Varsity Jackets are Back! Were They Ever Gone?

March 24, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

When I was a high schooler rocking out to my favorite alternative jams, varsity jackets weren't much of a thing.  We had over a thousand students at my school, and during my time, I only remember seeing a few jackets in the hallways.  Most of us were wearing ripped up jeans and flannels... so that's a no thanks on a Letterman for me at the time.  But being a music, movie, and tv fan, I still have a love and appreciation for the iconic jacket style that is The Letterman! 

For those craving a bit of history and info on Varsity Jackets, the rest of these words are for you!  

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Letterman jackets have been an extremely popular article of clothing for years.  They were originally given to exceptional students in the academic or sports field by the colleges of America. Individuals donning these jackets were considered to be highly prestigious among their peers.

The trend of representing team and prestige with letters started in the 1800s. Baseball and football teams of Harvard University started to wear the sweaters with the letter H sewn in big fonts at the front. These sweaters have now evolved into stylish jackets you see high schoolers wearing today. The colors of these jackets align with school colors.  Traditionally, Educational institutes traditionally embroidered and placed patches on the jackets, Today, most students design their own jackets according to their fashion sense and taste.

One of the best thing about today's varsity jackets, is that they are an expression of each student, and ultimately they can be designed however you want!  With that in mind, below are some of the traditional locations and design elements of classic letterman jackets.

Letterman Jacket Design

The Body
Jacket bodies are usually made out of wool, lined with a quilt lining to add comfort and warmth. 

Sleeves
The sleeves can be wool or leather, but a wool body to leather sleeve combo is what gets requested most. There are two basic sleeves designs in traditional letterman jackets. One is where the sleeves have a pair of stripes on them, while the second one is plain. Plain sleeves are probably your best option if you plan to add patches and numbers on your design.

Stand-up collar
There are numerous collar options for varsity jackets, the stand-up banded nylon collars are amongst the most popular finish. The waist and wristbands of the letterman jackets have the same spun nylon knit and usually match the color way of the collar.

Snap or zipped front closing
Jackets have a front closure with snap buttons, or a zipper down the body...  insiders say that 9 times out of 10, snap up finishes are selected!

Pockets
The jacket has two side pockets, usually with leather trims.

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The patches & embroidery on Letterman Jackets

One can customize their jackets however they want.  The options for patches, chenille, and embroidery offered by today's apparel vendors is amazing.  However, some colleges and high schools may have guidelines for traditional placements and context for numbers, letters, and logos on varsity jackets.

School or College Name
For generations, schools have preferred to place their names on the left chest. The name is either a chenille patch or embroidered on the fabric.

Student’s name
The student’s name is on the right chest of the jacket with the college name. It is also sewn in a chenille patch. The name can also be embroidered directly on the jackets.

Sport or activity name
The sports and activity name in which the wearer excels is also apparent on the jacket. The sports name accompanies the student’s and college’s names on the right chest. The students sometimes sew the medals onto their letterman jackets. Others use lapel pins to depict the symbol of their sports.

School or college initial
While the names of college, sports, and student appear on the right chest, the initials of college or school are on the left side. The initials are prominent in big and bold capital fonts.

School logo & year of graduation
School logos with graduation year trigger bonding among team members even when they meet after a long time. These two attributes are traditionally present on the sleeves. The graduation year is sewn or patched in either the final digits of the year or the complete year. The logo and year are usually on top of the sleeves, or below the front pockets of the jacket.

Mascot & team name
The mascot and the teams’ names can be placed on the back of letterman jackets. To spice things up a bit, ask for a tail when adding a team name on the back!  

Number
The number represents the sportsman’s jersey number. It is ideally placed on the jacket front or the sleeves.

Customization

There was a time when only schools and colleges rewarded letterman jackets to extraordinary students. However, now everyone can order these jackets and customize them according to their own style.  Custom jackets can be something that's kept in families for generations.  

Are you ready to design a custom jacket?  Email [email protected] to get a piece started!

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