The Smell of a Sweatshirt

It’s cold right now in Florida. Now, I know — I went to school in Syracuse and grew up in New England — you’re colder than I am, most likely. But I’ve lived in the Sunshine State since 2004. I have Florida blood. I shiver at the thought of temperatures that are below 50.

But I will admit to one great thing about the cold weather. I get to put on my favorite sweatshirt.

It’s nothing fancy. But it’s very special.

I can’t remember when my dad bought it for me, but I do remember shopping for it outside of Quincy Market. To be clear, there was never any danger of me actually becoming a student at Harvard, but because I grew up in Boston, I always thought of that as my school.

When I got it, it had a good and drawstrings, and those stuck around for the first few years. (It was also about three sizes too big for me at first.)


After a while, I cut the hood off…the bottom started to fray…I burned holes in the sleeves…

…and it started to pick up a smell. Not a gross one (Lucas might disagree) but sort of a collection of all of the places it had been.

No matter how many times I wash it, that smell hangs on. Depending on where I stick my nose in, I smell the faint mustiness of our old basement, where I’d hang out with my dad at his workbench. I smell smoke from high school cookouts and marshmallow roasts. I smell beer that got spilled during some college get-togethers in our freezing dorm room. I smell adventure, and journeys and they all remind me of how far I’ve come.

I know it’s probably nerdy to have such a sentimental attachment to a sweatshirt, but before I put it on (usually only one or two times a year now), I bury my face in it and bask in those old feelings.

Do you have an attachment to a piece of clothing? What does it mean to you?

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  1. says

    I have a lightweight jacket that I bought my mom when I was an exchange student in costa rica that I keep. Even though it is the opposite of anything I would wear seeing it hanging in the utility room I am back on the streets of cr looking at jewelry walking barefoot biking with strangers. I am transported to one of the best times of my life

  2. says

    I have a UVM sweatshirt that I got on the day I graduated college (11.5 years ago, ack!) and still love. It’s really ratty but I wear it all the time.

  3. says

    I like what you’ve done with the hood 😉

    I have a sweat shirt like that, it’s pretty gross, the sleeves are starting to disintegrate at the wrists and elbows … and I never really thought about it but yeah it does kind of have it’s own unique smell

  4. says

    I love this post. It makes me wish that I still had the sweatshirts I wore when I was in high school. There was this blue sweatshirt that my mum had kept for a LOT of years that I ended up inheriting. It smelled like campfire, basement, and my mum. I wore it until there were so many holes in it that the cuffs were barely hanging on for dear life…

  5. says

    I used to have a favorite pair of pj pants, but I wore them until they ripped to shreds. I still have them, and I plan on using them as quilt squares to make a quilt one day!

    And yes, it was SUPER cold in Massachusetts this am. I was just telling PB Fingers that the dog’s water was frozen out in the mudroom this morning!!!! Yikes!

  6. says

    There are three items of clothing that I would have a mini-meltdown over losing:
    1. A powder blue t-shirt with a bischon on it that I’ve had since I was 5. I haven’t worn the shirt in quite a few years, but it reminds me of my aunt’s dog, who I thought of as mine since my parents wouldn’t let me have a dog growing up.
    2. My Chicago Marathon long-sleeved t-shirt. It means so much to me, and is just an awesome shirt.
    3. A long-sleeved t-shirt from my high school tennis team. I worked my ass off to get on that team.

  7. says

    It’s funny that piece of clothing for you is a Harvard sweatshirt because I have the same attachment to a Princeton one I got in middle school. I refuse to throw it out even though it’s definitely seen better days, it’s just way too sentimental.

  8. says

    No…. but this post made me smile because I grew up outside Boston too and have very fond memories of going to both Quincy Market and Harvard Square. I got the posters for my non-Harvard dorm room at the Coop!

  9. says

    I still own a t-shirt from my first year playing field hockey… which would be 4th grade. I love how soft and flimsy it now is, and it’s my favorite shirt to wear to bed. :)

    what is it about cozy sweatshirts that keep a smell in so well? I love putting on a sweatshirt I haven’t worn in a while that smells like my parent’s house.

  10. says

    I bought my Emory University sweatshirt on my first day of college almost 26 years ago … yes I said 26 .. :) I bought many after that … they were thrown away … all except this one that I keep near and dear to my heart … not in perfect shape … but not bad considering … I love it and love that it has been with me for that long … surpassed by my Snoopy … he has been with me for 33 years … he holds the number one spot 😉

  11. says

    I love sentimental items! Although, I don’t actually have any that are clothing. Mostly I’m attached to pictures and memories. But I do have a collection of Snoopys and I can remember where I got each one and who gave it to me. (Ok, I’ve gotten a LOT over the years, so maybe not all of them).

  12. marieljackson says

    We are on the same shoes. I am sentimental for my stuff… Just like my pillows, I love the smell of it.

  13. Laura says

    I understand regarding the body temperature and surviving Syracuse weather. I don’t know how I survived the snow and e bone cold chill weather. I live in NYC now which I have to sy it’s def warmer and we do get to enjoy snow days at my school. Days like today where it’s in the 20s reminds me oh I need to move south.

    I have a really old Syracuse sweatshirt that is literally falling apart. But there is something comfy of getting into it. To reminds me of a different time. Well it’s just so soft and comfy after a decade worth of wash.

  14. Marcee .... CHICAGO says

    Ohyeah …. I have tons of “memory stuff” hangin out ……. here, there everywhere in this house. Wish I could list everything. Impossible.

    #1 ~ A very-very old red sweatshirt with GOODMAN THEATRE in black letters on the front. A bit snug, but gosh, I love it so much. The cotton is so soft. All over. Inside too.

    #2 ~ A bright yellow so-cozy-jacket w/silky padded lining …. pockets all over the place. Also excellent quality patches in chocolate, white and paler yellows, that have advertising for a bogus auto repair company. This is one very special jacket. I’ve never seen a zipper/or snaps like this jacket has. I should be buried in it. Booohoo.

    @3 ~ Camp sweatshirts. Real ones. Pink, army green and also a white. I gave the yellow to my godchild a few years back. They snuggled up + laundered in cello bags. Too small for me now.

    Amazing how clothes hold so many memories (and aromas!) for us ….. ! Just too sweet and also sad. I guess that’s called bittersweet. Yeah.

    Excellent post Katy. Got us all thinkin of our olden days.

  15. says

    I have the same exact thing: my Dad’s seriously large sweatshirt from Penn State. I can fit my knees in it when I sit on my couch (cozy, much) and when I wear it with shorts it looks like I’m pantsless (funny). Coincidence! :)

  16. says

    I have a college sweatshirt I love. It was a present from my mom and I bought it huge on purpose. I would ball my knees up in it to stay warm and wear it almost every day and just change the shirt underneath. Now it’s my comfy around the house shirt although it’s even bigger since I lost the weight. I can see stains from sharpie fights with friends, wings on all nighters, thumb holes I made before they were cool and just overall comfy.

  17. Karla says

    Yesterday was my final day smoking cigarettes and I smoked my last pack (yeah, the whole thing) and now I’m out and done. Problem is my sweatshirt smells REALLY strong still, what’s the fastest way to get the smell out? I’m thinking about throwing it in the washer.

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