The 50s Called, And They Want Their Fashion Trend Back

A class fashion trend is MIA in our school


Sabrina McGuire

Dylan Coslin ’22 shows off his custom Johnston Letterman jacket. He bought a customized jacket at the beginning of 2019 to wear his academic letter and show school spirit.

Sabrina McGuire, Staff Writer

Every year, the new sophomores with a 3.5 GPA or more are invited to a ceremony where they are awarded an academic J for their academic achievement. Sophomores walk across the stage to receive their letter after listening to various inspirational speeches. To many students and parents, it is a very important moment. But last year, Dylan Coslin ’22, was left questioning what to do with his letter. Academic letters, or even letters received from sports, are normally fastened to a Letterman or Varsity jacket to show off a student’s achievements.

Coslin wondered why he was given a letter, and not a jacket. After all, what do you do with just a letter? “So, my parents are children of the 80s and also from Texas and so there’s this really big deal that they have the Letterman jackets,” he said. “Even my mom still has hers. When I got my academic J, at the beginning of this year, my mom was like, ‘You have to have a jacket to put it on, you can’t just have a letter, right?’”

In fact, if you think about it, Letterman jackets in Johnston seem extinct. Why?

The jackets have been a classic fashion trend and achievement for years. According to History Daily, Letterman jackets were originally created in 1865, and are still popular today in some areas. Harvard University sparked the fashion trend. The school’s baseball team wanted a way to reward the best players for their achievements and to distinguish the best players from the team. What they came up with progressed into what we know today. The Harvard Baseball team were given thick, wool sweaters, with a large “H” over the breast. Coaches referred to the players with these sweaters as “the Lettermen.” Not too long after, in 1875, Harvard’s football team began using the Letterman system. 

Throughout the years, the sweater developed into a Letterman, or Varsity, jacket. In the 1950s, the Letterman progressed from a way to show an athlete’s ability, to a fashion trend. Girls began wearing Letterman sweaters, and boys wore the jacket to show school spirit. The trend also soon became a way to show a couple was together. A boy would give his girlfriend his jacket.

Now, the Letterman jacket is even more than what it started out as. The jacket is now a universal achievement, for more than just athletics. A varsity letter can be won in band, choir, speech, and so much more. 

Introducing the Letterman system to our school would not be such a terrible idea. In fact, Letterman jackets would bring a better sense of school spirit and encourage students to excel at what they are good at.

When science teacher Matt Jaschen was in high school, Letterman jackets and school pride were a common thing. “I was in a lot of different things,” he said. “I was in cross country, track, I did baseball for a couple years, I did speech, choir, swing choir–which is the small school version of show choir, band. So, I got letters in all of those things. And then, it’s like, ‘what do you do with those letters?’ Well, you had these really nice jackets that you could buy.” 

Compared to when Jaschen was in high school, Johnston lacks spirit. “I am always looking for ways to get more school spirit at Johnston,” he said. “I go to our wrestling meets and our basketball games in the wintertime and I’m thinking, man, where are all the students, you know? Growing up in a small town, almost everybody went to events, community and kids.” Introducing the letterman system can rope in more school spirit and pride and connect students much more than they are now. “Here, we don’t really celebrate our successes like I think we should, and I think a letter jacket is another way to just boast pride that you’re a Dragon, that you’ve worked hard to earn something,” Jaschen said.

Because Coslin’s letter came with no jacket, his mom purchased one.

“We ended up customizing it the way I wanted,” he said.

If we were to introduce the idea of Letterman jackets back to the school, students would be able to show their pride for their sport, activities, school and grades. The jacket could be available to purchase just like the other Johnston merchandise, and if a student wishes to buy one, they can put their letter(s) on the jacket.

There are other positives to bringing Letterman jackets back to our school. “Not only is it a great representation of school pride, but, we live in Iowa, it’s cold climate. You can pretty much wear the jacket all the time,” Coslin said. “You’re wearing it inside, you don’t get too hot. But then when you step outside in the cold, it actually keeps you warm at the same time.”

 “Plus, they look really cool and we can’t have Dowling having Varsity jackets and us not having them,” Coslin said.