What’s a Letterman Jacket?

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Letter jackets are heavy winter-style coats in school colors with a stitched school letter on the front, given to students who participate in varsity sports and extracurricular activities. They come in various styles and have decorations such as the student’s name, school logo, and symbols representing their activities. They are also worn as a fashion statement.

Mostly seen on high school campuses in the United States, a letter jacket is a heavy winter-style coat that is typically in the school colors and has a stitched school letter on the front and other decorative trim. In most U.S. high schools, students who participate in varsity sports and other school-sponsored extracurricular activities receive a letter for successfully completing a season. This large cloth letter – the first letter of the school name, or sometimes the first letter of each word in the school name – is then sewn onto the left front of the letterman’s jacket. Students who have already received a cloth letter often receive a much smaller cloth letter or small metal pin for each additional letter earned, and these can be added to the jacket. Other items that might be sewn or attached to the jacket include things like the student’s name, their graduating year, a school logo, symbols representing the student’s activities, and representations of other awards earned.

Jacket styles

Letterman jackets come in a variety of styles, but they usually have a few things in common. For example, many of these jackets have part or all of the sleeves covering part or all of the sleeves in leather or leatherette. At the top and bottom of a letter jacket, and at the ends of the sleeves, there are usually stripes in the school colors. The jacket usually also has two small pockets on the bottom of the front side. Some letterman jackets have built-in hoods, but most just have small striped collars.


The school name or nickname and the school logo usually appear somewhere on the letterman’s jacket, such as the back of the coat. The student’s name could be stitched into fabric letters on the back, stitched on the right front, or added elsewhere on the jacket. The student’s graduation year – usually represented by the last two numbers of the year – is most commonly added near the top of a sleeve or to the bottom of the front of the jacket, under one of the pockets.

Other decorative or commemorative elements are added based on student preferences or school traditions. For example, some patches may be sewn onto sleeves for various reasons. Metals, awards, and pins might also be added, usually on the letter or elsewhere on the front of the jacket.

As a fashion statement
These jackets are most common in US high schools, but can also be found outside the US and at some universities. There are also letterman-style jackets that don’t really represent school but are simply a fashion statement. These types of letterman jackets might include the name or letter of an imaginary school, the manufacturer or designer of the jacket, or even another company.

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