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Letterman Jackets

Letterman Jackets

By Emma Adams, Communications Student Intern

The letterman jacket, or varsity jacket, originated, as the name would imply, as an award for members of the varsity team of a given sport who primarily represent their school. Becoming a “letterman” entails meeting certain participation qualifications or milestones in order to receive a letter or monogram patch for their jacket. Originally, these letters were sewn onto a sweater, though nowadays the jacket is more prominent. Harvard University’s baseball team in 1865 is the earliest known example of a sport awarding a letter sweater. The letter sweater evolved into a jacket in the 1930s in response to athletes’ petitions of the sweaters being too light weight in the winter. 

Since 1865, the letterman jacket has become an iconic symbol of traditional high school. Originally exclusive to athletes, the letterman has since flourished into an homage to many groups, clubs, activities, and achievements beyond simply athletics.

The performing arts department within MSD offers students the chance to purchase or earn their letterman jackets through participation in the arts and extracurriculars. Students are able to further adorn their jackets by earning chevrons for each year of participation in band and/or choir in addition to choir and/or band letters. Actors are also able to earn a theater letter. Furthermore, band and choir students are given the opportunity to participate in ISSMA, an Indiana wide competition that gives each participating student a medal, based upon how well they perform before a panel of judges, that can then be sewn onto one’s letterman jacket. Students who are invited to compete at the additional state competition can also purchase a patch and rocker to demonstrate their musical talent.

Additionally, National Honor Society members are given a patch and pin for their letterman jacket that demonstrates their academic prowess and service in community, denoting hardwork and character as well as academic prowess. Furthermore, qualifying students are awarded academic achievement letters at the annual award ceremony for each high school in MSDWC. These letters symbolize the devotion to academics that students demonstrated in order to earn them.

Fellowship of Christian Athletes also offers upperclassmen members the chance to earn a patch by sharing their story of how they came to Christ and were baptized into His resurrection. This patch represents the student’s devotion to believing in and serving the Lord. It also symbolizes the student’s strength to speak about their own journey as they made their way to Christ; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Regardless of what activity a student participates in, they are given the opportunity to showcase their talents and achievement via their letterman jacket. The letterman jacket symbolizes status for upperclassmen as it is a privilege granted to those who worked hard to earn it and the many patches, letters, chevrons, medals, and pins that adorn it. Each letterman jacket is unique, even including the student’s last name across the back, and represents a student’s contribution to their school and showcases their own achievements in a fashionable, timeless manner.