Since 1865 when Harvard’s baseball team chose the embroidered lettermans as a symbol of exclusivity and distinction, the varsity jacket traveled a long way, embracing evolution alongside the many influences that in the end helped shape its now classic concept. By 1930, the wool jacket with leather sleeves borrowed the same signature lettering, becoming associated with the high school and college varsity teams.

Channeling the ’90s and turning the ultimate high-school symbol into a laid back trend that pairs perfectly with the progressive athletic-influenced movement of the past years, 2012 highlighted the preppy jacket as one of the most influential fashion trends. For spring 2013, the varsity jacket has met a slow decline due to over-saturation, but its signature cuts are still being preserved. The makeover is based on an array of unexpected fabrics and prints that little by little are replacing the wool bodices and the leather sleeves.

varsity jackets for women

The varsity jacket for spring 2013

The most notable element that marks the evolving of this season’s varsity jacket trend is represented by the use of unexpected fabrics, prints and embroideries heading towards what resembles a far more luxurious direction. As opposed to the standard sporty lettered jacket, the choice of unconventional materials puts the spotlight back on femininity, as the school-girl fashion gains a far more sophisticated perspective.

Varsity jacket on the runway at Emerson S/S ’13

Oriental embroideries

Perhaps one of the most outstanding clash of styles, colliding ultra-feminine oriental embroideries with the classic varsity rendition in a color palette that plays upon hard and soft accents, the jacket spotted on the runway at 3.1 Phillip Lim embodies to perfection what the trend is all about for spring 2013.

Embroidered varsity jacket on the runway at 3.1 Phillip Lim S/S ’13

Mesh accents

Charlotte Ronson built her spring 2013 collection upon sporty-sophisticated separates, amongst them athletic mesh varsity jackets that complemented the cool and easy-going vibe of the collection. Paired with ultra-chic shorts and sporty bras, the jackets were being highlighted as a spring and summer essential.

Mesh varsity jacket on the runway at Charlotte Ronson S/S ’13

Clear PVC

The clear PVC trend couldn’t have missed on influencing the current interpretation of the varsity jacket. Modern, cool and minimalist, the transparent jacket could easily become a spring wardrobe staple as it can effortlessly add depth to any outfit, while at the same time helping you transition from day to night in pure style. Team it against a delicate lace ensemble and a pair of light wedges during the early hours, and switch to a printed jumpsuit and an oversized bag for late in the evening.

 Clear PVC varsity jacket on the runway at Charlotte Ronson S/S ’13

How to wear the varsity jacket this year

The varsity jacket has brought along a new meaning to style this year. Although the process of incorporating the jacket into an outfit follows onto the same unconventional path that defined these past seasons, for spring you can lean more towards the sporty, relaxed side, without having to look like a literal translation of the trend. Trust your instincts, highlight your femininity and think outside the box:

  • Pair your embroidered varsity jackets with sleek minis, pencil skirts or tailored shorts
  • Enhance the embroidery elements with sheer fabrics, feminine tops and ankle boots
  • Accent the mesh varsity jackets with leather skirts, embossed tank tops, sporty bras and heels
  • Choose cropped tops, lightweight fabrics and dainty lace ensembles to wear with a PVC jacket
  • For a feminine approach, pair the varsity jacket (vest) with a delicate matching dress and a box clutch
  • To enhance the sporty vibe, pair the jacket with modern renditions of running shorts, crisp button-downs and quirky loafers

Varsity jackets on the runway at Sea S/S ‘13 (left &right) and Charlotte Ronson S/S ’13 (middle)

Varsity Jackets for fall

On the fall / winter 2012 runways, varsity-style jackets were reinterpreted in a variety of ways. Not all of them took the path of the traditional letterman jacket. Anna Sui traded letters for a whimsical owl motif in one of the season’s most colourful examples, mixing hers with shorts and bright tights in autumn hues.

anna suit varsity jacket

At Anna Sui, F/W ’12

On the opposite end of the spectrum were plain, unembellished styles at T by Alexander Wang. There’s no mistaking these for anything but minimalist and sporty.

T By Alexander Wang varsity jackets

At T By Alexander Wang, F/W ’12

Taking cues from the varsity jacket without quite being one was the impressive sateen bomber at Proenza Schouler. With it’s Eastern</a twist and beautiful embroidery, Proenza Schouler managed to create something both effortless and yet wholly intricate.

Proenza Schouler varsity jacket

The main trend across varsity jackets on the runway has been to reinvent them, refine them, steer them away from having too neat an association with American sportswear. To that end, Prabal Gurung nailed the idea, creating a classic shape with texture and detail that lent a kind of futuristic luxuriousness.

Prabal Gurung varsity jacket

Varsity jacket at Prabal Gurung F/W ’12

Of course, all that said, the interpretations you’ll likely find in stores (especially on the high street) won’t necessarily deviate quite so much from the traditional campus style letterman jacket. And there’s nothing wrong with that either. The brilliant thing is that you can pair even the sportiest jacket with something wholly glamorous to create a stunning contrast. If you’re lucky enough to find an original vintage jacket from any part of the mid-late 20th century all the better luck – a little bit of wear on a high quality piece of sporty outerwear can add volumes of character.

How to wear the varsity jacket for fall

There’s little limit to how you choose to style your varsity-inspired jacket in 2012. Just think outside the box; it doesn’t all have to be preppy or sporty.

Jil Sander pre-fall 2012

Varsity meets ladylike elegance at Jil Sander, pre-fall 2012

Share some style:

Want to keep up with fashion?

Once a week, we send out an update with the latest fashion trends, styles and collections.
Get yours direct in your inbox and keep ahead of fashion.

Our newsletter is spam free and your email address will never be shared or sold.