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Hoodies Versus Sweatshirt: Style Differences Explained

The sweatshirt and sweatpants combo that so many of us cherish as our weekend loungewear wardrobe has really become a mainstay of every day.  That’s great news as offices get more casual, working from home becomes an option, and because, hey, why not be comfortable all the time?! The best news is there are plenty of options out there from classic to contemporary styles and extending from budget to luxury price points.

Here’s our guide to helping sort out the hoodies vs. sweatshirts debate, and everything else you need to know to understand the subtle differences between all sweatshirt styles. We’ve also picked out a few that we think are great finds to update your wardrobe this season. 

Sweatshirt Fabric Guidance

Three young men in hoodies sitting on wall.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The first thing to understand about what sets sweatshirts apart is fabric. Typically sweatshirts are made of comfortable cotton, often with a bit of polyester or stretch fiber added for durability and comfort. Designer Norma Kamali elevated the fabric to runway status in the 1980s, and continues to include pieces in her regular collection. Of all sweatshirt companies, Champion probably has the most recognized fabric with it’s trademarked “Reverse Weave.” It’s a little confusing because if you understand fabric structure, a sweatshirt is actually made of a knit fabric (more like a sweater than a dress shirt). All you really need to know is that, because of the process that Champion patented back in the late 1930s, the brand’s sweatshirts are extra tough and resist shrinkage.

The next classic sweatshirt fabric is a soft cotton knit done in a luxuriously thick fabric with a fleece-like interior. Beyond that, more lightweight versions are more like t-shirts and geared toward late spring days or are used for layering. Other modern sweatshirt fabrics now include everything from performance features like moisture-wicking technology to winter’s best friend Polartec fleece, and luxury fabrics and fibers like French Terry or even cashmere. 

The Classic Sweatshirt Silhouette: Russell Athletic Crewneck

Russell Athletic offers the epitome of a classic sweatshirt.
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The classic weathered gray crewneck sweatshirt is kind of a wardrobe requirement. Buy one and wear it forever. The inset V-shaped panel just below the collar is a required detail: It was originally added in ribbed fabric to add some stretch, so it would be easier to pull on. These days, spandex takes care of that, but it’s an authentic throwback detail. Russell’s Dri Power is your workout’s best friend, pulling moisture away to keep you warm and dry; but we think you’ll appreciate this sweatshirt’s simplicity to wear every day. 

Read More: Best Crewneck Sweatshirts for Men

The Classic Hoodie Silhouette: Champion Reverse Weave

Champion's Reverse Weave set the standard for hoodies.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Of course, the main difference between a sweatshirt and a hoodie is the addition of, well, a hood. At Champion, this classic hoodie shape, in its classic Reverse Weave fabric, is updated with a classic font. Or two. The Champion silhouette features heritage details like a double-layer hood to keep you extra warm, a kangaroo pocket, durable double-needle construction, and, another Champion signature, stretch side panels for extra movement. 

Read More: The Best Hoodies for Men

The Luxury Option: Ron Dorff Zipped Cashmere Hoodie

Ron Dorff presents the luxury of cashmere in a comfy hoodie.
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As if lounging in sweats weren’t luxurious enough, why not lounge in cashmere? Ron Dorff combines the elegance of cashmere with the clean, casual styling of a zipped, hooded sweatshirt for a top that is hedonism embodied. It’s soft enough you’ll want to wear it right next to your skin, but this hoodie also makes an elegant layer worn over a dress shirt or layered with a sports coat.

Read More: Best Cashmere Hoodies for Men

The Neighboring Hood: Alo Highline Hoodie

Alo Yoga's hoodie is a more ergonomic model.
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A classic hoodie usually uses pretty simple construction with a simple seam up the back. More contemporary versions include an additional center panel, making the hood more ergonomic and more likely to stay put on the top of your head. Alo offers other modern updates to the form with a cowled neckline, a more secure zippered front pocket, and a flat ribbon drawstring. It’s also executed in a luscious soft French Terry that’s so comfortable you’ll practically want to sleep in it.  

The Classic Zip-front Hoodie: Hanes Eco-Smart

Hanes offers the convenience of a full zipper hoodie at a great price.
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Another absolute classic, and perhaps the ultimate look for casual layering with a no-slacker-denied appeal. The full-zip hoodie is a lot easier to get on than a pull-over version, yet offers all the comfort, warmth, and movement you’ll need for your workout warm-up or a day on the couch. Wear it like a cardigan with a dressier shirt and trousers for a clean, sporty look. It’s also got punk appeal layered with jeans, a graphic t-shirt, and denim. We particularly like this one from Hanes because it’s 50% cotton and 50% polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. 

The Fashionable Sweatshirt: Goodlife Funnel Neck

This fashionable hoodie from Goodlife features soft, sueded jersey and a unique funnel neck.
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This is just one of many, many alternatives that you’ll see in the sweatshirt space, taking the concept of fleecy comfort and “making it fashion.” This soft, scrunchy, funnel neck lends itself perfectly to the medium, and Goodlife makes a practice out of creating sumptuous casual cotton clothing. 

The Warmer Weather Sweatshirt: Todd Snyder + Champion Sweatshirt 

This Todd Snyder + Champion pullover strides the line between sweatshirt and T-shirt.
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The collaboration between Todd Snyder and Champion has resulted in some of the most exciting pieces to hit the sweats category in decades. The designer’s flair for creating a completely modern silhouette with an undeniably vintage look is legendary, and he doesn’t disappoint here with this piece where sweatshirt meets short-sleeve t-shirt. The marled gray French Terry is soft and comfortable, and the top-stitching detail makes it look authentic and tough. 

The “I’m (Almost) Too Sexy For My (Sweat) Shirt:” Victorious Sleeveless Hoodie

This sleeveless hoodie from Victorious shows off a lotta muscle.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’ve got the guns, we’ve got the sweatshirt. A sleeveless hoodie is a perfect option for days when a t-shirt or a tank top might be a little too cool, but when you’re still feeling the need to show off all that work you’ve been doing in the gym. It’s also a great piece to layer over a t-shirt, or under a jacket when those huge arms won’t let you pack in another long sleeve. We particularly like this one for its letterman jacket stripes on the bottom ribbing, contrast zipper detail, and Victorious’ wide selection of colors.  

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John Jones
John Jones is a Jersey City, New Jersey-based writer who enjoys covering design in all its forms, from fashion to…
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