The Varsity Jacket is Here to Stay.

From the Harvard University baseball team to the Kenzo fashion show, the varsity jacket is a timeless myth.

A brief history of the jacket that has been worn by practically everyone: ordinary people, princesses, athletes, rock stars, actors and designers.

What is a Varsity Jacket?

What we now call the Varsity Jacket, originated in 1865 for the Harvard University baseball team as the first distinctive garment of a specific group, in this case a team, was, however, very different from the jacket we wear today: it consisted of a very heavy wool jumper and – as legend has it – it was the players themselves who decided to embroider a large “H” in the middle of it, so as to distinguish Harvard from other university teams.

This is why it was originally called the ‘Letterman’ or ‘Baseball Jacket’, only later to be given the name Varsity, an Ango-American term used to describe a higher elite level in high school sports.

Harvard University Baseball Team in 1865

The Varsity Jacket became the uniform of the IVY LEAGUE, a group of the eight most prestigious private universities in the United States: Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth College and Cornell, and in high schools and all other American colleges.

The ‘Ivy League’ or ‘Collegiate’ style was born, indicating an elitist elegance combined with a comfortable and functional style, also suitable for sports.

Read Also: “From Ivy to New Prep: A Brief History of Preppy Style” at Pluriverse

Letterman Jacket in  ’50s

The popularity of the Varsity in the 1980s and the comeback in recent years.

The Varsity Jacket exploded definitively in the 1980s, not by chance.

Thanks to the professional franchises in American sports, merchandising suppliers began to produce a satinised version of the varsity jacket in order to keep costs down and expand the catchment area.

The Los Angeles Raiders in football, the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics in basketball made their own versions of the varsity jacket, achieving enormous success.

But it was in 1983 that the varsity entered mainstream pop culture in the United States, becoming a sought-after garment: Michael Jackson wore a red and gold one with an ‘M’ on his chest in the video for ‘Thriller’.

Michael Jackson wears a Varsity Jacket  in Thriller – 1983

The streetstyle and fashion world went crazy, Hip-Hop culture drew on it and reshuffled its coordinates to its liking. Everyone wants a Varsity Jacket.

The fashion and streetwear world that was emerging at the turn of the 1980s and early 1990s did not miss the opportunity to ‘appropriate’ that extremely cool jacket model, reinterpreting it according to its own stylistic codes.

Forgotten for a while by ‘official’ fashion, the Varsity has always remained a must-have piece of the Streetwear repertoire: from Stussy, to Obey, Patta, adidas and Nike; almost every year, sportswear brands have offered their own version of the classic jacket, even if worn by the niche of those who follow this specific style.

In recent years, the popularity of the varsity jacket has come back into the limelight thanks to operations such as NIGO and its HUMANE MADE brand, first and as artistic director of Kenzo, since 2021, the varsity has returned to the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week, officially making a comeback in the fashion world.

How to recognize a Varsity Jacket?

  • Rounded wool collar
  • Wool cuffs to match the collar
  • Buttoning exclusively with press studs or classic buttons and no zips.
  • Embroidered patches, prints or lettering on sleeves, chest or back.
  • Wool fabric with leather sleeves or leather with wool sleeves
How to recognise a Varsity Jacket – Black Box

After this little excursus to discover the Varsity Jacket, take a look at our online and in-store selection of top brands and collaborations Patta x Tommy, Tommy x Martine Rose, Pleasures, Honor The Gift, Vans, Maharishi.



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