaf falls to the ground. They’re a classic, All-American comfort staple that will never go out of style, and we have Russell Athletic to thank for that.
While there have been many variations over the years, the first crewneck was invented and put into production in 1930 by Benjamin Russell’s son and former Crimson Tide football player: Benjamin Russell Jr. The iconic new sweatshirt swapped the uncomfortable, itchy wool of practice football jerseys of the time for durable cotton, and featured the iconic “Eagle R” logo. In the decades since the first prototype, the brand has become a well-known and trusted name in sportswear and athleisure.
Though, even with such an iconic contribution to apparel, the Russell name eventually fell out of the front pages — until recently.
The once popular logo and brand has traveled from the field to the streets, and we’re all in.
The Ultimate ‘90s Resurgence
After decades as the go-to for uniforming needs (from local sports teams to the U.S. Navy), Russell Athletic solidified their spot as a sportswear giant when they were tapped by both the NFL and MLB as the favorite to outfit teams in the 1990s. With the nation’s biggest sports stars rocking the brand, business was booming. Little did they know the classic athletic aesthetic they were producing in the ‘90s would set them up to shift their consumer focus and become a streetwear favorite nearly two decades later.
The current ‘90s fashion revival has allowed many former brands to find a new home in the ever-crowded apparel market — and Russell Athletic is no different. In 2017 the brand decided to follow the streetwear momentum and make a big change away from sportswear, with a more fashion-focused approach. The new wave of products maintains the athleisure aesthetic with a heavy dose of trendy nostalgia.
With the emergence into the mainstream fashion realm, Russell Athletic has been tapped by some of the biggest names in streetwear for collaborations, further claiming their place as a hypebeast favorite.
Here’s a look at three of our favorite collaborations thus far.
Top Three Streetwear Collaborations with Russell Athletic
1. World Tour — Rassvet x Russell Athletic
After a previous successful collaboration, Russell Athletic teamed up for a second time with Russian streetwear giant Rassvet for: Rassvet Athletic. Headed by streetwear king Gosha Rubchinskiy, this collaboration featured essentials, from crewnecks to t-shirts, reimagined in the spirit and style of Russian youth culture. And, of course, it featured the iconic “Eagle R” logo. This collaboration showed how Russell Athletic has made strides into the international fashion world, while still maintaining their All-American roots.
2. Capsule of Color – Kith x Russell Athletic
Another favorite collab came with the beautifully hued crossover between Russell Athletic and streetwear favorite, Kith. The SS19 capsule collection featured a classic range of athleisure must-haves, including t-shirts, pullover hoodies, shorts and, of course, crewnecks. What really sets this collaboration apart was the wide range of color options. From muted hues to highlighter brights, 24 color options lead to a total of 96 unique pieces in the collection.
3. Casual Cool – Rhuigi Villaseñor x Russell Athletic
Dubbed the Heritage Collection — the Rhuigi Villaseñor x Russell Athletic collaboration debuted exclusively at streetwear haven, ComplexCon. It sought to marry Rhude’s edgy streetwear concepts with the vintage appeal of the Russell Athletic classics. Designer Rhuigi Villaseñor nodded to Russell Athletic’s storied history for laying the foundation in athleisure fashion, before the trend became synonymous with “casual cool.”
With such a long and successful history, we imagine Russell Athletic will remain a staple of style, both on the field and off, for years to come.
Does your company already carry Russell Athletic? What are some of your favorite pieces to keep in stock? Share your knowledge in the comments below!