The Leavers Hoodies Company has been decorating clothing for schools for over 20 years. For many years we added crests to jumpers and polo shirts as one element of the formal school uniform. Now we add logos, names, nicknames, and designs to all sorts of clothing but mainly to Leaver’s Hoodies. People love leaver’s hoodies – why?
The history of the Leavers Hoodie
The hoodie has been a popular garment for a good few years in the UK. Leavers hoodies became a thing around 2006/7 with their popularity still growing. Before hoodies were so popular, schools ordered sweatshirts, fleeces, or t-shirts for their leavers. And some schools still do!
The idea of a peer group all having a garment commemorating/celebrating the same thing or event was first seen in sports clothing. This assumes that you ignore uniforms (military, school, workplace etc). With teams having a strip, followers showed their support for a particular team by wearing something similar, or related, to the strip. Followers of Groups/Bands also took the same route to show their support.
Schools have had uniforms for hundreds of years, so it was a small step for them to see the hoodie as a suitable garment for the kids to wear in less formal environments. The move from having hoodies as part of the school culture to having hoodies to commemorate leaving the school wasn’t a big step.
Signing a shirt
It used to be a ritual to sign the t-shirts, shirts or blouses of friends on the last day of school. It felt great, and somewhat rebellious, to sign someone’s shirt or to stand while someone signed yours. But ultimately the experience proved unsatisfactory for several reasons.
Either the aim was to collect the names of all your year group—guaranteed you would miss some in the frenzy
Or, you just wanted the signatures of your close friends—someone who you didn’t particularly want to sign would be sure to, and it wasn’t worth fighting over
It was probably the first time some pupils had signed anything, so you’d no idea what most of the signatures were saying
Either the shirt would never get washed or the first wash would get rid of most of the signatures
It would never be a garment you could sensibly wear again – so it would get stuck in the back of the wardrobe and never seen again until a major clear-out.
Youth rebellion played a part in the rapid increase in hoodie popularity. John Prescott and Tony Blair branded the wearers of hoodies as threatening. So, it was no surprise that youths would then look to the hoodie as a statement of rebellion.
Today’s school leavers carry none of the baggage of the early noughties. They like hoodies because of the garment itself and its association with their friends and classmates. A reminder of the time when they were kings and queens of the school they are leaving, or have left.
Early days of the leaver’s hoodie
When hoodies started being used as leaver’s mementoes, the norm was for everyone in the year group to have the same colour. Each hoodie just had the logo or motif of the school. Production methods were more limited and ease of production and minimising of cost were important. The next phase was where we added the school crest and the wearer’s name or nickname. Still, everyone had the same colour and style of hoodie. Then came the design on the back.
Leavers hoodies in ‘modern times’
Finally, big changes to the purchasing processes brought about by technology allow a choice of styles/types of hoodie and a selection from the range of colours available for each style. In theory, for a year group of 150, there could be no two garments of the same style and colour. It hasn’t happened yet, largely because some colours are considerably more popular than others, but it is possible.
So, why do people love their leaver’s hoodie?
If you read the history of the hoodie, you will have seen some clues to why it is popular. But the answer isn’t in history.
The hoodie is so popular because of what it represents, what it reminds the wearer of. There are three groups of leavers:
- year 6 leavers (primary) who are moving up to secondary school
- secondary leavers (high school) going to college or the 6th form
- school leavers who are ‘done’ with school completely
Whichever age or type of leaver you consider, the story is largely the same. For most kids and young adults, the period, 6-12 months, just before they leave the school and move on to the next phase of their lives is their happiest time at the school. Almost no matter how bad they may have felt about the school in the first year or so, by the end of their time there the memories will be of good times. The leaver’s hoodie recalls those wonderful memories to mind and makes the wearer feel good again. Secure, no matter what the current situation.
After leaving a school, or finishing school completely, the young person will enter a different world where there are new stresses and challenges. Whether it is for 6 months, or 6 years, after they leave, they might still want to look back and feel good about their time at school. A sort of comfort blanket. The leaver’s hoodie helps with that recollection of carefree school days, friends, lessons learned, shared experiences. After a few years, putting faces to all the names on a hoodie (if that was one of the design elements chosen) can be a struggle. But it is an enjoyable struggle in most cases, and the year group photo and hoodie work well together for this purpose.
If you are reading this because you have a child approaching the age to change schools or leave school completely, remember back to your last days and weeks of school. Maybe, somewhere in your wardrobe or a packing box in the attic, your hoodie is collecting dust. I’ll bet (except for the dust) the recollection brought a smile to your face, and that is why leaver’s hoodies are so popular…
Leavers hoodies bring a smile to people’s faces!