Russell Athletic / Russell Manufacturing Company

Russell Athletic is owned by Fruit of the Loom (which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway).

Russell Manufacturing Company was founded in 1902 by Benjamin Russell.  With legacies like the invention of the sweatshirt and outfitting great athletes for generations, Russell Athletic has played an integral role in developing performance wear that delivers for more than 100 years! Combining the old with the new, Russell Athletic continues to create modern-day classics for everyday athletes.

For more than 100 years, Russell Brands has supplied America’s athletes and teams with the latest innovations to help them perform at their best and is a leading supplier of apparel and team uniforms at the high school, college and professional levels. Russell Brand’s collegiate licensed products and athletic wear are broadly distributed and marketed through department stores, sports specialty stores, retail chains and college bookstores.  

The company was founded by Benjamin Russell in Alexander City, Alabama, in 1902.  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. 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.[2] 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.

On April 17, 2006, Berkshire Hathaway agreed to purchase 100% of Russell.  The acquisition was successfully completed in August 2006. Russell's brands joined Fruit of the Loom, Inc. in the Berkshire Hathaway family of products.

Learn more about Fruit of the Loom here on Apparel Search.

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