The Varsity Jacket: A History Lesson With BODA SKINS

The Varsity Jacket: A History Lesson With BODA SKINS

The Varsity Jacket: A History Lesson With BODA SKINS

The varsity jacket. Here at BODA SKINS we have always had an attachment to them - we’ve made some pretty cool ones ourselves. The varsity jacket has become a staple figure in plenty of wardrobes across the world, so much so, it is standing as its own item that steered away from temporary trends to become a jacket that will always have its say in every realm of fashion.   

But, where has the varsity jacket come from? Over the last few weeks, we’ve jumped into the history of some iconic styles, however, the varsity holds history like no other...

You had to be the best of the best at one point, now its just the best of fashion.


Firstly, the iconic varsity jacket traves all the way back to Harvard University, where they first began to appear in 1965. The Harvard baseball team at the time were the guys to wear the jacket, with a large ‘H’ being patched into the uniform. But, these varsity jackets didn’t look like the varsity jackets we know today.     

The Harvard uniform was seen as a thick-knitted grey flannel pullover with a giant ‘H’ sewn into the centre. They took on the appearance of cardigans back then, but they were soon to evolve. Here at BODA HQ, we love this style of a vintage-feeling varsity jacket, it left us with no choice but to take some inspiration from this and apply it to our BODA Varsity.


A decade later, in 1975, the American Football team at Harvard began to wear the letterman-styled jackets for their team. This was seen as their statement piece which would allow them to boast how hard they performed on the field. 

The jackets would be awarded to a player if their sporting talents were at a high enough standard. If you were lucky enough, and athletically advanced enough, to own a varsity jacket at this point, you were a very envied person.   

In 1972, Congress passed a new law that banned all discrimination against female athletes and sports. This meant that more females in high schools and colleges would wear varsity jackets as a symbol of being a talented athlete. The world was beginning to see female basketball, baseball, and softball players in varsity jackets. Most iconically, tennis legend, Serena Williams, was regularly captured wearing the varsity silhouette, symbolising herself as the best in the world at her sport.


By the time the varsity jacket reached the 1980s, the material of the jacket had evolved from wool to satin. The style of the varsity jacket had also grown in popularity in the commercial world, with the varsity becoming a fashion statement, as well as a symbol of athletic prowess. 

This came off the back of major sporting teams wearing the apparel, most iconically, Joe Montana, world-famous American Football star, was seen rocking his golden satin varsity jacket on numerous occasions on the world stage.   

But it wasn’t just the sportsmen that were wearing varsity jackets at this time. In fact, the high school or college boy often gave his jacket to his girlfriend a sign as a symbol of love and commitment. 

The girl would proudly wear the jacket to show the whole school that she belonged to her boyfriend. But be careful, if a relationship would come to an end, the girl would often slash the jacket to shreds!


Moving into the 1990s, the cardigan-styled silhouette began to be phased out, with leather sleeves moving into the fold. This jacket was still worn by the best players on the sports teams, but the classic varsity style then came into the spotlight.   

Given the jacket’s newfound popularity at this time, it wasn’t surprising that the jackets crossed over into the world of fashion. Aside from sports, celebrities in Hollywood began to show their affection towards the varsity jacket. 

As you can imagine, this is the era BODA SKINS draws the most attraction. These years have allowed us to tap into our leather DNA, as seen in our most recent Varsity Onyx.   Its entry into popular culture and sports led the varsity jacket to the fashion scene of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. 

From its privileged Ivy League origins, they then landed on the backs of hip-hop groups such as Run-D.M.C and N.W.A, stapling the garment as one that now belonged to the streets. By then, it was clear that anyone could wear the jacket, regardless of school affiliation or athletic ability.    


Now, during the current day, varsity jackets are seen as the pinnacle of fall fashion, with all high-end luxury fashion brands joining in on the trend. 

The pride of wearing a varsity jacket from school still exists, and the same athletic connotations still apply to them in high school culture, but the jackets have come to prove that they don’t only hold longevity, but they also hold versatility. 

In 2021, for some aspects, the varsity jacket is the most different it’s ever been. Take our BODA SKINS Oilers Varsity, for example. Its added pockets and pristine lambs leather sleeves make for an ideal case of evolution in the varsity realm. 

It appears that this style will continue to grow, and we’re all for it.   Take a closer look at what varsity jackets we have available at BODA SKINS below.

Wait… You thought we were done there? It wouldn’t be right if we spoke about the history of Varsity jackets without showing off our incredible pieces? Shop men and women below.

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