Alexander City, Alabama USA, May 1902 is where is it began with 10 sewing machines, 8 knitting machines and a 26 year old man named Benjamin Russell.

The original mill produced ladies undershirts and children’s undergarments with a beginning capacity of 150 garments daily. In 1910 Russell Manufacturing Co. became an established business. With a long-term commitment to Alexander City, Ben Russell built the town a kindergarten, school, hospital, hotel, laundry, grocery store, bakery and installed the telephone operation.


The ‘Sweatshirt’ is attributed to Benjamin Russell Junior, who was playing football for the University of Alabama at the time.

Knowing the comfort and durability of cotton, he suggested to his father that an all cotton version of the original woollen football jersey be produced in order to avoid the chaffing and discomfort caused by sweating in wool. This change in fabric content resulted in the inception of the ‘sweatshirt’ as we know it today.
Russell went on to acquire 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. Russell began making woven athletic garments, including basketball, baseball and football pants and jackets.


Founder Benjamin Russell died on December 16th 1941 and the reins of the company were passed to his son Benjamin C. Russell.

During World War Two, 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.


During the 1960’s the ‘Athletic’ division was the largest marketer and manufacturer of athletic apparel and uniforms in the USA.

By 1962 Russell Manufacturing Company had changed its name to Russell Mills, Inc. and began using the American Eagle to represent its iconic brand image. Then in 1973 Russell Mills, Inc. name was changed again to Russell Corporation and expanded manufacturing across Southern USA, also to Latin America and across the Atlantic to Scotland.


By the 1990’s Russell Athletic became one of the largest suppliers of athletic team uniforms in Major League Baseball, NFL, college and high school sport programs through to little league.

On December 26, 1985 Russell’s Common Stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The brand went from strength to strength and Russell began to add other businesses to its portfolio of brands beginning with the acquisition of the Cross Creek Golf brand.


In May 2002, Russell celebrated its 100th anniversary. The brand had come a long way from its early origins in Alexander City, Alabama.

A brand rich in sporting heritage, Russell sports lifestyle ranges take inspiration combining the old with the new. With an unwavering focus on innovation and quality, Russell is the brand for sports inspired people to get the edge in their active lives.

Russell has never forgotten that its products are only as good as the people who make them. As we celebrate over 100 years in business Russell Athletic looks to the future with the same sense of excitement and purpose that has driven the company since 1902 from sweet home Alabama.