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Sweatshirt vs. Sweater: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 20, 2023
A sweatshirt is a loose, heavy shirt typically made of cotton and often bears designs, while a sweater is a knitted garment intended to cover the torso and arms for warmth.

Key Differences

A sweatshirt, as the name implies, was initially designed for athletes to wear during their physical activities to induce and absorb sweat. The sweater, on the other hand, emerged as a garment primarily worn to keep warm in colder environments, being made of wool or similar materials.
Sweatshirts usually have a more relaxed fit and might be associated with casual or athletic wear. They often come with a hood, leading to the term "hoodie." Sweaters, however, are more diverse in design, from casual to formal, and do not traditionally have hoods.
In terms of fabrication, sweatshirts are generally made from cotton or polyester blends, resulting in a thicker and often fleece-like inside. Sweaters are typically knitted, allowing for intricate designs, and are often constructed from wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers.
One prominent visual distinction between a sweatshirt and a sweater is the presence of design or print. Sweatshirts often bear graphics, college names, brand logos, or slogans. In contrast, sweaters might have patterns knitted into them but usually don't have printed designs.
In the realm of fashion, while sweatshirts are linked with sporty or street style looks, sweaters are versatile, spanning from cozy, casual wear to being paired with formal attire.

Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Athletic wear, casual wear
Warmth, ranging from casual to formal


Typically cotton or polyester blends
Often wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers


Often have printed designs or logos
Typically have knitted patterns

Associated Styles

Sporty, street style
Versatile, from cozy to formal

Additional Features

May come with a hood ("hoodie")
Varying necklines, no hood

Sweatshirt and Sweater Definitions


A garment, often with a hood and pocket in the front, designed for comfort or warmth.
When the temperature dropped, she was glad she had her warm sweatshirt.


A versatile piece of clothing, knitted in various patterns and styles.
The intricate design on her sweater was a conversation starter.


A loose, heavy shirt made from cotton designed for athletic use.
She wore her favorite college sweatshirt to the gym.


A knitted garment worn over the upper body for warmth.
She wore a thick wool sweater during the winter months.


A casual top, often with long sleeves, made from thick, soft fabric.
He grabbed a sweatshirt before heading out for a morning jog.


A top that can vary from lightweight to heavyweight depending on its intended use.
She chose a lightweight sweater for the cool summer evening.


A pullover shirt that's similar in design to a sweater but made of cotton or fleece.
He chose a sweatshirt over a sweater for the casual party.


A pullover or cardigan made of knit or crocheted material.
His cable-knit sweater was a hit at the family gathering.


A versatile top that can bear designs, logos, or plain colors and provides a relaxed fit.
Her sweatshirt, adorned with the band's logo, showed her fandom.


A garment, often with long sleeves, made to protect against cold weather.
As the breeze turned chilly, he was glad he had his sweater.


A usually long-sleeved, collarless pullover made traditionally of heavy cotton jersey that is napped on the interior, sometimes having a hood.


A garment for the upper body of wool, cotton, or synthetic yarn, typically knitted, having long sleeves, and worn in cold weather.


A zippered jacket of a similar material and design.


One that sweats, especially profusely.


A loose shirt, usually made of a knit fleece, for athletic wear and now often used as casual apparel.


Something that induces sweating; a sudorific.


A shirt worn against the skin, usually under other clothing, to absorb sweat.


A knitted jacket or jersey, usually of thick wool, worn by athletes before or after exercise.


Cotton knit pullover with long sleeves worn during athletic activity


(US) A similar garment worn for warmth.


One who sweats (produces sweat).


One who or that which causes to sweat.


A diaphoretic remedy.


(historical) An exploitative middleman who subcontracted piece work in the tailoring trade.


(archaic) One who sweats coins, i.e. removes small portions by shaking them.


A London street ruffian in Queen Anne's time who prodded weak passengers with his sword-point.


(transitive) To dress in a sweater.


One who sweats.


One who, or that which, causes to sweat


A crocheted or knitted garment covering the upper part of the body


A person who perspires


What's the primary purpose of a sweatshirt?

A sweatshirt was originally designed for athletic activities, providing comfort and sweat absorption.

What's the difference in texture between a sweatshirt and a sweater?

Sweatshirts often have a fleece-like inside, while sweaters are knitted and can vary in texture.

Is a sweater more formal than a sweatshirt?

Generally, sweaters can range from casual to formal, whereas sweatshirts are more casual.

Are sweatshirts primarily for sports?

While initially designed for sports, sweatshirts have become popular casual wear.

Can sweatshirts have hoods?

Yes, sweatshirts with hoods are commonly referred to as "hoodies."

Do sweatshirts come in varying thicknesses?

Yes, from lightweight for mild chill to heavier versions for colder weather.

Is a sweater always made of wool?

No, while many sweaters are woolen, they can also be made from cotton, synthetics, or blends.

Is it common to see designs or logos on sweaters?

While sweaters can have knitted patterns, printed designs are more common on sweatshirts.

Can a sweatshirt be made of wool?

It's uncommon, as sweatshirts are typically cotton or polyester, but hybrid designs exist.

Is fleece a common material for sweatshirts?

Yes, many sweatshirts have a fleece-like inside for added warmth and comfort.

Do sweaters only come in solid colors?

No, sweaters can be found in solid colors, patterns, stripes, and various knitted designs.

Can a sweater have a zipper?

Yes, sweaters with zippers are often called "zip-up" or "cardigan" sweaters.

Can both sweatshirts and sweaters be worn in the winter?

Yes, both can provide warmth, but the material and thickness determine the degree.

Do sweaters always have long sleeves?

While many do, there are also short-sleeved and sleeveless sweater variants.

Are turtleneck sweaters?

Yes, turtlenecks are a style of sweater with a high, close-fitting collar.

Can sweaters be machine washed?

It depends on the material; many wool sweaters require hand washing or dry cleaning.

What's a cardigan?

A cardigan is a type of open-fronted sweater, often with buttons or a zipper.

Are all sweatshirts loose-fitting?

Most have a relaxed fit, but some designs are more form-fitting.

Are sweatshirts suitable for all seasons?

While often worn in cooler weather, lightweight versions are suitable for milder temperatures.

Are sweatshirts considered fashionable?

Absolutely, sweatshirts are staples in street style and casual fashion.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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