The history of the letterman's jacket can be traced back to the 1800s. Wearing the badge of honour on the chest, the varsity will always trend.
Source: Polo Lettermans Jacket
For over 150 years, the lettermans jacket has become deep-rooted in American culture. It started out as a way for students to celebrate their athletic prowess and to show their school spirit. Since then, lettermen jackets have left the school hallways and appeared on runways.
Read on to learn how to add this classic to your wardrobe.
The History of The Letterman's Jacket
Let’s go back to Harvard University in 1865. The baseball team was looking for a way to highlight their best players so they sewed an “H” onto the center of the team’s grey uniforms. And thus, the letterman's jacket was born.
Although every team member received a letterman, only those who took part in important games wore them. The remaining players had to return their lettermen jackets at the end of the season. This proved that lettermen jackets were a badge of honor and let the team show off their most valuable players.
Ten years later, Harvard’s football team did the same. Team captains only let players who played prestigious games, like Yale or Princeton, wear the iconic uniform.
How the Lettermen Jacket Changed the Sport World
Somehow, the jacket spread into American high schools too. In Phoenix Union High School's 1911 yearbook, you'll find photographs of students wearing varsity jackets. There's a particular photo where a student is wearing a v-neck sweater with 'P' embroidered on the top left of it.
As the style caught on, athletes wanted a more substantial design. The letterman jacket looked more like a cardigan and it wasn’t until the 1930s, the term ‘varsity jacket’ came to life. The jacket had a wool body with contrasting leather sleeves and the letter, placed on one side.
The tradition began where a key player would receive a letter as a reward after a great game. They would then buy a varsity jacket and sew the letter on to it as a badge of honor.
Varsity jackets became synonymous with high school culture and the jackets symbolized high-performance and achievement for athletes.
The jacket became so popular it made its way to the professional teams. Those who manufactured fan apparel for baseball teams designed jackets complete with the team’s logo and colors to show solidarity.
And it didn’t stop there. Varsity jackets took the basketball and football world by storm and popular teams like the New York Knicks and LA Raiders wore them.
Characteristics of the Varsity Jacket
High school varsity jackets have the following features:
- The jacket’s colors match the school’s
- A chenille patch, or “Letter”, that represents the schools is on the left chest
- The player’s name is on the right chest and the year is on the right shoulder
- The athlete’s sport is featured on the front or back of the sleeves
Students who don’t compete can have varsity jackets too. Many schools offer 'academic letters' to reward high-achieving students. To receive a letter, a student must earn a 4.5 GPA (or higher) across five semesters.
The Lettermans Jacket as a Fashion Statement
In the 1980s, the letterman transcended sport and revolutionized streetwear. Instead of athletes sporting the jackets, now rappers like RUN DMC wore them to look stylish.
Designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Stussy and BAPE featured varsity jackets in their lines. Even though they had unique designs, each varsity jacket still gave off an aura of success and authority like the baseball varsity jackets.
Letterman Jackets for Children
Varsity jackets are a great addition to any child's wardrobe. Letter jackets for kids let children look sophisticated and show the world they're ready to make waves.
This collection by Ralph Lauren revives the traditional varsity jacket but adds a dash of modernity. Your little one will feel part of Polo's team with the emblazoned "P" and the stylish varsity jacket.
As for girls, it's time to break stereotypes. In the early days of varsity jackets, girls would only receive a jacket if she was a cheerleader. Nowadays, girls receive a letter whenever they excel in any sport.
Many brands like Ralph Lauren have a section for letterman jacket girls. The letterman should represent the sport your mini-me loves. They also give children a taste of what it's like to have a personalized letterman.
Tips on How To Wear Your Varsity Jacket
Here are a few letterman jackets ideas.
- Choose a jacket that plays up its unique points. Instead of a monotone jacket, choose a color reminiscent of your college days. If you want to discreet but great outfit, pair a navy letterman with dark trousers.
- If your varsity jacket has bold colors, tone down the outfit with black trousers or navy jeans. This will accentuate your jacket so you stand out amongst the crowd.
- You can still rock your letterman in summer. Make a statement with your letterman and match your jacket with low-cut tank tops, dark-colored shorts, and slip-on shoes.
- Instead of drowning in an enormous winter coat, wear your varsity jacket to brighten up colder days. Wear a button-up shirt, khakis, and sneakers for a cool and casual ensemble. You can also accessorize with a neutral-colored scarf or cardigan so you keep toasty in style.
Lettermans jackets have been around for over a century and they continue to be an iconic piece of fashion. Now is the time to experiment with the varsity jacket to keep you looking stylish all year round.