At the turn of the century in Alabama, cotton was king. But football was a close second. For Benjamin Russell, growing up in Alexander City, Alabama - known to locals as "Alex City" - was tough. The town had no railway, no bus service and no football field to speak of - mostly due to The Fire of 1902, which destroyed much of the town. Somehow, Benjamin Russell found the fortitude to rally the town, build a hospital, hotel, laundry, grocery store, bakery, and telephone operation. Later, the school he built would be named in his honor: Benjamin Russell High School. On December 16th of 1941, Benjamin passed away, passing the company's torch to his son, Benjamin C. Russell.
Born in Alabama, 1902
In 1902, the universities of Alabama and Texas met for the rivalry's inaugural game, and the game of football began to capture the hearts and minds of every man, woman and child in Alabama. That same year, 25-year-old Benjamin Russell opened Russell Manufacturing Company - a tiny factory with just 10 sewing machines and eight knitting machines to its name. Benjamin Russell's passion for team sports and his entrepreneurial spirit fueled civic pride, creating jobs for the community, and helped keep football teams uniformed throughout the Southeast and, later, nationwide.
The Pioneer, Inventor And Creator Of The Sweatshirt
In 1930, Benjamin Russell Jr. had an idea. A football player at the University of Alabama, he suggested a solution to the chafing and discomfort caused by sweating in wool jerseys - a more comfortable, all-cotton jersey version of the original. His father listened and promptly rolled out the new fabric line. Teams and players everywhere loved the comfortable new fabric, and that's how the first sweatshirt was born.
Southern Manufacturing Co.
In 1932, Benjamin Russell pioneered Southern Manufacturing Company, giving the company access to athletic team apparel. And thus began the Russell Athletic cutting and sewing operations. In a time of expansion, Russell began making woven athletic garments, including basketball, baseball and football pants and jackets, for teams all across the United States. Today, more than eight decades later, thousands of teams are proud to wear the emblazoned "R" of Russell Athletic on practically every field of play.
A few years and several thousands of stitches later, Ivy League universities would embrace the brand, thanks to its casual look and durable construction. Russell Athletic soon became synonymous with collegiate life and teamwork, a relationship that remains tightly knit to this day.
Raised On The Tracks And Fields Of America
By the 1960s, Russell Manufacturing Company's "Athletic" division had become the largest manufacturer of sports apparel and uniforms in the United States. Thirty years later, Russell sportswear became the preferred choice of athletes and teams from Major League Baseball and the NFL, as well as the Little League Association of America.
A Collegiate Story Still Being Told
Now more than 100 years old, Russell Athletic continues to produce a range of sportswear for male and female athletes, professional and amateur teams, combining the old with the new to create modern-day classics for everyday athletes. Russell Athletic's collegiate lifestyle heritage lives on to this day, while the sweatshirt continues to be an iconic garment worn all over the world.