THE BIG C
That title’s not a cancer reference. We’re talking Champion. Over the months this blog’s been mired in references to reverse weave, from talk of the genesis of the tactically stitched build, hardcore and No Mas’s loving tribute to the US-made versions. It’s time to dead that obsession on this URL, but not before one final love letter to Champion products. Well, it is Valentine’s day.
Hip-hop and Champion sit together like any other re-appropriation of the basics the subculture’s popularized, but while the bulbous fit with the ‘C’ on the sleeve largely represents the east coast from ’91-’94, and the brand never really left us, it’s currently in the midst of a renaissance. Is it tactical distribution from the brand? Who knows, but Jadakiss, Nas, Rae and Cam’ron have been C’d out in the heft of the Super Hood lately, while 50, Ghost and Rick Ross have been spotted in the brand’s newest creation – the Super Crewneck.
As staple as Polo in the cotton fleece arena, the brand’s gone one further with a giant applique ‘C’ that seems like a gloriously low-end retort to the big ‘Lo horse and rider (if a connection to the house of Ralph seems far-fetched check the feature below from December 1991 drawing a parallel).
It’s almost as far removed from the neat, slimmer cut Japan-made replicas of marl grey American masterpieces as you can get – ‘almost’ is employed there because the thinner, Double Dry fleece Classic Sweatshirt, another personal favourite, is cheap (fifteen bucks!) cheerful, and available in a mindbending array of shades, including some of the colours that had fans scrambling when they were in a reversed stitch. Many would prefer to shell out extra for the sleeve ‘C’ and a thicker cotton and polyester blend, but some might be able to appreciate that dementedly low pricepoint.
From the vintage shades, Cazal logo face ink and enlarged Vuitton custom gear, Officer Rawse has a certain aspirational aura that took a Champion fanboy back to the characters that elevated an athletic brand to him in the first place. It’s tough to single out the non-hardcore musical endorsees who made their mark the hardest wearing Rochester’s finest. Notable examples are MC Lyte in the snap button jacket in 1989’s ‘Self Destruction’ video, and Rakim’s large tonal logo on an orange hoodie during a 1992 MTV appearance, worn with white AF1s too. Inspirational. To be inspired to hunt down a sweat because a rapper wore it is some boom-bap pensioner behaviour – an act of second childhood, with that hefty branding acting as the perfect analogy for hip-hop’s current louder, brasher state, compared to the lowkey single vinyl murk of ’93.
Champion USA now resides comfortably as part of the Hanesbrand family – fitting that the Beefy-T and Reverse Weave are related in their much-loved basics that a certain subsection of Brits in particular, worship. It’s the American Classics generation – that store doesn’t get its full recognition, peddling the import necessities since 1981.
The curious lack of recent availability of classic (respect to the Original Store for filling a gap in the market) Champion products in the UK has given a new Reverse Weave the power to incite conversations between strangers – while fat laces and Vans are now no mark of a like mind, that ‘C’ still has clout. The Italian distributor catering to the EU is slipping, yet they’ve happily franchised the footwear side to produce some budget shockers, though to be fair, in NYC these Air Max 87 copies were spotted. C’mon Champion, when you dropped the suede block colour mids in 1990 with a spurious technology, we could sit them next to the Fila F13. These knockoffs damage the brand as a whole.
Not a good look.
And yes, the Double Dry and Super Crewneck have the ‘flying squirrel’ fit on the arms; minimal waist or cuff lengths, a preposterous amount of room, and room at the front for a fifty inch chest. But the high school jock fit is part and parcel of the contemporary Champion experience. The colours and thickness on the Super Crewneck in particular, are good. As the picture of Mr. Ross indicates, even with his weight, he’s not packing one of these bad boys out. At least the wrist ‘C’ is stitched rather than stuck on, and the Super Crewneck is bonkers enough to justify purchase if you’re a brand disciple. And yes, while the equally insane Super Letterman jacket feels like excellent value, padded, and only eight-five bucks, it’s just as hefty.
Double Dry & Supercrew – A whole lotta sleeve.
Those residing in Japan get some extra breaks. Asia’s licensee loves Champion. A cursory visit to sportswear mecca Oshman’s reveals gems. Having been introduced to the tees they sell by Michael Kopelman, who knows his garments, I noticed you’ll get none of the supersize with the China-made ‘Champion Products Inc.’ label pieces – from the neck detailing to the slimmer fit, they’re a near perfect shirt. The Reverse Weave zip parkas and crewnecks are slimmed-down too and superior in quality. There’s oddities too, like grey-on-grey polka dot zip parkas, yet somehow it all works.
If that doesn’t sate the Reverse Weave appetite, Osaka’s HUNKYDORY have been dropping gems with an American-made replica line. We might be done with the US build preoccupation, but these fits here are superior, and these are beautifully packaged. The Remake Crew Sweat takes it way, way back, but the Reverse Weave Crew Sweat is all that the brand’s output could and should be. Beautiful. There you have it – from the ridiculous, to the sublime.