The first instance of the varsity jacket can be found at Harvard University in 1865.
Large old English “H” patches were originally sewn onto student uniforms by the Harvard baseball club at that period.
These clothes, however, were not varsity jackets. At least not yet.
The original Harvard uniform was a heavy knit gray flannel pullover, which quickly earned the nickname “letterman sweater” thanks to the large “H” that was sewn right onto the center.
Was the Sweater Theirs to Keep?
According to the legend, although lettered sweaters were immediately given to each player, in the spirit of friendly competition, players who participated in the season’s most important games kept theirs, whilst the others were required to surrender their letterman sweaters at the conclusion of the year.
These sweaters developed into a status symbol. Everyone on the squad wore letterman sweaters, but only those who performed well were permitted to keep them. Benchwarmers had to give theirs back at the end of the year. The Harvard football team selected these clothes as they came to represent school and team pride. The initials were moved from the center of the player’s chest to the left as the cardigan quickly surpassed the sweater in popularity.
Ten years later, the Harvard football team is claimed to have adopted lettered sweaters. Due to the rise in popularity of cardigans over pullovers, the letter had to be moved from the center of the chest to the left.
The jacket eventually gained the attention of the professional leagues, and merchandise companies started making them for both sportsmen and fans. Companies started creating jackets out of satin rather than leather to keep costs down for the general population, making them more affordable for all fans. Teams with large fan bases, such the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls, developed their own versions of the Varsity jacket as it spread to other American sports.
This enduring American tradition of the preppy way of life gained broad acceptance and entered popular culture. In the legendary “Thriller” music video from 1983, Michael Jackson donned a red letterman jacket with gold leather sleeves and a giant letter “M” embroidered on the chest.
The Varsity Jacket Today
Soon, teams from other institutions around the country had lettered sweaters, and high schools ultimately began to follow in the footsteps of their collegiate forebears.
The varsity football jacket ultimately assumed the shape we are so accustomed to by 1930, featuring chenille lettering, leather sleeves, and wool jackets.
Even cell phone pockets are included in contemporary varsity coats.
The classic jacket is still being produced today by companies like Nike and Bape, ensuring that it will always be a part of preppy and street fashion. A version of the jacket was recently photographed on Bella Hadid, who wore it with loose trousers and loafers. As a result, this classic piece is no longer seen as a sign of prestige and elitism but rather as an essential element of cool.
Wearing a varsity jacket is a sign of achievement, even if they have experienced many changes over the years. You now have your varsity jacket after earning it, and now each one may be customized to be as unique as the kid who wears it by adding different colors, patches, and other adornments.