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The Elite History of Varsity Jackets + How to Style It

Today, everyone wears the letterman jacket, from high school athletes to streetwear sensations to office heroes. Here, a crash course on the jacket that has defined cool for decades.


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Courtesy of Burberry

Making its first appearance in the 1930s, the letterman jacket has evolved into an iconic staple of American high schools. Back then, this durable jacket was introduced with leather sleeves as a response to a demand for clothes that can keep athletes warm. Today, its signature letter remains a symbol of authority and reputation in school.

The letterman sweater was worn by Harvard athletes in 1865.

The iconic letterman coat can be traced back to the baseball players of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1865, members of the sports team donned the first version of the garment, which looked quite different back then. Instead of the collared, button-down coat we’re all familiar with today, these athletes wore a thick-knit sweater as their uniforms. The original meaning of the clothing was a sign of athletic achievement and elitism.

In 1983, Michael Jackson famously wore a varsity-style jacket in his music video for “Thriller.” The red wool jacket featured an “M” embroidered on its chest. As the jacket entered the popular culture of the late '80s and early '90s, it became an instant hit with hip-hop groups as well, who made it their own as a symbol of the streets.

Up to this point, every brand has produced its own riff on the letterman jacket, from homages to the original to more avant-garde and modern designs. What is clear, nevertheless, is that the letterman jacket’s allure has stood its ground in its nearly 100 years of existence.



How to style the wardrobe classic:

1. Layer it over a collared shirt - A varsity jacket looks preppy and stylish when layered over a collared shirt. Choose a shirt in a contrasting color to really make the jacket pop.

2. Pair it with skinny jeans - Skinny jeans are a versatile clothing item that can be dressed up or down. Wearing them with a varsity jacket gives off a cool and casual vibe.

  • Varsity Jacket from Kenzo

  • Jeans from River Island

  • Shoes from Nike (Snipes)

  • Bag from River Island

  • Knit Turtleneck from Asos

3. Style it with a maxi dress - A varsity jacket adds an unexpected touch of edge to a feminine maxi dress. It's the perfect way to add some personality to your outfit.

  • Varsity Jacket from Kenzo

  • Varsity Jumper from Kenzo

  • Bag from River Island

  • Nike shoes from Snipes

  • Bucket Hat from River Island

4. Accessorize with statement jewelry -

Varsity jackets are often quite simple in design, so accessorizing with some flashy jewelry is a great way to add some interest to your look.

5. Go for bold colors -

Opt for a varsity jacket in a bold color like red or yellow to really make a statement. You'll definitely stand out from the crowd in one of these bright jackets!

  • Varsity Jacket from Kenzo

  • Boots from Asos

  • Knit Dress from Asos

  • Crossbody Bag from &OtherStories

  • Sunglasses from River Island

Do you need more Varsity Jacket options? Here are our top 4 picks (from high to low priced) that is guaranteed to last at least a decade.

1. Shop Burberry Embroidered Varsity Jacket here

2. Black & White Varsity Jacket (high-price)

That would be a great Christmas gift for a minimalist bae: Add to cart

3. What about this varsity jacket under the Christmas tree? Only $115: Buy now

4. A more feminine version of the original varsity jacket: Grab yours here




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