Letterman Jacket Market

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Letterman Jacket Market

Josten's/Neff, Balfour, and Augusta are the three big players in the Letterman jacket market. Alongside them are numerous, much smaller, regional players. Additionally, the history of the Letterman jacket has been provided. Even though the jacket had a collegiate start, it seems that they are the most popular in high-schools.

Key Players Letterman Jacket Market

  • The top five players from the Letterman Jacket market were obtained by looking at Alexa statistics. Upon further analysis, it seems there are just three main players in the market, Josten's/Neff, Balfour, and Augusta Sportswear.
  • The information may be viewed in the attached spreadsheet.
  • Another attempt was made to locate any market information as to the size or key players. The closest market research available is leather jackets and would not apply. There was hopes that once the revenues on the key players were gathered that the market could be triangulated. With all the small regional players and the lack of a standardized method of reporting, this would not be a figure that could be trusted.
  • Additionally, throughout the research, collegiate Letterman jackets were not mentioned in a category on their own. If anything, they were not mentioned much at all. The Letterman Jacket market seems well-established in the high school market.

History of the Letterman Jacket

The history of the Letterman jacket is steeped in tradition. The jacket, throughout history, has been a symbol of athletic success and status symbol for many athletes.

Harvard Letterman

  • The Letterman jacket originated at Harvard in 1865. Their baseball team wanted a way to reward their best players. They settled on a thick, wool sweater with an oversized "H". The coaches dubbed the recipients of these sweaters as "The Letterman. All the baseball team wanted these sweaters, and therefore, upped their game. In 1875, the football team also adopted the letter jacket. By 1891, athletes as Harvard were regularly wearing black sweaters and cardigans with a crimson"H". When they made additional achievements they would get a stripe to place on the sleeve. Stars were given to captains.
  • In the early 1900s the Letterman sweater was as popular as ever. At this point the sweater was upgraded to a wool jacket with leather sleeves.
  • The first evidence of high schools adopting this practice was in 1911. Phoenix Union High School has a picture of a student wearing a v-neck sweater with the letter "P" on the chest.
  • In 1930, the wool jackets with leather sleeves were introduced and adopted the use of the "Letter". Instead of adding stripes on the sleeves, they would add the stripe inside the chenille letter. It was during this time that the term "varsity jacket" became popular, since varsity sports were where the letters were earned.

A 50s Icon

  • In the 50's the Letterman jacket became a fashion trend. The jacket became in iconic symbol for "jocks" in the US. Boys wore them with their jeans to show off their school spirit. The jacket became a big symbol during this era. A boy would "loan" his jacket to his girlfriend as a symbol of his commitment. Every girl wanted to wear her boyfriend's Letterman jacket with her poodle skirt or her pedal pushers. The jacket showed the whole school she belonged to her boyfriend. There have been many a tale of the ex-girlfriend slashing her boyfriend's jacket to shreds.
  • The Letterman jacket was a favorite of Richie Cunningham from Happy Days. You could see James Dean sporting his in the movies along with Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley. In later years you would see Michael Jackson don his in the famous "Thriller" video (1983).
  • The jackets became so popular that the big leagues started to wear them too. Fans would wear them to support their favorite baseball teams. These jackets' wold feature the team logo and or mascot. By the 80's it was not uncommon to see these jackets made out of satin. By the late 80's and 90's this trend had spread to professional basketball.

Title IX

  • In 1972 Congress enacted Title IX, the law that banned discrimination against female athletes in sports. With that, more and more female athletes demanded their own Letterman jackets to show off their accomplishments.
  • The jacket further became a symbol of being accepted, being successful, and belonging to something important.

80s/90s Fashion

  • The varsity jacket caught the eye of professional sport leagues shortly after it gained popularity in public high schools and colleges. These jackets wold feature the team logo and or mascot. By the 80's it was not uncommon to see these jackets made out of satin. By the late 80's and 90's this trend had spread to professional basketball. Then-football franchise Los Angeles Raiders, as well as fanbase-heavy basketball teams such as the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls all came up with their own satin varsity jackets.
  • In addition to sports, one could see them on the backs of hip-hop groups like Run-DMC and NWA, signifying the garment as one that now belonged to the streets. By then, it was clear that anyone could wear the varsity jacket, regardless of school affiliation or athletic prowess.
  • In 1987, Stüssy, known today as one of streetwear’s legendary labels, produced varsity jackets using old construction methods and traditional materials of wool and leather. The brand released the Homeboy Jacket, which was crafted in the iconic Letterman style with bold colors and street influences. Stüssy continued to produce other versions, including its highest-selling 1989 One Love varsity jacket with its famed Rasta colors, as well as collaborations with brands such as Nike and Bape in the 2010s.

Present Day Letterman

  • Today, the Letterman jacket is no longer just reserved for sports. Academics, music, and the arts are also represented. Letters are regularly handed out at academic and sports banquets to recognize achievement. A quick internet search asking what to do with the letter you earned does not necessarily bring up a jacket, but different ways to display your letter like framing and shadow boxes.


  • Throughout the research locating the key players along with the history of the Letterman jacket there was no information that provided any statistics that might indicate how popular the jacket still is, or how many are even sold. When looking specifically for the popularity of the jacket in college, historical information for Harvard was located, but again no real statistics that showed if the jacket might be experiencing a surge in popularity. The huge popularity and affordability of team jackets, warm-ups, and hoodies at the collegiate and high-school level most likely have cut into the popularity of the Letterman jacket as well.