Men’s letterman or if you prefer, varsity jackets, have come a long way since their origins as jocks’ sportswear in American high schools. So, we’re heading back to school for a lesson on how to style your varsity jacket.
Fashion Lettermans Jackets In 2017
So, what’s changed since the 1930s? The basic elements are still there, but they've lost most of their practical function as representing your sporting prowess and allegiances. Fortunately for many of us, this means you don’t have to be a sporting god to wear one. Also, there's now more choice in style and colour; some don’t even feature the bold traditional letters.
One of the main differences between traditional and modern varsity jackets is the material. You can still buy thick cotton jackets but they now also come in a wide variety of materials; leather, silk, nylon, suede and so on. The move away from cotton means that most new varsity jackets have lost the heavy box silhouette.
The growing popularity of athleisure wear for men has resulted in the varsity jacket taking on many new styles and while more options are great they also lead to a lot more fashion choices. Here’s a guide to different varsity jackets and how to wear them.
How to Wear the Varsity Jacket Style
Men's varsity jackets have become so popular though-out the years, to the point they even have their own style tribes. Here are a few to hopefully get you on the varsity bandwagon and find one that suits you.
Preppy Mens Letterman Jacket Look
Got team spirit? Even if you don’t, the preppy look is a classic option for styling varsity jackets as it plays on their origins in US colleges. How preppy you decide to go is up to you but here are the best letterman designs for the look. Go for a jacket that plays up the varsity jackets unique points; the leather sleeves, contrasting cuffs, collar and waistband, and, of course, choose one with a letter. Stick with the classic cotton body and avoid monotone jackets. Instead, try a bright colour that's more reminiscent of college colours and will stand out against the white leather sleeves.
Complete the look with a pair of classic chinos, or if you’re really feeling preppy, why not try a coloured or patterned trouser. This is easiest to pair with a navy varsity jacket because navy's a very tonal colour. If you go with brightly coloured trousers choose a simple subtle top; a white shirt will keep the look crisp and preppy. Polos and plaid shirts will help you get the preppy look, plus you can layer up in winter with a thick woollen cardigan.
Sporty Varsity Jacket Look
The sporty look is what the varsity jacket does best; it’s a great and very easy way to add a sporty, yet casual vibe to your outfit. A classic varsity jacket with all the key elements is one of the most wanted varsity jackets available. With a strong silhouette and choice of two colours, this jacket works well even if you don't play any sports! You've just now got to figure out what to wear it with.
Like varsity jackets, joggers started as just sportswear but now have a firm place in men’s street-style; making them the perfect combo. Joggers will keep the outfit casual and naturally have an ease about them that will make you look like you were born with style and just threw the outfit together. Dark or light joggers will work, but keep them simple and avoid bold patterns. Publish and Champion have a great selection to choose from.
To keep the look sporty, stick to basic T-shirts or wear a casual sweatshirt. If you’ve gone for a brightly coloured letterman, keep your top simple and go for a darker colour that will balance out against the jacket. You can wear any colour top with dark joggers, but if you’re wearing light coloured tracksuits go for a darker top or try a T-shirt with a pattern. Finish the look with some trainers or plimsolls.
Colour Matching You Varsity Jacket
Now we've looked at the two key style tribes, it's time to look at the different types of men's varsity jackets. The easiest way to look at them is in colour, since there are so many different combinations on the market. Colour matching your jacket is important as the jacket usually works as the focal point to your outfit
- The Red and White Varsity Jacket For Men - This is probably one of the most iconic colour-ways of the varsity jacket. The red and white jacket easily blends into your wardrobe. Try wearing it with dark denim on the bottom, this means your jacket will be the statement piece.
- The Blue Varsity Jacket (or Chelsea Varsity Jacket Style) - The blue varsity jacket is less common but looks great in the summer or through to spring. With this style you can wear dark jeans or light blue jeans. Colour matching an element of your trainers will anchor the style together.
- The Black Varsity Jacket - The black varsity jacket is a fashion favourite. Usually made in leather or suede for the luxury market, it is a versatile piece. Just like any black jacket you can get away with wearing it with almost anything. However, a black jacket and a dark blue jean combination is always a favourite.
- The Black and Grey Varsity Jackets - Black and grey varsity jackets have been making their rounds on the blogs recently. They're an update version of the black leather jacket and are really easy to style.
Modern Street Style
More street than sport? Lots of modern varsity jackets are barely reminiscent of their sportswear predecessors and now have a more edgy urban look that can be dressed up or left casual. Here’s how to get the look.
How to Wear a Leather Varsity Jacket
If your going for a cool urban look, choose a simple black varsity jacket. Black is a popular colour for modern letterman jackets as they have an edge to them that'll give an urban vibe to an outfit. Keep your outfit slick with skinny black jeans, or alternatively go for looser fitting look with some black chinos. Choosing trousers that crop at the ankle will give your outfit a modern look.
A white shirt is a great way to finish the look as its simple but contrasts against the dark varsity jacket and trousers. Alternatively, just throw on a simple T-shirt or jumper under your varsity jacket.
We all need a jacket that we can easily throw with anything when heading out to the pub, shops or wherever you’re heading. You’ve hopefully caught on by now that varsity jackets basically go with everything and are really easy to style to suit your personal look, making them the ideal go-to casual jacket.
While you could go for a varsity jacket that has a distinctly preppy, sporty or urban look, there are also a lot of simple letterman jackets out there that are super easy to throw on with jeans and a casual top. If you want a varsity jacket for all outfits, go for a darkly coloured letterman. Navy or dark burgundy are good choices for a casual varsity jacket: check out The Idle Man’s Baseball jacket and Levi for some great options.
History Of The Varsity Jacket
Lets end this post with a quick history lesson. As the name would suggest, the varsity jacket came out of the American college system, specifically the prestigious Ivy League, Harvard University. Sports has always had a prominent place in American colleges and in 1865, Harvard decided they needed a way to distinguish their star baseball players from the rest of the student body. They did this by giving their top jocks a fabric letter ‘H’ to sew onto the centre of their uniforms; hence the name letterman.
Initially, the honour of sporting the ‘H’ was strictly monitored and letters would be taken away if you didn’t maintain your standard of play. The best players were then allowed to keep the letter and wear it off-season and around campus.
A decade later, the ‘H’ was given to Harvard’s best football players and slowly but surely other sports teams and universities caught on and created their own letterman jumpers. Each college played around with the positioning of the letter until most decided on the left breast where they are still placed today.
The first varsity jacket wasn’t a jacket at all, but a jersey: a jumper or cardigan to us Brits. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the letterman jacket actually became a jacket. Traditionally, the style has a wool body with contrasting leather sleeves, ribbed cuffs, collar and waistband and would feature your school’s colours; think Andrew Clark in The Breakfast Club.
Over the twentieth century, fashion designers broke school rules and turned the classic varsity jacket into a more fashionable, and less elitist, staple of modern menswear that could be worn by jock and nerd alike.
The Best Men's Varsity Jackets And How To Style Them
- Get the fit right, a lot of people go wrong with varsity jackets and end up looking swamped, as it's a key piece you need it to look good.
- A preppy varsity jacket will have you looking smart and casual so keep it neat and sharp.
- If sporty's more your thing, you need to make the outfit look easy, like you’ve thrown it together.
- Street Style and varsity jackets go hand in hand so keep it simple; simple designs, simple colours.
On That Note
Varsity jackets may be over 150 years old but they’ve never been so fashionable or stylish. While many designers have kept the iconic elements of the classic varsity jackets, others have abandoned its historical roots and updated it for the twenty-first century guy. If you’re after the preppy look, definitely go for an old-school style letterman with leather sleeves and ribbed collar and cuffs. However, if you want a more of a sporty or urban look, choose a varsity jacket that has a simpler design and go for dark colours. You may not be a sports star in your letterman, but at least you’ll be the most stylish guy out there.