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The History of the Leather Varsity Jacket

When you’re interested in vintage and American fashion, it’s hard to miss the legendary varsity jacket. Also called a letterman jacket or a teddy, the sports jacket has been around for ages without ever being completely obsolete. In recent seasons, this has been a highlight for him. A few brands – JamesCarrey Dore, Mr-Styles, Vuitton or Gucci – bring this student jacket back to its glory days. And I’m willing to bet that this is a trend that will stick around for a few more years until it’s forgotten and reappears when I’m old enough to be a cool dad. go So for lovers of Ivy style, hip-hop or future quarterbacks, here’s the story of the varsity jacket for men!

Numbers and letters

When we talk about teddies or varsity leather jackets, we immediately think of the large heat-sealed letters on these garments. This is how the adventure begins. In 1865, the Harvard baseball team decided to stitch a large “H” on the flannel shirts that the players wore during games. It is a way of showing belonging to the school and therefore aristocracy.

Although we know the rivalry within the Ivy League, we can suspect that this is a trend that will not be without continuity. Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, and other universities also adopt these capital letters. They are now found on sweaters and cardigans that can be worn every day and are no longer just on the pitch.

First Class Uniform

The teddy as we know it appeared in the 1930s. This is a continuation of this process of recognition of American universities. It is important to understand that at the time, the Ivy League establishment wanted to compete with distinguished English faculties. It is a war between the old world and the new world. Americans need to create their own codes and a well-defined identity so they don’t just copy the British model. The first varsity jackets for men therefore became a means of rewarding the best students. Those who specialize in a field can wear their jacket proudly on campus. The model is taken in all universities as well as high schools.

Films depicting the era regularly used the v-arrestee jacket as a social marker to separate the good students from the bad boys. This is the case in “Greys” or “West Side Story” to name a few. At that time, T.E.D. had already taken the shape we know today.

Most of the time, it is a steamed wool jacket with leather or faux leather sleeves. It closes with press studs and has ribbed edges, often decorated with a contrasting border. For the collar, there are two possibilities: either a ribbed edge or a shirt collar.

The Sixties and the Teddy Revival

The 1960s were a turning point for the varsity jacket. It’s the arrival of sports at universities across the Atlantic and Teddy becomes their uniform. Now you have to be part of a team to wear the jacket.

Even today, the image is portrayed through this dress in many cinematographic works aimed at young people. It is also a key element of ivy style worn casually over oxford shirts and chinos.

1980’s “Hee Hee” Jacket

The name doesn’t exist, but it perfectly corresponds to the event that changed the history of the varsity jacket forever: the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In 1984, MJ made a big splash in the music world. A fourteen-minute clip to change the music industry forever. The clip has been viewed millions of times, and studied from all angles. If you’re a fan, you won’t see the King of Pop wearing a varsity jacket at the beginning of the video. It is important to understand that even then this jacket was the preference of the American golden youth. There, it’s a black artist wearing a teddy with an M for “Michael.” It’s a small revolution!

Teddy, the icon of hip-hop

MJ broke the 1980s-90s homogenized image of the university, hip-hop and rap and appropriated it with all the symbols of wearing a “Wasp” jacket, in other words, from a white American Protestant and country elite. Run DMC and NWA are the best examples of the time. The teddy is now out of universities and belongs to the streets. This is an opportunity for brands to start taking a serious interest in it.

Luxury, vintage, and rap, the  varsity jacket in the 21st century

In the 2000s, the letterman jacket marked three paths. She continues to have a good reputation in the rap and hip-hop circles. Tyler the Creator, for example, wears it and integrates it into the collection of his brand: Golf Le Fleur. The return of the Ivy style also allows it to revive in vintage shops.

Their prices skyrocket to sometimes reach crazy sums, but it is always possible to find a rare pearl for a hundred euros. Finally, and this is in my opinion what is most striking, the varsity jacket has reached a new level by inviting itself into the collections of luxury brands. Heidi Slimane, Virgil Abloh or Teddy Santis include this jacket in their sketchbooks.

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