What has become a fixture in sports and athletics on high school and college campuses, the Letterman jacket, was first introduced in 1865 on the campus of Harvard University. Sweaters for the school’s baseball team were made with a large school letter sewn on them, indicating participation and performance level, with stripes on one sleeve that told how many letters were won by the athlete. A star was sewn on the sweater of the team captain.
The Letterman jacket tells the story of how its owner has reached a certain level of performance, and whether the owner is at Junior Varsity or Varsity level. The jacket has a banded collar for men and a hood for women. The athlete’s name is usually on the left breast of the jacket but this can vary depending on the school’s traditions, and the graduation date of the athlete may also be embroidered on the jacket.
The Letterman jacket is most often made in the school’s or university’s colors, the primary color being on the body of the jacket, and the school’s secondary color on the sleeves. The school’s letter is usually on the back of the jacket.
Traditionally, a student athlete is required to achieve a minimum level of performance, and participated in a certain number of football quarters, baseball games, tennis matches, etc., in order to receive a school letter. The recipients of these letters are called “lettermen,” and can be either male or female athletes, hence the name of the jacket. The jacket is sometimes called a Varsity jacket.
Boiled wool generally makes up the body of the jacket, with the sleeves being made of leather. The school letter or initials itself is traditionally done in chenille, with the athlete’s name and graduation date either also of chenille, or embroidered on the jacket.
As only students who have reached a certain performance skill can purchase a Letterman jacket, these are highly prized and very proudly worn. They also indicate skill and school spirit, and in this way tell a lot about the athlete. Letterman jackets have been around for a long time and are certain to continue to be worn with pride by school athletes for years and years to come.