It’s a versatile piece made famous by American colleges, but do you know how to wear a varsity jacket properly? Check this guide to find out how.
Check out the rest of our How To Wear It guides here.
As is the case with many other longstanding menswear pieces we’ve spoken about before, the varsity jacket has also undergone a ton of tweaks and transformations over the years; but the original American sports team varsity style largely still remains the same.
Traditionally the varsity jacket – also known as a letterman jacket – features a boiled wool body, cow leather sleeves, banded wrists and waistband and an appliqué varsity letter or logo on the left breast. However, in recent years designers have experimented with fabrics, cuts and designs to give the varsity a more contemporary appeal, away from it’s traditionally boxy fit.
As a result of these modifications the varsity jacket has become a more prominent piece in the male wardrobe, especially with the rising popularity of the sportswear trend. Similarly, these changes to the original style allow for it to be styled both smartly and casually, depending on the occasion.
So whether you’re an avid wearer of the varsity jacket, or you’ve had your eye on one and want to know how to style it, just take note of the following 3 examples of how to pull off this versatile piece.
It’s an easy enough situation to find yourself in. You’re late for class, a meet up with your mates or you just really need to get to the high street for some milk. Your clothes are scattered around the place and you really don’t have the time or the patience to plan an outfit. Luckily for you it’s easy to throw on a varsity jacket to complete a casual look.
If the winter months are in full swing then you can layer up with a thick sweatshirt or hoodie, throw on a pair of raw denim jeans, and finish off the look with a comfortable pair of trainers. Pick a bright coloured pair if you feeling like your outfit is a little too dark, and no one will know that you got out of bed just a few minutes before.
If it’s summer, and all your hoodies are at the back of your wardrobe you can still throw on a varsity jacket to finish off the outfit. The great thing about these jackets is they look great buttoned up or left open, so even in the warmer months you can easily wear it undone for a stylish look that isn’t sweltering. For an easy summer look, try out a simple striped T-shirt, paired with some skinnies and some black Converse trainers. The simple monotone style will look classic, while the stripes will add some interest to the outfit.
Now the varsity jacket is one of those pieces that has become synonymous with casual wear, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dress it up a little. It may have started as a sports jacket, but it was a sports jacket for the most prestigious universities in America, so no one who wore them was exactly slumming it. If you look at photos back when varsity (or letterman) jackets were first gaining in popularity, they were often worn with smart chinos, brogues and a white crew neck T-shirt, as they were more of a statement jacket for the success of the sports team rather than something you ran around in.
It makes sense then to try and dress up this historic jacket, and there are a number of ways you can do that. Sometimes something as simple as swapping a T-shirt for an oxford shirt can help elevate your outfit to a more smart-casual vibe, and you can really mix and match on styles depending on how you’re feeling and what the weathers like.
If the weathers looking good then you can go for something lightweight and breathable, and chinos are a great choice, especially as they go with the smart-casual vibe of the preppy look. Make sure your T-shirt is the right shape for your body, as if you’re going for a plain top it needs to fit like a glove and compliment your shape perfectly. Pair it with some light coloured chinos and finish off with some tasseled loafers to complete the casual, yet summery look.
To keep your look lightweight even when the weathers a little cooler, swap out the T-shirt for a denim shirt, and loosely tuck this into a pair of beige chinos. You want to go for a relaxed, yet classic look, so keep the cut of the shirt fitted but style it in a less put together way. Finish off with some brown chukka boots and you’re good to go.
If you want to make your outfit more in keeping with the historic look, stay clear of the modern and more popular black varsity jackets, and get yourself a traditional red design. You can often find these in vintage sales, and not only will you have the perfect jacket, but you’ll be wearing a bit of history as well.
It makes sense if you’ve got a varsity jacket to go for a sports look, seeing as it was originally created to showcase a sportsman’s success. Luckily you don’t have to be a star player to pull off this look, and it’s easy to create a sports-luxe look that will fit your style. One option is to keep it simple with a blue sweatshirt paired with some black cotton joggers. To add some more colour and match with your sweatshirt you can slip on a pair of blue trainers to complete the look.
You can also go for a bolder look with more emphasis on patterns and colour, keeping the joggers neutral but the top half bolder, like this graphic style T-shirt below. Again if you’re going for a sporty look it’s best to keep your trainers in keeping with the style, so choose a pair of lace up trainers in a neutral pattern.
We’ve given you three unique ways to rock this versatile jacket, but there’s a huge range of styles you can go for, such as grungy and semi-formal to name just two. This is a jacket that can transform an outfit, taking it from simple to stylish in seconds, so it’s a great piece to have in your wardrobe, regardless of the season.