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The History of Letterman Jackets

The letterman jacket actually began its life as a sweater. In 1865, the coaches of the Harvard baseball team created sweaters emblazoned with the letter “H,” which they awarded to the best players. A decade later, the Harvard football team adopted the letterman sweater as a way of acknowledging the hard work and athletic ability of the top players, who sought to earn them for the associated prestige. In the early 1900s, the letterman jacket was introduced alongside the letterman sweater — it consisted of the now-iconic wool body with leather sleeves. Letterman sweaters and jackets became sought-after not only as prestige items, but also as fashion accessories in the 1950s. The jackets also became a key part of teen courting rituals — boyfriends often lent their letterman jackets to their girlfriends to wear. After Congress passed Title IX in 1972, a law that banned discrimination against female athletes and sports, women’s teams also began to give out letterman jackets to their top players. Today, the letterman jacket is still awarded to high school athletes and is also often awarded to students who make varsity in other pursuits, including band, choir, and robotics.

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