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Sporting Excellence

To celebrate the launch of Thomas Pink’s new varsity jacket, we explore the rich history of this prestigious garment and how it transitioned from the playing field to the runway


In the ever-evolving world of fashion, trends come and go with the seasons. But, amid the eternal flux, certain styles endure, weaving themselves into the fabric of cultural history.

Among such classics stands the varsity jacket, a garment that once solely graced the sporting field but has now become a wardrobe staple.

Originating as the letterman jacket, this quintessentially American apparel dates back to the mid-19th century. It all began with the Harvard University baseball team of 1865 when they emblazoned their team uniforms with large letters, signifying school pride and athletic prowess. The jacket was held in enormous prestige among classmates as only a select few players could keep it. Soon, other sports teams in the US picked up the practice and what began as a simple woollen sweater adorned with an embroidered “H” quickly evolved into the iconic jacket we see today.

By the 1980s, the popularity of the varsity jacket exploded, largely due to the successes of professional US sports, such as American football and basketball, when the jacket became just as popular off the pitch as it was on it. Merchandising and fashion houses began experimenting with materials and designs to make the jacket more palatable to a wider audience. It also made memorable appearances on-screen during this decade. In 1983 the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, made history with the release of the groundbreaking Thriller music video. At the start of the full 14-minute version, he wears a preppy red-and-gold varsity jacket emblazoned with an “M”; later changing into the iconic red-and-black leather jacket and trousers ensemble. Also cosplaying the 1950s in the ’80s was Danny Zuko in Grease, when he briefly dons a Rydell High letterman jacket to impress his straightlaced sweetheart, Sandy.

Indeed, the varsity jacket is strongly associated with jock culture, something that’s recognised well outside of the confines of the American high school thanks to its prominence in movies such as The Breakfast Club, Teen Wolf and Beverly Hills Cop (worn by Eddie Murphy’s wisecracking detective Axel Foley). But in recent years, the letterman jacket has experienced a surge in demand due to vintage fashion’s enduring popularity among Gen Z, regardless of their knowledge of American culture (and how far across the pond they may be).

Inspired by the story and the silhouette of the varsity jacket, Thomas Pink has released an elegant, modern version this winter. The jacket is made from a luxurious navy moleskin fabric that offers a suede-like touch. While there may not be any flash lettering stitched on the breast or two-tone colours, the jacket is embellished with classic gunmetal snapclosures, meaning it can be worn loose and open over your favourite Thomas Pink shirt or buttoned up for the classic varsity silhouette.

So, whether you’re searching for that off-duty sportsman look, or just out to impress keen-eyed fashionistas, Thomas Pink’s new varsity jacket will have you feeling like you’ve just scored the winning touchdown.