Also referred to as letter jackets or letterman jackets, varsity jackets didn’t exist up until the early 1900s. Initially, we had what was known as letterman sweaters. The Harvard University’s baseball team introduced the letterman sweaters in 1865. However, it’s important to note that the original design was far much different from the style that we have today.
Interestingly, these were not actual jackets. But rather, they were thick knit sweaters, with bold letter H on the sweaters left chest area. One thing with the letterman sweaters is that they were strictly worn as a team uniform during the Ivy League.
During the early days, wearing the letterman sweater had lots of strict rules. It’s only the elite athletes who had the opportunity of wearing this outfit. You had to remain in good shape if you wanted to retain your sweater for the entire season. This, in turn, made the letterman cardigan associated with athleticism, as well as excellence.
The Evolution Of The Varsity Jacket
In the early 1900s, most high schools in the United States started adopting the letterman sweaters. In 1911 Phoenix Union High School students were photographed wearing letterman sweaters—which indicated the growth in their popularity.
The increasing popularity of this attire forced athletes to start searching for something comfy and versatile. With this, we saw the introduction of varsity jackets in the 30s. This new sportswear comprised a wool body, with leather sleeves, with a bold letter printed on the side. Typically, the bold letter indicated the school—and this is what gave varsity jackets the symbol of authority that they have up to date.
For an athlete to receive a letter, they had to prove their prowess. This was a badge of honor, used to showcase their athleticism. That’s the reason why wearing a varsity jacket with the iconic symbol of your school gives you pride.
Today’s Varsity Jackets
Varsity jackets became more popular in the mid-1900s, with their popularity spreading across the sports industry, particularly athletics. With this popularity, famous sports celebrities, as well as major athletic teams started adopting this iconic outfit. Commercial sportswear manufacturers started the mass production of varsity jackets, which had the team’s icon or logo.
Initially, football and baseball teams wore the jackets, and then other sports disciplines started adopting them with time. With this, fans started wearing varsity jackets when attending games, and even in other activities.
The material used to manufacture varsity jackets changed by the early 80s. Manufacturers started using satin, instead of wool. By 1990, almost every major sporting team had adopted the letterman jacket. Now, as these teams started adopting this outfit, everybody wanted it too!
The varsity jacket tradition is still strong in colleges and high schools in the United States. The most interesting thing is, these jackets are no longer exclusively reserved for athletes. Today, it’s possible to have a varsity jacket so long as you are in a band, robotics, choir, art, or even because of academic excellence. Although the exclusiveness of letterman jackets continues to expand, the motivation behind the jacket—excellence—isn’t bound to change any time soon.
Today, it’s not a surprise to see how varsity jackets, like the letterman jackets by VarsityBase have transitioned from sports to the fashion industry. This can be attributed to their popularity. Apart from famous sports celebrities, we’ve also seen Hollywood celebrities showing their affection to the letterman jacket.
One notable thing with letterman jackets is their amazing transformation. Today, these jackets come in different styles, materials, designs, as well as colors. Interestingly, certain manufacturers will even allow you to customize your letterman jacket.
Current Day and Age
Varsity jackets are still trending in this current day and age. However, today’s letterman jackets come with more details, other than the bold letter imprinted on the left part of the jacket. Athletes can get their jackets when they start participating in sports. They continue receiving pins every year they participate in sports. The player’s name can be printed on the back of the jacket—meaning they get to keep it even after finishing their studies.
Today, it’s not a surprise to spot a varsity jacket anywhere—even outside the United States, where they originated. These jackets are popular for their casual tone, and they never go out of season. That means you can wear your varsity jacket all year round and on different occasions. Moreover, these jackets are no longer reserved for men—also ladies can wear them too. So, whether you are searching for sportswear or fashion wear, a letterman jacket is one outfit that will not let you down. Moreover, their stylishness and versatility make varsity jackets to remain timeless.