Why do sweatshirts have that v in the neck?

Take a look at your sweatshirts. You might notice that some have a peculiar feature at the neck — a V-shaped stitch that sits right at the middle of the collar. Why is it there? It’s a confounding detail that has stumped people for years.

That little detail goes by a few names, most commonly the V-insert, V-stitch and, its tastiest moniker, the Dorito. You won’t find it on every sweatshirt, though. It’s become less prevalent over the years and was phased out by many brands, fueling the confusion surrounding its intent.

But first, how the sweatshirt came about. Back in 1920s Alabama, Benjamin Russell, an owner of a women’s and children’s underwear factory was presented with a problem by his son. Bennie Russell Jr, a football player with the University of Alabama, had grown frustrated with the highly uncomfortable wool jerseys sported by the players. These were itchy, and prone to shrinking after washing.

Benjamin set about developing a comfortable alternative, using women’s underwear material as football shirts. The sweatshirt’s popularity amongst the sporting fraternity was immediate. Adopted amongst football and baseball players across the country, the sweatshirt became synonymous with American sport and comfort. Incidentally, it picked up it’s not so glamorous sounding name from factory workers who commented on its apparent state post-game.

When they made the sweatshirts originally, the design was a ribbed knit material that was inserted at the collar and stitched into place. It served two main purposes: Like the ribbing at the sleeves and at the hem, the ribbed insert allowed the wearer to more easily don the garment without it losing shape. As the wearer would get their head through the neck of the sweatshirt, the V-insert would stretch to accommodate. The elasticity of the ribbing could stretch as needed without losing integrity.

The second reason is that it helped to absorb sweat. If you’ve seen someone sweat through a crewneck, you’ll know that the chest is a major point of perspiration. Though, the V-insert could only take so much.

Early versions saw the V-insert at both the front and the back of the collar while others would just have one at the front. Eventually, the detail became merely decorative as companies began to stitch a V at the collar without the ribbed material, weening the consumer before leaving it out altogether.

But, the recent resurgence of heritage brands and a focus on vintage influences has brought the V-insert back into vogue as brands look to capitalize on archival styles. Whether you use yours to catch some sweat or the one you’ve got is purely ornamental, you now have a new fun fact to share. Go vintage! 

Check out my related post: Why are pockets rare in women’s clothing?

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