Widely considered a symbol of success and excellence, the letterman jacket is easily one of the most versatile pieces of clothing that a dude (or dudette) can have in their wardrobe. No matter how you style it, letterman jackets will somehow always have you emanating high fashion vibes. That too with minimal effort.
You might associate these evergreen jackets with your favorite 90s movies where both girls and boys appeared sporting them or to rock stars like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley who immortalized the sporty jackets by wearing them for their music videos. But have you ever thought about how this longstanding tradition in American culture came to be?
If so, here’s a brief run- down on the apparel that has managed to retain its coolness through the test of time.
Origin of Letterman Jacket
The birth of these iconic jackets goes back over 150 years ago to the baseball team at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1865, the team wore grey flannel pullovers with patches of the letter H sewed onto them. Thus was born the first ever letterman jacket (thick- knit sweater, if you’re being accurate). 10 years later, Harvard’s football team followed suit, making their own lettered sweaters.
Soon after, the exclusivity of the garment infused an air of prestige into it. While provided to all players, only those who performed exceptionally well were allowed to keep their sweaters. Those sidelined to the benches would have to return theirs at the end of the season. And that’s how the letterman jacket arose to a coveted status.
Afterwards, as cardigans replaced sweaters, the lettering shifted from the center to the left.
And thus began the letterman jackets’ profound imprint on American culture. Pretty soon the letterman jackets tradition spread from elite Ivy League universes to teams from other colleges. Later, high schools throughout the country jumped on the bandwagon too.
However, it was not until 1930 that the apparel took the form of the collared, button down jacket that we see today. Wool jackets, with leather sleeves and chenille lettering emerged to better keep athletes warms on the field. Still, the outfit continued its reign of reputation and authority in school. Uultimately, it took its place as a staple of the varsity athlete’s wardrobe.
Integration into mainstream culture
Then came the glorious 80s and the letterman jacket became a part of mainstream street style. Other sports embraced it too now. Different teams like the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls all came up with their own unique variations of the garment. Manufacturers of fan merchandise began producing their own letterman jackets, with the team logo or mascot incorporated into the designs.
Present Day Letterman Jacket
The letterman jacket’s golden history of 100+ years is proof of the garment’s timelessness. Today, it’s sported not only by jocks and athletes but also by model influencers and even dads out running errands.
But regardless of how they’ve evolved over the years, from the classic to the more contemporary versions, one thing has remained constant—letterman jackets remain a symbol of achievement and excellence. And we here at Stagwears take great pride in being a part of this great American tradition.
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