Sweatshirts form a fundamental building block of almost every wardrobe, so it’s only right you find one that you will want to use forever. But the problem with a garment being so essential is that the wasters get muddied by the number of makers out there. From mall stores to boutique denim stores and everything in between, there is a lot to choose from, and even high-quality stuff like loopwheeled and Canadian-made are crowded markets, these days.
We’re working on a wider, definitive buyer’s guide for sweatshirts, but we thought such an important wardrobe staple would be a great place to kick off our Heddels Staff Select series. In this series, our editors and writers will share their tried and tested quality staples that have stood the test of time. We’ll cover the fit, quality, and patina potential of these pieces from the perspective of someone who has used them long enough to form a reliable opinion.
Why trust us? Well, we’ve all been in the game long enough to have field-tested a range of quality clothing, and the Heddels operation puts us onto some of the best clothing in the world week in, week out. Whilst our opinions and experiences shouldn’t be taken as definitive, this series will provide you insight into what has worked for us and why.
James – Buzz Rickson’s Set-In Crew Loopwheeled Sweatshirt
There are a bunch of incredible loopwheeled sweats out there, but my pick of the bunch is Buzz Rickson’s trusty Set-In Crewneck Sweatshirt. It’s made in Japan from a mid-weight cotton fleece woven on tubular knitting machines and comes in a bunch of colors. Pictured is my Oatmeal edition, purchased from American Classics in London, which I’ve had for the best part of 6 years.
I’ve tried many other sweatshirts, but for me, none hit quite like these. First off, the fit is right up my street. The short length sits at the waist, and is improved by a not-too-tight waistband which means you don’t get too much bunching at the waist. Bunching looks cool on baggier sweats like vintage Champion, but the slightly-slim cut of these Buzz Rickson’s sweatshirts needs a clean silhouette to achieve the vintage military styling, and boy did Buzz pull it off. Even better, I can personally size up from an L to an XL for a slightly looser, longer, modern fit that still pairs with the rest of my vintage-inspired wardrobe.
Secondly, ‘cos these things are built to mirror originals, these things age like originals. The undergarment-grade flat seam construction makes them super comfortable, meaning I throw this on 3-4 times a week. That frequent wear leads to some bobbling after a few months, but in my experience, the bobbling wears off over time and the fabric just starts looking vintage af.
Lastly, these things don’t break the bank. Sure, they’re not cheap, but in terms of cost-per-wear, I’m winning.
Available at Hinoya for $80
Will – Cushman Lot. 26903 Freedom Sleeve Sweatshirt
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, was once quoted as saying: “change is the only constant in life”. Clearly, Heraclitus didn’t know about my unrelenting quest for the perfect sweatshirt. Will I ever find it? Who knows. But, what I do know is that Cushman‘s Lot. 26903 Double-V Freedom Sleeve sweatshirt comes pretty bloody close, which is why it’s my pick.
Cushman is a lesser-known brand within the world of Japanese denim and heritage wear. It’s not as readily available outside of Japan as The Real McCoy’s, Buzz Rickson, and Iron Heart, for example. However, it’s a name to be reckoned with where quality is concerned. Founded in 1997 by Mr. Yukihiro Shiraki, Cushman is a brand that’s heavily inspired by classic American sportswear, specifically the garments produced from the 1930s to the 1960s – the golden years for sportswear, some might say.
Made in Japan to unwaveringly high standards, Cushman’s sweatshirts are woven on a suspended loom which weaves the cotton in a continuous loop-wheeled, low-tension manner, resulting in a beautifully soft, yet robust, cotton fabric with no side seams on the body.
The Cushman sweat I’ve picked should not be confused with its brother, the Lot. 26901 Set-In Sleeve sweatshirt. Unlike the normal ‘set in’ sleeve construction for the shoulders, the freedom sleeve is constructed with S-shaped shoulder seams, making it an absolute joy to wear from a maneuverability perspective. The sweatshirt also features a cut-away double-V and four-needle flat-locked seams.
A refined fit is really important to me. If a sweatshirt or tee doesn’t hit the right parts of my body, it’s a no-go. The fit on the Cushman Double-V Freedom Sleeve sweat is actually what sold it to me. I prefer my sweatshirts a little shorter than most, and Cushman’s sits exactly where I want it to. Not cropped, but not so long that it looks like a regular sweatshirt.
The neckline is a slight point of contention for me. It’s wider than most, almost comparable to a boat neck. This means that if you’re wearing a t-shirt underneath with a form-fitting neckline, your tee is going to be making an unsolicited appearance from underneath. Not a deal-breaker, and great for wearing with button-downs, but something to be aware of if you’re thinking about investing. The cuffs are also kinda long. You’ll find that’s quite a common feature among high-quality Japanese sweatshirts. It’s like denim stacking but for sweatshirts. It’s no bother, though, I cuff mine and all is well. But if you want to let them loose, that’s totally up to you.
Lastly, the price. You’re getting up there with Cushman, but, in my opinion, having owned sweatshirts from practically every Japanese brand you can think of, you’re getting the best money can buy.
Available for $180 at Clutch Cafe
Reed – Save Khaki United Supima Crew Sweatshirt
I love sweatshirts. If Big Sweatshirt had a payroll, I would do some ethically dubious shit to get on that payroll. And because of that fondness, I’d like to pretend I was discerning about sweatshirts, but I’m not — I’m a slut for a sweatshirt, and at this point that oscillates between pride and shame and that thing where you zone out for a second and then sigh with both cheeks and your whole-ass heart.
And while I’ll be lamenting the fact that sweatshirts are once again required within a standard preorder shipping window (4-6 weeks, but maybe 8 if things get weird, you know the deal), we’re in the halcyon days of fall where I am, which means that it’s also time to swap in the cold-weather shit and also that it’s time to start figuring out what still works from that cold-weather shit and what’s getting unceremoniously dumped from the rotation.
The star players change year-to-year—there’s an Elder Statesman sample that’s playing serious preseason minutes out of absolutely nowhere—but there are two savvy veterans that come back to play the Crewneck position no matter what, and only one is still available: the Save Khaki United L/S Supima Crew Sweatshirt. I’ve had it for seven years at this point, I assume I’ll have it for at least seven more.
For those unfamiliar with the SKU crew, it’s suspiciously soft and relatively lightweight, so it’s also dumb easy to wear. Like imagine the blankets that babies get, but if those were made out of Supima cotton and into sweatshirts for adults and without the fuzzy outside. I don’t believe in perfect anything, but it’s a great sweatshirt.
Mine came from a window display, so it’s faded in bizarre way (six straight weeks of sunlight will do some fun shit), and is also a Large, despite me clocking in right around 5’9, which is the size I normally take in basically any tee or sweatshirt—I like to have the option of turtling inside my clothes at any moment. And when it comes to fit, I recommend sizing it up, although you can easily go TTS without much issue: Save Khaki garment-dyes their stuff so most of the shrink has been taken care of, and it’s so soft that it will absolutely get bigger with wear. And it’s so easy to wear. I truly have no idea how often I’ve worn mine, because I don’t even realize I’m wearing it half the time I do. It’s not like I’m cold when I wear it — calm down it does its job — it’s just like one of those things that dropped into my wardrobe without a ripple. (For those into numbers, let’s say 800 times idk.)
Anyways, if you’re looking for a sweatshirt that can stand without a person inside of it, this isn’t your sweatshirt. If you’re looking for a project, this also isn’t it—no break-in required here. But if you’re looking for a Charmin-soft sweatshirt that comfortably layers under just as well as it does over and does its job and doesn’t require special treatment or anything, this is most definitely it.
Available for $108 from Save Khaki United
David – The Real McCoy’s Joe McCoys Ballpark Sweatshirt
Shortly after crossing the $200 Rubicon on a pair of jeans, I did the same on a sweatshirt with The Real McCoy’s Ball Park Sweat. Those jeans are now tattered, frayed, and have been hidden in a ceremonial spot in my closet for the better part of a decade, but the sweatshirt still looks pretty much the same as the day I bought it.
The Ball Park Sweat is the sweatshirt you’re looking for. It’s heavy, sturdy, and thick, but also soft, forgiving, and comforting. It’s a garment with structure but surprisingly few seams. It’s loopwheeled so there are just two little stitch lines a couple of inches down the armpits. The ribbing is extra thick and wide, and the fit is a little longer in the body than many other Japanese offerings. which works for a taller guy like me.
It’s the classic athletic sweatshirt grey color, and it hides most stains except for the buffalo sauce one I have on the hem. Other than that, it’s aged remarkably well. In over ten years of regular wear, the soft fleece inside hasn’t pilled, the neck and the cuffs haven’t stretched, and none of the seams or knits has come undone.
I’ve never seen someone play baseball in a sweatshirt, and even if they did, this sweat would be a little restrictive for swinging a bat. But for most anything else, this is the first sweat in my batting order.
Available from Lost & Found for $168
Nick – House of Blanks
I picked up one of these House of Blanks Sweatshirts when we bought the brand for the Heddels Shop, and it’s been my go-to since. Reminiscent of old school Champion sweatshirts, I’d almost call this a vintage-inspired fit with a slight taper from the shoulders to hem. Just what I was looking for v.s. previous crewneck sweaters that fitted a bit too snug.
As advertised, the fabric is heavy but soft and the whole thing is constructed with comfy flatlock seams, but I particularly like the neck — which has not stretched out one bit — and how clean the ribbed side panels/gussets are incorporated into the silhouette.
No tags, no logos, and made in Canada too, so can’t help but feel proud of my country for this one.
Available for $85 at the Heddels Shop.
Daniel – Buzz Rickson’s Set-In Crew Loopwheeled Sweatshirt
Last but not least, I’m here joining James on team Buzz. Working at Self Edge for a few years exposed me to some great sweatshirts, but this is the one I’ve relied on for almost 2 years, now. I like them so much I bought two, one in black, the other in olive. It probably gets about 3-5 wears a week in the cooler months, and I went with my true size, as Buzz Rickson’s tend to run closer to American sizing than other Japanese labels (not to mention they stretch nicely). They’re straightforward, versatile comfortable, and built to last.
Available at Hinoya for $80