The Varsity Jacket of the 21st Century

When Were Varsity / Letterman Jackets Popular?

The origins of the coveted Varsity Jacket reach back all the way to 1865 when the Harvard university baseball team donned for the first time a sweater with the Harvard “H” emblazoned on the center chest. The “Letter Sweater” as it was known became a symbol of achievement amongst the elite schools in the nation including the IVY’s and many of the prestigious Prep schools throughout the northeastern United States. These “Lettermen” were only given to the best payers on the teams. We are not entirely certain but the Letterman’s changed to what we now call the Letter Jacket or Varsity Jacket sometime around 1910. In the 1930’s these Letterman / Varsity Jackets emerged in the form that are recognizable today which has been the primary Letterman’s Jacket ever since, symbolizing the high performance and achievement of athletes at University and High schools for the last 90 years. 

What is a Varsity or Letterman’s Jacket?

Since the 1930’s, Varsity or Letterman’s Jackets have been made of boiled wool body and leather or cowhide sleeves. The colors of the jackets are meant to match the colors of the school, often-custom colors. In general the left chest had a chenille patch, the “Letter” that represents the schools. The name of the recipient is on the right chest. The year of graduation is emblazoned on the right shoulder. And the sport in which the athlete achieved their greatness was included either on the front or the backs or the sleeves. The traditional Varsity Jacket is also considered by many a fashion icon, gaining great popularity in the 80’s by fashion designers including Largerfeld, Ralph Lauren, artists like Run D.M.C. and N.W.A., and Streetwear brands like Stussy and BAPE have renewed the varsity jacket apparel in their lines more recently. 

Varsity / Letterman Jackets Over The Years.

Letterman Jackets or Varsity Jackets rose in popularity during the 1950's through to the 1980’s. A lot has changed since then, and we asked why we are still wearing these jackets designed so many decades ago. I mean really – are we driving cars that we designed and built decades ago? Let’s take a look at the cars from the 50’s and compare it to the cars of today. No way am I driving that old rackety Standard Vanguard one except to go to an antique auto show. When these jackets were created women didn't even compete in organized sports on campus! 

Varsity Jackets compared to old raggedy cars

*Thankfully we now have nearly as many women competing in Collegiate and High School sports as men, thanks in part to Title 9 which states "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."   

Wearing Your Varsity Jacket After High School – Who Does That, Anyway?

I’ve received two varsity jackets – one in High School and one in College. While I adored these upon graduation the reality is I likely wore them two or three times; once when I received the Letterman jacket and maybe two times at some alumni affair. They both reside now in our cedar closet where they will remain until I can pass for a 17 year old again. I mean…who really wears these things out on a regular basis? 

A More Contemporary Varsity Jacket for the 21st Century

After significant on the ground research we developed the more contemporary, technical and performance oriented Varsity Jacket for the 21st century. When asked what Generation Z and beyond wanted in their Varsity Jacket, the schools and coaches requested the following:

  • Alternate options for an Award / Varsity / Letterman’s Jacket that our athletes will wear well into the future. Design something that is more contemporary, more performance oriented and comfortable 
  • Make it so that it works for our female athletes too but maintain the custom colors and the decorations to match the “tradition” of the Varsity jacket.  
  • Guaranteed that we will make these long into the future so that the tradition can go on for years.

The Future Of The Varsity Jacket

We took your feedback and introduced the new and improved Varsity / Letterman’s Jackets using more technical fabrics, performance oriented so you can wear the jacket all the time, more contemporary but classic look and designed to fit both men and women. These Varsity Jackets of the 21st Century can be made in waterproof, breathable and comfortable GORE-TEX or highly water resistant 3-layer Zenith Soft Shell. Of course these can be made in your custom colors and we can even match the body sleeve color contrast of the old-style varsity jackets. The “award” identification remains the same, if you choose, with the school letter or name on the left chest, the athletes name on the right chest, and the year and sports can be applied where and how you desire.  

So let’s forget about the Varsity Jackets of yesteryear that our grandparents wore to their sock-hops and join us as we enter a new modern age of award jackets that you can still wear after you graduate.

Gore Tex Varsity Jacket Varsity Jacket made of softshell