Russell Athletic (brand)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Russell Athletic
Industry Textile
Founded 1902; 116 years ago (1902)
in Alexander City, Alabama
Founder Benjamin Russell
Headquarters Bowling Green, Kentucky, United States
Area served
North America, Europe
Products Sports uniforms
Parent Russell Brands[1]
(Berkshire Hathaway)

Russell Athletic is an American athletics brand, it is the main brand of eponymous American company and its manufacturer and marketer Russell Brands, LLC.. Founded in 1902, the company produced uniforms for a wide range of sports, such as American football, basketball, baseball, softball, and volleyball. The company supplied jersey uniforms and apparel for many professional sports teams of the major leagues in the United States of America, and also colleges, universities, and minor league teams until it shut down its team uniform division in 2017; it was reactivated in 2018 through an agreement with Augusta Sportswear.[2] Today, the company primarily focuses on activewear for the consumer market.



The company was founded by Benjamin Russell in Alexander City, Alabama, in 1902.[2] The original mill produced women's undershirts and children's undergarments. The mills beginning capacity was 150 garments daily. During the 1910s, Russell Manufacturing Co. become an established business. In 1920 Russell Sr. & Jr. created the first cotton jersey that is now known as the sweatshirt.[3] By 1925 long underwear, sweaters, athletic shirts, and women's bloomers were added to the production of women's vests, making a more complete product line.

1932 saw how Russell acquired Southern Manufacturing Company, which gave the company access to athletic team apparel. This was the beginning of the Russell Athletic division's cutting and sewing operations. Later in 1938, Russell began making woven athletic garments, including basketball, baseball, and football pants and jackets.


In 1941, founder Benjamin Russell died on the 16th of December and the reins of the company were passed to his son Benjamin C. Russell. During World War II, Russell's 'Athletic' Division sold primarily to the military. Shirts, drawers, T-shirts, athletic garments, and special outer garments were made for the Army and Navy. Benjamin C. Russell died in 1945 and was succeeded as president by his brother, Thomas D. Russell. After the War, the company embarked on further expansion and development throughout its knitting, weaving, dyeing, finishing, and cutting departments.

During the 1960s, the 'Athletic' division was the largest marketer and manufacturer of athletic apparel and uniforms in the country. In 1962, Russell Manufacturing Company's name was changed to Russell Mills, Inc. In 1973, Russell Mills' name was changed to "Russell Corporation", and the company expanded manufacturing across the Southern USA, also to Latin America and Scotland.

In 1992, Russell Athletic dealt a five-year contract to serve as the exclusive producer and marketer of athletic uniforms for most Major League Baseball (MLB) teams. The contract also stipulated that the company held the exclusive right to manufacture and market replicas of major league uniforms, T-shirts, and shorts.[4] The contract was extended after that period to 1999; after which there was no exclusive uniform supplier to MLB, but continued to supply uniforms to some MLB teams through the end of the 2004 season, when Majestic Athletic became the exclusive supplier to uniforms to MLB, which will continue until 2019, when Under Armour takes over the MLB uniform contract.


On April 17, 2006, Berkshire Hathaway agreed to purchase 100% of Russell. Finally on August 1, 2006, Russell shareholders approved the sale of their firm to Berkshire Hathaway for $18.00 per share in cash. The acquisition was successfully completed on the following day. Russell's brands joined Fruit of the Loom in the Berkshire Hathaway family of products.[4]

International operations[edit]

Over the last decade Russell Athletic has expanded under licence of Russell Brands to a number of markets around the world focusing on their signature authentic American sportswear and the story behind the invention of the sweatshirt. The largest market outside the USA is Russell Athletic Europe which is operated by Future Brands Ltd in London a subsidiary of the Batra Group. Following their success in Europe, Russell Athletic also operates in Australia , Japan and South Africa under licence of Russell Brands. Currently Russell Athletic has a team of well known brand ambassadors representing the brand in their local markets, ranging from Olympic swimmers Stephanie Rice and Ellie Faulkner to number of professional Rugby Union and Rugby League players in England and South Africa such as Sailosi Tagicakibau, Cheslin Kolbe, Shaun Lunt, Ryan Atkins, and Stevie Ward and professional health ambassadors and Yoga ambassadors such as Samantha Laura Kaye.[5] In early 2015 Russell Athletic Europe visited one of their factories and filmed the process of the making of a T-shirt, out of this footage they created a successful time lapse video called The T-Shirt How It's Made


In October 2010, Russell Athletic signed with the famous team and entertainment show The Harlem Globetrotters to provide them official uniforms, practice, and travel gear. The deal was to run through the end of 2013.[6][7]

Refocus on Consumer Apparel[edit]

On September 28, 2017, Russell Athletic said it would be exiting the team uniform manufacturing business after 115 years, and the company would be refocused on activewear for the consumer apparel market.[8] The company cited that companies like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour (which all started making athletic footwear) starting their own team uniform units, and as a result eating away at Russell's market share in that department was a contributing factor in discontinuing Russell's team uniform manufacturing business. However, on June 7, 2018, the company would be restarting its uniform manufcuturing department, via a partnership with Augusta Sportswear.[9]


Past sponsorships[edit]

American football[edit]

Many teams of the NFL wore uniforms provided by Russell Athletic during the 1970s to the 1990s, they are:[10]

American football[edit]

Australian football[edit]



Formula One[edit]



External links[edit]