Wearables Style

Trend Alert: Varsity Jackets

Their classic look is still a mainstay at high schools and colleges.

While student wardrobe choices have significantly changed with the times, one item that first appeared in the 1930s is still a coveted piece of apparel on campuses across the country: the varsity or letterman jacket. Their classic look is still a mainstay at high schools and colleges, and while they were once for men only, they now also feature feminine silhouettes. Students traditionally sport emblems, patches, pins and personalized embroidery on the jackets to display athletic and academic achievements, lending an air of prestige to the wearer.

“The traditional styling makes it easily recognizable,” says Jennifer Nixon, marketing manager at Holloway Sportswear (asi/61430). “The wool body with leather sleeves is still the most popular choice. We see demand from schools as well as corporations.” Kristin Williams, owner and chief designer at VSA Custom Apparel (asi/700739), goes so far as to call it the male version of the Little Black Dress. “It's classic Americana,” she says. “The timeless look goes with just about anything. It can make a statement about who you work for and your accomplishments, or just act as a fashion piece.”

While wool and leather are the traditional materials, they can make the jacket pricey, especially with the added cost of embellishment such as chenille, twill or embroidery. Suppliers have adapted to client demands by offering wool/wool and wool/vinyl constructions. “To stay competitive in this market,” says Andrea Cancellieri, vice president of marketing at GAME Sportswear LTD (asi/55752), “suppliers offer various customizable options and color choices.

VSA Custom Apparel has fulfilled orders for a slew of clients, including high schools and universities, corporations, stage shows, dance troupes, rappers, singers, and TV and film stars. “Because of its classic nature and wide appeal, I think we've touched just about every market,” says Williams. “From trucking companies to sales teams to celebrities, it’s everywhere.”

When looking to pitch, don’t just consider the school market, says Peter Schlieckmann, product manager at Assertive Creativity (asi/37166). “Consider companies with high-ticket items and services,” he says. “They’re great for prize giveaways and celebrating product launches. They build a sense of pride and loyalty among those who wear them, and command respect from those who see them worn. The company that advertises on them wins trust since it’s obvious they’re willing to invest in a high-quality product that will be seen by everyone.”