Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
Before being indoctrinated into the cult of raw denim, the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of jeans sounded ludicrous. However, after learning about shuttle looms, dying methods, indigo sources, and so on, it became much easier to comprehend why a person would spend so much on denim – and much harder to find reasons not to.
The same thing goes for the world of loopwheeled fabric. Loopwheelers are from a class of antique circular knitting machines, which rotate about a tube and produce cylinders of seamless fabric (see our full intro guide here). This fabric is most commonly used for the body of sweatshirts and tee shirts, although other uses do exist. Ever wonder where the “tube sock” got its name? It’s the same principle but on a much smaller scale.
The main thing that makes loopwheeling machines different from other circular knitting machines is the lack of tension placed on the fabric. The only tension placed on loopwheeled fabric during production is due to gravity pulling the fabric. This lack of tension produces fabric that is far denser and more luxurious than that produced by other methods.
The loopwheeling process is slow (and thereby expensive), but the fabric produced is well worth it.
1) Barns Outfitters Zip-Front Loopwheel Hoodie (White)
If you are looking to get into the world of loopwheeled fabric but don’t want to break the bank, one of Barn’s sweatshirts are a (relatively) inexpensive way to do so. Normally, different sized loopwheeling tubes are needed to produce sweatshirts of different sizes, but adding a front zip allows multiple sizes to be produced from one loopwheel tube. The only other way is to add side seams, which takes away a lot of the appeal of circular knit fabrics. This hoodie is completed with two front hand pockets, a simple silver-tone zipper, and is shown in classic white.
Available for $130 from Denimio.
2) Joe McCoy Double Face Loopwheel Hoodie (Navy)
When it comes to classic sportswear reproduction, Joe McCoy is really the brand to look at. Their reproductions extend far beyond the competition, and this sweatshirt is no different. It features twice as much loopwheel fabric as the other sweatshirts on this list, and this double-layered fabric is sure to keep you warm this winter. This colorway is mostly navy, but has white accents inside the hood and as drawstrings.
Available for £163 ($252.50 USD) from Superdenim.
3) Strike Gold Zip-Front Heavy Loopwheel Hoodie (Heather Grey)
Most denimheads start their journey with a pair of sanforized jeans, but eventually we all get the urge to jump at some unsanforized shrink-to-fit denim. This same pattern can be true for loopwheel fabric aficionados, or “Loopers” as I prefer to call us. Strike Gold’s loopwheeled sweatshirts are unsanforized, which makes sizing a bit difficult – but they’re totally worth it if you take the time to size correctly. Unlike most loopwheeled sweatshirts, Strike Gold’s have a mild amount of tension added to the fabric, which Self Edge suggests will help to protect against the wind. This hoodie is finished with front hand pockets and contrasting drawstrings.
Available for $295 from Self Edge.
4) Pure Blue Japan Loopwheel Hoodie (Green)
Loopwheel machines had run out of favor by 1950s due to the fact that they are slow and expensive to run. It wasn’t long before they were replaced by machines that could produce fabric quicker and more cost effectively. It’s hard to know exactly how many functional loopwheeling machines remain, but rumor has it that there are only 200, all spread across England, Germany, and Japan. Since so few loopwheel machines are still with us, it’s hard to find loopwheel fabric in non-standard colors. Luckily, Pure Blue Japan has started producing loopwheel hoodies in dark-charcoal and green, as opposed to the usual heather grey, oatmeal, white, and navy. The downside is that PBJ’s sweatshirts feature sideseams, which many Loopers dislike. Each hoodie features contrasting drawstrings and kangaroo pocket.
Available for $125 from Okayama Denim.
5) Studio D’Artisan Organic Loopwheel Pullover Hoodie (Oatmeal)
It’s nice to see some loopwheel sweatshirts being produced in interesting colors, but I’m just as big a fan of the classics – and Studio D’Artisan’s Oatmeal Pullover Hoodie is as classic as they come. If you’re only going to own one loopwheeled sweatshirt, it is definitely a solid choice. It features seamless body construction, tonal drawstrings, and the ultra-soft interior that only loopwheeled fabric can provide. One note of warning: sizing SDA’s loopwheel hoodies can be difficult. Although their sweatshirts are sanforized, the sleeve-lengths are known to be shorter than those on many other sweatshirts, so make sure to compare your measurements to the Blue in Green’s sizing chart thoroughly.
Available for $310 from Blue in Green.
Plus One – Omnigod: Zip-Front Loopwheel Hoodie (Hand-dyed Natural Indigo)
If you’re reading this, then you probably love two things: denim and loopwheel sweatshirts. This OMNIGOD Loopwheel Pullover is a wonderful collaboration between the two, combining the loopwheel fabric that we love with the indigo-crocking abilities usually seen with denim. Each hoodie is hand-dye in natural indigo, and as such some undyed white fabric is visible at the seams – unique to each individual garment. These hoodies are finished with YKK zips and two hand pockets, which is exactly what you would expect from a sweatshirt of this caliber.
Available for $235 from Blue Owl.