Varsity then and now
By Matt Glazebrook, 20 July 2014
From the hallowed lawns of Ivy League institutions to the dusty, floodlight football fields of West Texas, American high-school and college sportswear has provided a wealth of fashion influences over the years. Bold, block-print logos, baseball and hockey jersey shapes, slouchy sweats and, of course, the classic varsity bomber jacket have all long left the athletic arena and become icons of Americana-inspired casualwear.
The latest varsity-themed threads push the definition of the style into ever more contemporary and street-ready directions, but still stay true to the original collegiate template, as you can see below.
The athletic marl sweatshirt or long-sleeved tee is a true American staple, whether emblazoned with the name of your college or high school or in a simple and sporty plain grey, as modelled by Grease 2’s Maxwell Caulfield. Today’s version of varsity combines the marl palette with classic sportswear logos and colour blocking.
Turn of the century college sports stars were a dapper bunch, despite the functional nature of their attire. We can’t imagine that this ace chunky-knit sweater – as modelled by Captain James Hogan – was particularly comfortable to run around an American football pitch in (just imagine how heavy it would have got in the rain) but damn if it doesn’t look absolutely splendid.
The suave origins of varsity sportswear are celebrated in our update, with smart jersey shorts and collared tops offering an understated interpretation of the sporting style.
No feature on the varsity look would be complete without reference to the letterman jacket. This hefty slab of vintage American outerwear originally denoted a school sportsperson’s relative status within the squad, with top performers (such as Tom Cruise’s implausibly diminutive star quarterback in All The Right Moves) getting to keep theirs after the season’s close.
Nowadays, happily, the letterman style is a menswear classic open to all – this sweet jersey bomber with retro touches makes for a seasonally appropriate contemporary take on the timeless template.