History of the Logo
The Origins of Russell Athletic
Back in 1902, Benjamin Russell founded a company operating in a little Alexander City, Alabama mill that went by the name of Russell Manufacturing. In its early days, it was a small-scale company that produced women’s undergarments. As time went on, however, Russell Manufacturing would see an expansion of its product offerings and make its entry into the world of athletic wear.
In 1925, Russell Manufacturing added long underwear, sweaters, athletic shirts and bloomers to production. The company’s move toward athletic clothing gained real momentum in 1926 when the founder’s son, Benjamin Russell Jr., worked with his father to create the sweatshirt—a revolutionary garment that brought the comfort and durability of cotton to the hot, itchy football jerseys that Russell Jr. wore when taking the field in. To this day, the sweatshirt and its hoodie derivative remain a staple in wardrobes across the world.
By 1930, a complete line of athleticwear had been added to Russell Manufacturing’s product offerings—including the classic sweatshirt that was quickly becoming a star player in Russell’s lineup of products. When 1938 rolled around, they were producing uniforms for teams in basketball, football and baseball leagues.
Russell Mills and the Eagle
Benjamin Russell Sr. was a man of ambition. Not only did his growing business reflect this, but its logo did too. Russell had chosen the eagle with the mindset that it would always soar as his company’s symbol when it was founded. Though it can be found on the company’s letterhead stationary from as early as 1906, it was when the eagle logo first appeared in Russell Manufacturing’s trucks —by then named Russell Mills— that it became more commonly associated with the brand.
The ever-soaring eagle was considered to be the perfect symbol for Russell’s ideas when he began his company. He set out to create a business that would stand the test of time because of its commitment to creating quality products—an idea that remains core to Russell Athletic to this day.
In 1969, the trademark of the Russell Corporation became the Gothic R with an eagle’s head as the leg of the letter—a proud nod to the brand’s own heritage and history. The initial red-and-black version of this logo was printed on trucks and flags that very same year, before the logo was ultimately changed to the burnt-gold color that would last for decades to come.
Much like the original idea of the eagle itself, this new burnt-gold Eagle R was meant to reflect an ambitious commitment to quality that would see the Russell Corporation through thick and thin.
While changes were happening with the company’s logo, the Russell Corporation itself changed too. The success of athletic clothing lines led Russell Mills to establish a separate division of the company that was dedicated to athletic gear, called Southern Manufacturing. Southern Manufacturing was opened around 1940 and had become known as Southern Athletic Wear by 1952.
By 1961, athletic wear was Russell’s most successful product offering, and the Southern Athletic Wear division’s name was transitioned to Russell Southern Athletic Wear—which was ultimately shortened to Russell Southern Co. ten years later in 1971.
Finally, in 1973, “Southern” was removed from the name, and the brand’s name became what it remains today—Russell Athletic.
Through the Years
The burnt-gold Eagle R would remain unchanged until 1983, when it underwent a bold change to the colors that have stayed in use through this day. The new Eagle R would be red and blue, with the red boldly accentuating the head of the eagle that sits as the leg of Russell Athletic’s famous R.
Once 2001 came, Russell Athletic’s Eagle R would receive an additional subtle change—a sleeker, more dynamic eagle. The eagle would be removed for a time in 2006 to go with a sleeker, more slanted R logo, but would be added back when the logo was changed back to an Eagle R in 2018, that looked more similar to the original red and blue logo from 1983—the same Eagle R we still use.
This logo continues to serve us well—embodying everything that Russell Athletic stands for now, and what Benjamin Russell stood for when he founded Russell Manufacturing in 1902. Quality clothes that look good, feel good, and like Russell Athletic itself, stand the test of time.