A brief history of the varsity jacket

A brief history of the varsity jacket

Andrea Tuzio · 1 year ago · Style

It is undeniable that if there is a garment that carries with it the entire American sports imaginary – and not only – this is undoubtedly the letterman jacket.
Yes, because originally, what we know as a varsity jacket, the wool jacket with leather sleeves and pockets to match, also had a large letter on the chest, hence “letterman jacket”.

Lately, the popularity of the varsity jacket has come back to prominence thanks to operations such as that of NIGO and his HUMANE MADE brand, giving his closest friends a pink varsity jacket with white sleeves with the words “I Know Nigo” on the back and the name of the recipient embroidered on the chest.

Worn by the likes of Elvis Presley, James Dean and Michael Jackson, a symbol of many subcultures over time, today the varsity jacket is back to being a must in the streetwear world and we decided to tell its story.

The first time a letterman jersey was ever worn was by the Harvard University baseball team in 1865. That first distinctive garment and that marked the appearance to a certain group was definitely different from what we know today: it consisted of a very heavy wool sweater and legend has it that it was the players themselves who decided to embroider in the center of their uniforms, a large “H”, thus giving life to everything. 

In the beginning, the uniform had an enormous value and was very prestigious as well as elitist, in fact, it was given to all the members of the team but only the most deserving could keep it, the others – those who sat on the bench for example and played little – had to return it at the end of the season.

In 1891 they began to wear black jerseys off the field, always distinguished by a large “H” embroidered on the chest. This move led to the creation of “Letterman” pullovers and cardigans that had the basic idea of showing pride in belonging to that particular university, something that still happens at all school levels in the United States.

In the early 1900s, the football team of the same university also began to wear their uniforms distinguished by a large embroidered “H”. Here, too, there was a rule that those who did not play had to return their jerseys, while those who were on the field and playing for the good name of the university against historic rivals Yale and Princeton could keep them. 

From then on, a real “regulated customization” of uniforms and jerseys began: other embroideries were adopted to establish the player’s rank – such as a star on the chest to identify the captain – or the result of the matches.  

In 1930 what we know today as the varsity jacket was born.
Athletes were demanding heavier clothing to combat the cold and leather sleeves and buttons were added to the wool jersey, with the letter moving to one side and the letterman jacket became a status item within universities.
Not everyone could have the letter, you had to earn it through performance on the field. Once you got it you could sew it onto the jacket, it was very serious.

This custom had by then taken hold in all Ivy League universities – a group of the 8 most prestigious private universities in the United States (Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth College and Cornell) – in high schools and all other colleges in America. It was during this period that the term “varsity jacket” was born and became popular, and all athletes at the various schools (college or high school that they were) wore one. 

It was in the ’80s that the popularity of the varsity jacket exploded definitively thanks to the attention it aroused in the professional franchises of American sports. The suppliers who produced the merchandising began to make a satin version of the varsity jacket in such a way as to contain costs and expand the catchment area. The Los Angeles Raiders in football, the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics in basketball made their own versions of the varsity, achieving enormous success.

In this way, pop and mainstream culture became acquainted with the varsity jacket, and in 1983 the varsity jacket became a sought-after item: Michael Jackson wore a red and gold one with an “M” on the chest in the video for “Thriller”.

varsity jacket

Hip-hop artists such as Run-D.M.C. and N.W.A. often wore one, transforming it into one of the street items par excellence and making it independent from sports issues.

varsity jacket

The fashion and streetwear world that was emerging at the turn of the late ’80s and early ’90s did not miss the opportunity to “appropriate” that model of an extremely cool jacket.

varsity jacket

In 1987 Stüssy made varsity jackets using old production methods and traditional materials (wool and leather), the Homeboy Jacket and the 1989 One Love are just two examples of reinterpretations of an absolute icon that we are sure will never go out of fashion.

varsity jacket

Read also: The story of Willi Smith, the designer who invented streetwear

A brief history of the varsity jacket
Style
A brief history of the varsity jacket
A brief history of the varsity jacket
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Brad Walls knows that squash is a geometric sport

Brad Walls knows that squash is a geometric sport

Tommaso Berra · 3 days ago · Photography

It could not have been easy to fly a drone inside a 20-square-meter squash court, but photographer Brad Walls felt it was the only way to enhance geometry and movement in a few shots. The “Vacant” series depicts the geometry of bodies, moving a choreographed within scenes inspired by surrealism and retro-futurism.
The idea of choosing that particular location came from a visit by the artist to the squash court in which he played in his high school days. The empty space the lines of the field inspired the artist to create one of his aerial series, which had at its center the human body detached from the context but perfectly inserted into the geometric layout.

Squash | Collater.al

One of Brad Walls’ challenges was to avoid a claustrophobic effect, so white is the predominant color in the shots, repeated even in the models’ clothes, a choice that would make even Wimbledon organizers happy.
The clothes themselves are an element that reinforces the concept of retrofuturism, creating a tension between past and future through the inclusion of a futuristic wardrobe in an 80s context such as the squash court.
Looking forward to publishing his first book, due out in the fall and titled “Pools from Above,” Brad Walls defined “Vacant” as follows: “Geometry provides a hint at consistency in an ever inconsistent world. Innately, humans are drawn to it. Me, maybe more so”.

Squash | Collater.al
Squash | Collater.al
Squash | Collater.al
Squash | Collater.al
Squash | Collater.al
Squash | Collater.al
Brad Walls knows that squash is a geometric sport
Photography
Brad Walls knows that squash is a geometric sport
Brad Walls knows that squash is a geometric sport
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All for the Gram – Soviet Innerness

All for the Gram – Soviet Innerness

Tommaso Berra · 3 days ago · Photography

Hosted this week by All for the Gram is not just a serial profile but an actual archive that collects details of an aesthetic that, however decayed, still holds great appeal. Soviet Innerness is a journey into Soviet design through the interiors of abandoned houses, amid torn wallpaper and cold, chipped tiles.

The wallpaper has been replaced in some cases by newspaper pages bearing news and photos from the 1980s, the peeling walls look like a layering of now-faded colors, as do the flower designs that once probably appeared more colorful.
The walls of Soviet Innerness are full of tired geometries, blocks of color and forms that always give the idea of unfinished, or of something that ended too quickly, leaving time for cracks to make everything look so beautiful and decadent.

The project curated by Elena Amabili and Alessandro Calvaresi describes the aesthetics of the Eastern Bloc and the themes that were present throughout the houses. There are illustrations on the walls of the countryside in USSR space, but also the great industrialization of communist cities and the memory of Misha, the popular mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

All for the Gram – Soviet Innerness
Photography
All for the Gram – Soviet Innerness
All for the Gram – Soviet Innerness
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Giulia Degasperi’s tale of pastoralism in Trentino

Giulia Degasperi’s tale of pastoralism in Trentino

Tommaso Berra · 4 days ago · Photography

In summer, whole herds of cattle move from the valleys to the mountain meadows, thousands of feet above sea level, where the air is thinner and the rhythms are dictated only by nature’s needs. Along with the animals travel shepherds, who in the mountain pastures become part of a single cycle of life, which does not suffer pauses but flows slowly and steadily.
Giulia Degasperi has represented this age-old practice of the mountains of Trentino, without directly showing the beauty of the landscapes but that of work, effort and tradition. The series “These Dark Mountains” is an anthropological study that describes the abandonment of small mountain towns and the difficulty of preserving habits that have always linked man and nature.
The choice to shoot in black and white makes the photographs almost timeless. One cannot frame a historical period because everything has remained the same, from the places to the shepherds’ clothes.

You can support the publication of a volume dedicated to the work of photographer Giulia Degasperi through the fundraiser launched by SelfSelf, click here to find out how you can help make this photography project a reality.

Giulia Degasperi | Collater.al
Giulia Degasperi | Collater.al
Giulia Degasperi | Collater.al
Giulia Degasperi | Collater.al
Giulia Degasperi | Collater.al
Giulia Degasperi | Collater.al
Giulia Degasperi | Collater.al
Giulia Degasperi | Collater.al
Giulia Degasperi’s tale of pastoralism in Trentino
Photography
Giulia Degasperi’s tale of pastoralism in Trentino
Giulia Degasperi’s tale of pastoralism in Trentino
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A world without adults in the photos of Julie Blackmon

A world without adults in the photos of Julie Blackmon

Tommaso Berra · 1 week ago · Photography

A world without “when I was your age it was different,” without “the youth of today are worthless,” a world in which therefore there is no “adultsplanning” and children seem to be able to do everything in total autonomy.
This is the landscape depicted in photography by Julie Blackmon, an American artist associated with family issues and small-town life.
The shots are social satire disguised within everyday scenes in which children are the real protagonists, not to say the only ones. All the details depicted are symbolic, as is the arrangement of the subjects, inspired by scenes painted by 17th-century Flemish painters.
Julie Blackmon’s goal is to represent the context of small American communities, tracing the dreams promoted by the American model.

One characteristic of Julie Blackmon’s children is their total detachment from anything related to contemporary technology. Thus they can be found playing “like in the old days,” painting the driveway with chalk, or in the handcrafted swimming pool in their own backyard.
Of inspiration for the photographer’s vision is the context of large families, being herself the eldest of nine siblings. In doing so she traces memories and what more generally influences childhood, made up of landscapes and elements that shape the way we think even as adults, those that Julie does not want to represent, deliberately leaving the feeling of a world in which everything is disconnected.

A world without adults in the photos of Julie Blackmon
Photography
A world without adults in the photos of Julie Blackmon
A world without adults in the photos of Julie Blackmon
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