Few items of clothing scream ‘Americana’ quite like the varsity jacket. A staple of US style, it’s been a mainstay of collegiate dress for decades and was one of the original pieces of the preppy wardrobe.
It’s been worn by everyone from sitting presidents to east coast rappers, and today comes in as many variations as it does colour combinations. But the traditional wool-bodied, leather-armed varsity jacket remains a style classic and one that perfectly combines mid-century design with a playful charm.
Here’s everything you need to know about this outerwear all star.
Varsity Jacket Buying Considerations
Traditionally, varsity jackets are cut on the more relaxed end of the spectrum. So, if you’re seeking an authentic vintage example, expect it to have dropped shoulders, a roomy waist and wide arms. For a more tailored fit, it might be worth sizing down when going the retro route.
The other alternative is, of course, to opt for something new. Varsity jackets are now available in more contemporary fits, with slimmer bodies and more tapered arms. This arguably makes the style more flattering, slightly smarter and easier to dress up with tailored trousers.
Whether you go for a baggier fit or something more streamlined largely depends on how you intend to wear it. For a more laid-back, streetwear-inspired look, go the relaxed route; whereas for a style cut more like a contemporary bomber jacket, opt for a slim, cropped cut.
The varsity jacket has always been an easy way to inject a bit of colour into your wardrobe. The style was originally dreamt up to promote a particular team or university, meaning big logos and bright, contrasting shades.
So, if you’re bored of wearing the same tonal blue, grey and black outfits, a varsity jacket might be the piece you need to bring some vibrancy to your personal style. How colourful you want to go is largely down to you, but the best varsity jackets are made up of one or two complementary shades. Think deep forest green with cream accents; or dark navy with sunshine yellow.
Today, varsity jackets come in many different fabrics combinations. Expect to find anything from cotton to polyester blends as well as denim and woven satin. However, for a timeless look there’s only one combination you should consider: a melton wool body with leather arms.
Although they tend to be at the higher end of the price spectrum, they’re likely to last the longest. Traditionally, varsity jackets were heavy and designed to take a beating, so if you’re after an investment piece that will stand the test of time, this is the way to go.
Best Varsity Jacket Brands
From traditional Ivy League brands to modern-day streetwear designers, these are the labels making the best varsity jackets for men. Whether you prefer classic and muted or bold and contemporary, there’s something for everyone.
Off White was founded by the late Virgil Abloh, a man known for embodying modern creativity in a way few others could. As such, the brand’s varsity jackets combine the best of old and new; expect classic design, with ‘O’ and ‘W’ lettering sitting alongside the label’s modern script logos and patchwork.
The fits tend to be roomy in the shoulder and middle, but slightly cropped in the body, giving a distinctive look.
For a timeless varsity jacket that will look as good now as it will in 30 years’ time, Golden Bear is hard to beat. First established in San Francisco in 1922, the American brand has long been associated with classic Americana-inspired clothing, from bomber jackets to varsity styles.
Expect beautifully made outerwear in muted colourways that are as easy to wear as they are comfortable.
Its outerwear range is particularly impressive, with varsity jackets a highlight for their classic silhouettes updated with tasteful embroidery and large ‘A’ insignia at the chest.
Although renowned for its trench coats and technical rainwear, Burberry regularly applies its outerwear expertise to the varsity jacket silhouette. The British heritage brand turned luxury fashion house keeps things classic on the whole, but don’t be surprised to find eccentric details including hand warmer pockets and zipped knitted hems.
MKI Miyuki Zoku
Priding itself on producing design-led, sensibly-priced clothing, MKI Miyuki Zoku is inspired by the Japanese youth subculture it takes its name from. Its varsity jackets are classically styled, with tonal leather sleeves and melton wool blend bodies, as well as side pockets, metal stud hems and ribbed cuffs.
Billionaire Boys Club
Billionaire Boys Club isn’t shy of a logo or two, and it’s as much known for its bold graphics as its streetwear-inspired designs. The brand’s varsity jackets demonstrate precisely what BBC is best at; expect classic silhouettes emblazoned with hand-stitched script, ice cream logos and embroidered sleeves.
While it undoubtedly operates in the high fashion arena, Saint Laurent made its name on the classics. Its black slim denim jeans, signature leather jackets and dark tailoring are all standout items in the brand’s back catalogue, but its Teddy jacket isn’t far off.
A classic varsity jacket stripped back to its bare essentials, this is a style that works as well dressed up as it does down, with its striped leather trim and ribbed cuffs.
Amiri is renowned for its own unique takes on menswear classics, and its varsity jackets are no different. The brand mixes things up with bold colourways as well as more subtle details including zipped pockets, tonal embroidery and luxurious fabrics.