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What’s The Significance Of A Varsity Letterman Jacket?
When I began my research on this very important topic, “What is the significance of a university letterman jacket.” I am amazed at how many people know nothing about this iconic part of our American culture. Today I am going to cover various information related to varsity letterman jacket. I will examine the birth of the letterman jacket as well as the appearance, style, decoration, history and tradition of the letterman jacket. The letterman jacket was born with the advent of organized sports which created the need for uniforms. There was an additional need for recognition that was satisfied using symbols or letters. In 1865, the Harvard baseball team added the Old English ‘H’ as their first varsity letter. A gray flannel shirt was emblazoned with an ‘H’. Football teams began using the ‘H’ in 1875. It is interesting to note that for 25 years after the introduction of this letter in 1865, it was customary for the team captain to allow certain players to play in the most important games. (Yale or Princeton) to keep the ‘H’ jersey as an award. If a player does not play in a significant game, the player must return the jersey at the end of the season. The awarding of the ‘H’ jersey may have given birth to a varsity letter as an award.
A letterman in US sports, performing arts, or academics is a high school or college student who has achieved a certain level of participation and/or performance in a varsity athletic team, marching band, or other performing school-sponsored activity. The term comes from the practice of giving each such participant a cloth “letter” for placement on a “letter sweater” or “letter jacket” for display of such award. In some instances, the sweater or jacket itself may also be given, especially for an initial award to a given individual.
Traditionally an athletic letter has been associated with elite athletes, although in the past few decades there have been moves to make letter awards more accessible to all students by removing the performance requirement. In the case of a marching band, drumline, or colorguard member, a letterman is usually awarded to an upperclassman or section leader. Today, to distinguish “lettermen” from other team participants, schools often establish a minimum level of participation and/or a minimum level of performance in team events. A common threshold in American football and basketball is participation at half of all quarters in a season. (To meet this standard in a ten game season, one must participate in at least twenty of the forty quarters played.)
In individual sports such as tennis and golf, the letter threshold is generally one-half, or sometimes two-thirds, of all matches played. Frequently, other team members who fail to meet the requirements for a letter are given a certificate of participation or other award considered of less value than a letter. Some schools continue to award letters based on performance in team sports, requiring certain scores, steals, baskets or tackles by position and play. Individual sports letters are often determined by qualification for state meets or tournaments. In the performing arts, letters are awarded according to performance. Students who are selected for state choir or score high in major instrumental competitions may receive letters, or musicians who place first or second in their instrumental division. The award may also be given to students participating in academic clubs if the requirements are met. Some schools award general “academic letters” based on GPA, usually to students with a GPA of 3.8 or higher. This term is not gender-specific; A qualifying participant in women’s basketball or other women’s sports is properly referred to as a letterman, as is a qualifying female participant on a co-curricular sports team.
A letterman jacket is a jacket traditionally worn by high school and college students in the United States to represent school and team pride, as well as to display individual awards earned in athletics, academics, or activities. Letterman jackets are also known as “varsity jackets” in some places. The body (i.e. torso) is usually made of boiled wool and leather sleeves are tied at the wrists and waist. Letter jackets are typically produced in school colors with the body of the jacket in the school’s primary color and the sleeves in the secondary color. They usually feature a banded collar for men or a hood for women. The letter jacket gets its name from the varsity letter chenille patch on his left breast, which is almost always the first letter or initials of the high school or college from which the jacket comes. Because the jacket is meant as a display for the letter award, the colors of the jacket match the letter, not vice versa. The owner’s name usually appears in chenille (matching the lettering) or is embroidered on the jacket itself. The owner’s graduation year usually appears to match the cenile, with the placement of the name and year of graduation depending on school tradition. The year is often sewn on the right sleeve or just above the right pocket. Lettermen who play on championship teams receive a large patch commemorating their championship that is worn on the back of the jacket.
The letterman sweater was first worn regularly by the 1891 “Nine” (baseball) and was black with a small crimson ‘H’ on the left breast. The letter sweater was the predecessor of the letter jacket. The lettering is usually quite large and centered (if the sweater is a pullover); Stripes on one sleeve represent the number of winning letters, with a star representing the team captain. Letterman jackets are almost never purchased before a student earns a letter. In schools where only varsity letters are awarded, this is usually in the student’s junior or senior year. At schools that offer junior varsity letters, the jacket may also be purchased by junior varsity letter recipients, although the letter is placed just above the left pocket, (hopefully) leaving room for a future varsity letter.
Some schools may award letterwinners a letterman jacket at the awards ceremony, but often the school only awards the letter.
In the US and Canada, a male player may give his girlfriend a letter as a symbol of his love, which is considered a sign of a truly intimate relationship because the jacket is an honor. In the event of a breakup, it is customary for the girl to return the jacket as a sign of rejection.
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