A varsity jacket is a clothing item that gives off an all-American classic look. It is, also known as ‘the outfit of winners’ and was traditionally rewarded by schools and colleges to the athletes who excelled in sports and education. These elite jackets represent the prestigious position of the wearer, making them the center of attention among the student community.
Varsity jacket has now become a staple of the preppy and hip hop lifestyle. Celebrities like James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson donned these jackets on stage and further spread its appeal. When people started wearing varsity jackets, various subcultures adopted this apparel which subverted its original athletic prestige and superiority. However, the history of these jackets is rooted deep into the sports grounds of American universities and high schools.
Varsity jackets emerged from Universities and High-schools. From being a symbol of prestige in an educational capacity to the fashion item of streetwear, it went through significant transformation in the past years.
The baseball and football teams of Harvard University first embroidered their gray flannel shirts with the letter <H> during the 1800s. Later, the trend moved from flannel shirts to sweaters. The rest of the payers were supposed to return the shirts after each season. In 1865, Harvard’s baseball team started to adorn their black sweaters with a bold letter of “H” embroidered on the front. These flannel shirts and sweaters began the trend of using letters as a symbol of excellence and victory. These symbolic letters gave the apparel its name of Letterman jackets AKA varsity jacket. Soon letterman cardigans and pullovers representing the team and school pride became common in the American educational capacity.
A decade later, Harvard’s football team also embroidered the letter “H” on its sweaters. Players who showed extraordinary skills at the sports ground, particularly against Princeton and Yale, the biggest rivals of Harvard, were considered exceptional players. Although captains gave these shirts to the entire team, they allowed only the exceptional athletes to keep them.
The transforming period
Soon, numbers showcasing achievements and ranks started accompanying the letters in varsity jackets. Teams started adding embroidery and patches to the sweaters. Sleeves began to have stripes to indicate additional merits or letters. A start on the chest identified the captains of sports teams. The trend of letters and numbers to show the prestige of the wearers was limited to team uniforms and sweaters. The modern varsity jackets entered the scene in the 1930s.
In the 1930s, woolen jackets with leather sleeves came into being when athletes started demanding heavier clothing to keep them warm. With letters and symbols that once adorned the sweaters, lettermen, or varsity jackets became the icon of authority and status in school.
A time came when athletes started craving for the piece of apparel. They worked harder to prove their athletic abilities and reach a certain performance level to get awarded with a letter patch of team and school’s initials. The player would sew this patch on his jacket to display his newfound award. More embroidery with the original letter or another felt and chenille patches on the jackets signified additional merits.
In few years, the letterman tradition spread from elite universities to high schools and colleges in America. With the spread, the letterman jacket started getting popular with the name of “varsity jacket.” In no time, the varsity jacket became the face of American college sports, and every jock started wearing the apparel to show his association with athletics.
Varsity and letterman jackets: A statement of victory
Although varsity and lettermen are the two names for one type of jacket, they represent the level and the history of the apparel. People who currently play or used to play the sports at Varsity level or qualify in academics, get the reward of the official Varsity Jacket. Varsity jackets emerged in more recent years compared to lettermen. On the other hand, letterman jackets go back to the earliest days when letters were the only thing to signify a player’s performance.
All in all, the letters on the jackets resulted in the name “letterman jacket.” These letters have different symbolism and meanings, varying from the school’s initials to the player’s number. On the other hand, varsity jackets of today combine several different icons and designs.
There was a time when schools and colleges decorated only the performing players with letterman and varsity. But now you can purchase them, or better, order custom jackets from an online and offline sports store. Today, people like to design their jackets on their own. They customize their jackets with the same numbers and letters awarded to them, but they do it more fashionably.
Many recent graduates from high school prefer to have their jackets customized to display all their achievements in one place. Another choice these days that completely transform the style of varsity jackets are customizing them through sublimation. Although woolen jackets with leather sleeves, the traditional fabric for varsity jackets, are not used in sublimation, the technology remarkably heightens the design and level of customization.
Considering the popularity of varsity jackets, many sellers are now also offering customization services with different colors of varsity jackets. Vendors customize the jackets according to the buyers’ choice and preference. One more great advantage of purchasing custom varsity apparel from such vendors besides self-customization is that they are comparatively inexpensive and provide lots of options in design. Ordering them online is more cost-effective when compared to purchasing them from local vendors.