There comes a time in every young fellow’s life, when he must graduate from the teenage jock to gang affiliate wannabe. A kind of Rydell High to The Warriors of Coney Island moment. This transformation, captured in so many rites-of-passage movies, set in 1950's America, was usually marked by the ‘retiring’ of the high school varsity jacket in order to heed the call of the leather-clad bikers.
But what if there was a halfway house where you could keep the wool body and diverting sleeve combo but add that man–about–town swagger with a touch of brooding menace?
Like all iconic garments there’s a story involved, and this one goes all the way back to 1865. This was when the ‘Letterman’ jacket was first worn by the baseball players of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. More of a thick-knit sweater back then, onto which a giant ‘H’ was sewn, hence the name.
It wasn’t until the 1930s that the Letterman as we know them first appeared. As in the previous iterations, you really had to earn ‘your stripes’ whether on the baseball or football field before you were handed a letter that signified your status as a ‘baller’.
To signify additional merits, instead of adding more stripes along the sleeve, the letterman jacket was sewn with embroidery within the letter or another patch made from chenille or felt.
As the letterman tradition made its way from elite Ivy League universities down to high schools and other colleges in the United States, the term “varsity jacket” came into popularity. Soon, every jock across America was wearing one.
The varsity jacket had become a fashion staple and before long had crossed over into the professional sports arena. First came the pro-baseball teams, who spotted a marketing opportunity and adorned their jackets with the team logo that they could sell to the fans.
The fan apparel, however, were not made with the typical wool-leather construction, as these fabrics tended to be expensive. Instead, companies used satin, lowering the cost of the jackets and making them more accessible to a wide fan-base of all ages and classes.
The varsity jacket was then colonised the grid-iron and basketball, but its real transformative ‘mainstream’ moment came in 1983, when King of Pop, Michael Jackson famously wore a red varsity jacket with gold leather sleeves in his music video for ‘Thriller’, festooned with a large “M” embroidered on its chest ~ ShaMoNe.
As we lean into a post-modern world where everything has been ‘done to death’ and we survey the wreckage of our 21st Century excesses, we can also look back at the things that have stood the test of time to find meaning.
To appreciate the things that not only hold their value, both aesthetically and in their story, but can be built upon and re-imagined. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the Rocker’s Delight Jocker. Our post-modern take on a classical and enduring piece of outerwear.