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Many clothing websites use distinct categories for both sweaters and sweatshirts. But what is the difference?

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In Australian (and I assume British) English we call a sweater a jumper. We also don't use sweatshirt but I think both the garment by this name and our names for such evolving garments have changed through the years. Words like windcheater and fleece spring to mind, but the one in Manoochehr's image would be a hoodie in any case. –  hippietrail May 28 '11 at 11:49
    
@hippietrail: +1 hoodie. a hooded sweatshirt. –  Manoochehr May 28 '11 at 12:02
    

6 Answers 6

Wikipedia has a significant explanation on the difference between sweater and sweatshirt.

Commonly confused for sweaters, sweatshirts are a subset of long-sleeved torso wear that is similar to a sweater, but different. The main differences lie in the materials used, and the purpose or level of attire the styles of garments are associated with. The sweatshirt is a ubiquitous part of youth culture and counterculture, easily found among hipsters or young adults. Sweatshirts may or may not have a zipper, while sweaters always do not. Sweatshirts are usually made from cotton, polyester, or other relatively low-cost materials, while sweaters are made traditionally from wool, fleece, or other softer, more natural textiles.

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This and only this is a sweatshirt to me:

sweatshirt

It is NOT a hoodie.

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In Australia when I was a kid 2 or 3 decades ago we called this a windcheater but I don't know if we still do. –  hippietrail May 28 '11 at 16:44
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"hoodie" being a short form of "hooded sweatshirt" –  nohat May 28 '11 at 17:23
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Sure. But where I come from and where I have been (which is not in AU) a sweatshirt does not have a hood. If it does, it is a hoodie –  mplungjan May 28 '11 at 19:22

A sweatshirt is made with sweatshirt fleece, which is a heavy fabric that is finished on one side and has a soft, fluffy nap on the other. The garment is designed to be worn with the finished side out and the napped side close to the skin, so the air trapped by the nap will help retain body heat. Despite the name, it does not have to be wool; sweatshirts can be made of cotton, synthetic fibers, or other materials.

A sweater is simply a knitted garment worn over the torso, typically one in which the yarn is thick enough that the knit pattern can be seen easily with the naked eye (unless it is obscured by the nap, as with fabrics such as angora and cashmere).

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This is the only answer that actually hits upon the difference: a sweatshirt is sewn, while a sweater is knitted. The sweatshirt can be sewn out of a knitted fabric (many fleece-type fabrics are knitted rather than woven), but the garment itself is cut and constructed from the fabric, rather than directly from the yarn. –  Marthaª Dec 29 '11 at 15:08
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@Marthaª: you should post your comment as an answer, because I agree: the difference between a sweater and a sweatshirt is in the method of construction. All other differences (use or purpose, sleeves or not, hooded or not, printed logo or none, etc.) are incidental. –  JPmiaou Dec 29 '11 at 16:42

Sweatshirt is:

a loose, long-sleeved, collarless pullover of soft, absorbent fabric, as cotton jersey, with close-fitting or elastic cuffs and sometimes a drawstring at the waist, commonly worn during athletic activity for warmth or to induce sweating.

Sweater is:

a knitted jacket or jersey, in pullover or cardigan style, with or without sleeves.

The difference apparently is that a sweater can be sleeveless.

However, I looked up a bit more, and found that a sweatshirt and sweater are made differently:

A sweater is a top knitted or crocheted from thick fibers & a sweatshirt is pieces fabric sewn together

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In Australia a cardigan buttons up but a jumper is pulled over the head. –  hippietrail May 28 '11 at 16:45

This is what the OALD says for sweater:

A knitted piece of clothing made of wool or cotton for the upper part of the body, with long sleeves.

In British English the word is used to describe a piece of clothing with no buttons. In American English a sweater can have buttons and be like a jacket.

While a sweatshirt is:

A piece of clothing for the upper part of the body, with long sleeves, usually made of thick cotton and often worn for sports.

Basically the main difference that comes out is that the latter is used for sports.

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A Sweatshirt is a sweater or pullover with long sleeves. Some designs have front pouch or pockets for the hands. Sweatshirt

The sweater is formed by the linking of stitches - Its shape and pattern come from the structure of the garment. If the stitches are taken away there is no form. A sweatshirt has a pattern or logo printed onto it. The pattern has no relationship to the shape of the garment - if you remove it the sweatshirt remains intact.

The sweater is much more complex in it’s making than the sweatshirt, but has a more simple beauty.

Sweater

See Here.

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What you show is what I would call a hoodie –  mplungjan May 28 '11 at 16:05
    
A sweatshirt doesn't always have a zipper –  ErikE May 28 '11 at 18:43
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A sweatshirt doesn't always have a hood, either. –  Peter Shor Jun 25 '12 at 12:08
    
This answer contradicts itself. –  Peter Taylor Jun 25 '12 at 13:02

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