how toFriday, October 28, 2022

The Varsity Jacket Renaissance: Your Style And Care Guide

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If there’s one piece that has earned its status as a failsafe staple, it’s the varsity jacket. A style that has remained popular for almost 200 years, it’s been championed by tastemakers including the late Virgil Abloh, who made it his personal signature and featured the design in many of his collections. Also known as the letterman jacket, the style was originally worn by elite baseball teams at Ivy League universities across the US as far back as the 1860s, where the letter of the team was applied to the front of the jacket. Then, in the 1980s, a renaissance was triggered by everyone from Princess Diana to NWA and Run DMC. Fast-forward to the present day, and heavily customized versions are designed by the likes of Dior Homme and Off-White, with the style a firm favorite among celebrities such as Tyler, the Creator, Justin Bieber and many more. And for spring/summer 2022, Vetements, Versace, Burberry and Givenchy released their own versions of the varsity, making it the cult transeasonal jacket of the year. 

 

Here, we break down the jacket’s popularity and offer the ultimate guide to choosing between its many iterations — from classic and nostalgic to progressive new designs — all available to shop now on FARFETCH.

Keep it classic

 

To strip the collegiate style back to its core construction, fabrics vary between wool, leather or both. ‘Varsity jackets are classically wool with contrasting leather sleeves,’ notes Luke Raymond, FARFETCH senior menswear editor. Other original and signature design details include letterman appliqué to the front, back or sleeve, two front slip pockets, and striped elasticated cuffs, hem and stand-up collar. ‘They were originally introduced to the fashion conversation by Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme, Saint Laurent and now Celine,’ continues Raymond. Brands making a case for a minimal or classic take on the jacket include Amiri and Alexander McQueen — this pared-back approach ‘allows for versatile styling with appeal across different style tribes,’ says Raymond. 

 

Care: Dry clean, or hand wash in cold water with a mild detergent, soak for 10-15 minutes, rinse thoroughly with cool water then air dry. Dry clean or hand wash wool and wipe any dirt away using a slightly damp soft cloth. For leather, always clean in the same direction as the grain.

A new kind of logo

 

As the taste for varsity jackets developed, so did the logos. In 1987 and 1989, Stüssy crafted the now much-revered Homeboy and One Love varsity jackets using old production methods and traditional materials. Varsity jackets were picked up again by the streetwear community, ‘mainly due to Virgil Abloh’s involvement in its renaissance, but also as a new way to show brand allegiance and individual style,’ says Raymond. This season, Off-White, Givenchy, Haculla and Stadium Goods have customized their versions with appliqué patches, logo embroidery and other details such as chains, prints, hoods and more.

 

Care: Dry clean, or hand wash in cold water with a mild detergent, soak for 10-15 minutes, rinse thoroughly with cool water then air dry. Dry clean or hand wash wool and wipe any dirt away using a slightly damp soft cloth. For leather, always clean in the same direction as the grain.

Back to the old school

 

For those looking to embrace nostalgia or find a super-rare, one-off piece, look to Stadium Goods, Supreme and Philipp Plein, who incorporate popular cultural references and interesting collaborations into their designs. The Stadium Goods x Rello jacket is a perfect example, embroidered with Rello’s signature character 'Ozzy the Bad Mouse' and decorated with cartoon patches. Opening Ceremony also collaborated with Peter Do for the store’s 20th anniversary, upcycling parachute material from the SS22 runway show into a customized varsity jacket. The jacket features handwritten notes and signatures from all three designers and is exclusively available on FARFETCH. 

 

Care: Dry clean, or hand wash in cold water with a mild detergent, soak for 10-15 minutes, rinse thoroughly with cool water then air dry. Dry clean or hand wash wool and wipe any dirt away using a slightly damp soft cloth. For leather, always clean in the same direction as the grain. Patches and embroidery details should be ironed carefully on a low heat.

A preppy take

 

Many designers stay true to the varsity jacket’s sporty/street origins, including the letterman appliqué details, stand-up collar and collegiate colors. However, the trend doesn’t solely belong to streetwear: Kenzo, Versace, Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger have all refreshed the jacket so it can flow between styles. ‘It can speak to the preppy trend by pairing with tailored trousers and a shirt and tie, as seen on the Kenzo fall/winter 2022 runway,’ suggests Raymond, highlighting how the jackets would have originally been worn with school uniforms outside of games.  

 

Care: Dry clean, or hand wash in cold water with a mild detergent, soak for 10-15 minutes, rinse thoroughly with cool water then air dry. Dry clean or hand wash wool and wipe any dirt away using a slightly damp soft cloth. For leather, always clean in the same direction as the grain. Patches and embroidery details should be ironed carefully on a low heat.

The modern letterman

 

For those looking for a completely new take on the design, opt for brands like Supreme, Casablanca and Rhude, who inject color and bold textiles into their collections. ‘Supreme released a whole line of faux-fur varsity jackets, and I’ve even seen full sequin and denim variations coming through this season,’ says Raymond. ‘If you want to lean into the streetwear aesthetic, pair your jacket with oversized denim, T-shirts and hoodies.’ If you aren’t keen on certain design details such as the collar, there are other options: sailor shapes, flat collars or hoods. Plus, says Raymond: ‘multiple colorways, patches or no patches — wearers can go with what speaks to them.’ 

 

Care: Dry clean or hand wash with cold water and add a mild detergent, soak for 10-15 minutes, rinse thoroughly with cool water and allow it to air dry. Dry clean or hand wash wool and wipe any dirt away using a slightly damp soft cloth. Always clean in the same direction as the grain of the leather. Iron patches and embroidery details carefully on a low heat.

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