The letterman (also called varsity) jacket has a rich history, which goes back to the 19th century. It has gone a long way from being a distinguishing celebration of sports achievements to a piece of high-quality outerwear available in many different stores around the world.

Letterman jackets are popular among people of all ages. They left their imprint in cinema and books as well as in the world of show business. Even though anyone can buy a letterman jacket today, the history of this garment is still impressive and reflects on the way people wear it.

The Appearance of the Letterman Jacket

Back in 1865, the coaches of the Harvard baseball team were searching for a way to show their appreciation for the team’s best players. They wanted something new and unique to highlight these players’ abilities and the impact they were having on the team.

One of these innovators decided to embroider the letter H (for Harvard) on the team’s uniforms. The embroidered uniform got the name “lettermans”. The best players had the honor to wear them. To get the coveted “H” on the uniform, the players had to participate in the season’s highly important games. If they failed to do it, by the end of the year, the jersey had to be returned.

The idea became so popular among college baseball players that in 1875, Harvard’s football team adopted the tradition. The embroidered uniform always had the air of privilege around it, making players try harder to earn it.  

From College to High School

High school sports teams weren’t far behind. When they noticed how well the incentive worked, coaches pitched the idea of creating a letterman uniform for their high school players.

The first photo of the high school letterman jacket appeared in Phoenix Union High School’s yearbook in 1911. One student was wearing a sweater with a letter “P” embroidered on it.

The name varsity jacket appeared a little later. In 1930, the flannel uniform turned into a wool jacket with leather sleeves. Players were no longer wearing varsity attire only to the games. They would put them on during the off-time to show their achievements to people outside the stadium.

From Baseball to Other Sports

Baseball and football players weren’t the only ones, who wore varsity jackets. With time, other teams adopted the tradition and started creating this outerwear to highlight their key players.

From Sports to the Rest of the World

The fan attire industry caught on to the popularity of the letterman’s jackets pretty quickly. Together with baseball caps and footballs, they started creating varsity jackets. The quality of such jackets was often lower than of those players wore, so a fan with any budget could buy a copy of their favorite team’s letterman’s jacket.

Varsity jackets became a part of different traditions. For example, a boy could show his affection for a girl by allowing her to borrow his letterman’s jacket.

Today, varsity jackets are available to anyone, who wants to wear one. Their styles, materials, and embroidery types vary dramatically. The ability to show a person’s exclusiveness has made these jackets timeless.

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