Also known as “letterman” jackets – for obvious reasons – varsity jackets date back to the Thirties and have always been associated with American jock culture.
The chenille letters were traditionally the initials of the school in question and were worn to represent a certain level of sporting achievement.
This practice can be traced back to 1865, when the original letter sweaters were introduced by the Harvard University baseball team.
The body of the jacket is usually made from boiled wool with contrasting leather sleeves and a banded collar and cuffs. Call it cultural appropriation if you will, but these varsity jackets have long been popular among Brits, too, even if the closest we have come to playing baseball for Harvard is wearing a snap-back in Harwich.
But the varsity jacket, like the baseball cap, has become such a staple of men’s style that it has lost any connotation with school and sport, so it can be worn by anyone.
After all, wearing a leather jacket doesn’t mean you are trying to look like Marlon Brando. Beware, however, when wearing letter-emblazoned clothing in the US.
I recently bought a varsity jacket from a SAIDA GEAR emblazoned with a large yellow “M”.
If one more person had come up to me to ask if I was an alumnus of the University Of Michigan when I wore it on a United Airlines flight to New York a few weeks later, I would have happily set about them with a baseball bat. Source