Champion may not rank among the top 10 most popular brands in America, but that is about to change. Its glory faded with time, but now that the social media channels are showing celebrities donning the brand, more and more people are inclined to buy the products. It is this interest in Champion that has seen the number of its Instagram followers grow from 200,000 in 2016 to the current 5.8 million. However, there is more to supporting the brand than just wearing the clothes; learning its history, including how the Champion logo came to be is a start towards a show of allegiance. So here is your chance to know more about how the company started, the origin of the logo and how it became a reputable brand.
The birth of Champion
In 1919, two brothers, Abraham and William Feinbloom along with their father, Simon, came together to start a knitwear company under the name Knickerbocker Knitting Company. It was a wholesale clothing company, but soon their interest gravitated towards college sportswear after the inconsistent quality of the sportswear of American Football disappointed them, according to Brag. They, therefore, began manufacturing high-quality sweatshirts and sweatpants and sold them at an affordable price; they had introduced the sweatshirt as an undergarment for outdoor workers to wear during winter. In 1926, the company supported its first team, when it partnered with Wentworth Military Academy, offering them school uniforms.
College sports did not have any regulated uniform at the time, but Knickerbocker Knitting Mills was about to change that. Consequently in 1934, the company collaborated with Moe Shop to produce collegiate apparel that included sweatshirts and t-shirts. During this time, the brothers were innovative enough to introduce the hooded sweatshirt, popularly known as the "hoodie" since it was practical for athletes to keep warm during practice and in between games. The sweatshirt soon attracted the attention of Michigan University who felt Michigan Wolverines could use it; hence they were the first college team to be outfitted by Knickerbocker Knitting Company. Since they were now focusing their energy on producing sportswear, it was only right to change the company's name to a more befitting one hence the Feinbloom brothers adopted the name "Champion Knitting Mills, Inc."
The logo and its evolution
According to 1000Logos, Champion's first logo was used between the 1940s and 1950s. It was in the form of a running man and the finish line, which can be said to be symbolic of how the company felt it represented champions with the high-quality sportswear. Besides, the fact that it had adopted the name "Champion" made sense to have a logo showing someone winning. The running man and the finish line logo was placed on the neck label of sweatshirts, but that changed.
In the early 1950s, the company's name was also modified to Champion Knitwear Company. The iconic "C" was introduced, and sweatshirts had the distinctive logo on their left sleeves. The "C" had a vertical bar in its middle, and both the bar and the letter were blue. The space between the curve of the "C" and the bar was colored red. The outline was white, using the thread used to fix it on the sleeve. However, this distinctive logo still went through a few changes that did not stick; no wonder it has always been assumed that the "C" has stuck with the vertical bar in the middle. Unknown to many, in 1952 and 1953, Champion's catalogs did not bear the vertical bar, and by 1957, the catalogs depicted the logo as a plain "C."
Beside the "C," there was a script lettering "hampion" to complete the word "Champion." The font of the lettering was customized while the colors of the letters and background were red, white and blue. Mostly, they used red in the space between the bar and curve of "C" while the letter and script that followed were in blue. The entire "Champion" was usually placed in a white background. However, even today, colors used are dependent on the color of the clothes; hence sometimes the lettering is white, but the red patch remains. According to Logo Realm, on black t-shirts, a simple "C" on its own is enough to make a statement. Currently, the logo no longer appears strictly on the left sleeves of sweatpants but also on the front of caps, across the chest of sweatshirts and along the sides of track pants.
What made the Champion brand grow?
After outfitting the Michigan Wolverines, other colleges were also drawn to the product. By 1960, it became the exclusive supplier of uniforms for the NCAA (National College Athletic Association). The company's reputation enabled it to supply most of the NFL (National Football League) teams' uniforms. In the 1990s, all 27 teams of the NBA (National Basketball Association) were outfitted by Champion. The company even supplied uniforms for the 1990 and 1992 basketball Olympic Games. With such extensive operations, you might wonder what set them apart such that the sports teams ran to Champion for their uniforms and the answer lies in the company's innovation.
According to Champion Store, in 1934 Champion invented Reverse Weaving to ensure that sweatshirts did not shrink with frequent washing. That alone saved sports teams money because they would not be setting aside a budget after every few years to replace the shrank uniforms. However, the company waited until 1938 to apply for a patent which was granted in 1952. In 2012, they re-launched it across Europe. Additionally, since the Feinbloom brothers were inspired to address the needs of the American Football teams, it was only logical for them to design uniforms that enhanced performance by reducing heat exhaustion. Consequently, the mesh nylon jersey was introduced in 1967 when it changed the name to Champion Products. The jerseys became so popular that they also made some for basketball teams.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith