Variety is the spice of life and we here are at FashionBeans are always talking about doing something different, being individual and pushing your boundaries.

But far from making an utterly ridiculous change to your current style, it can be as simple as wearing one of your existing items in a completely new way or trying one of the alternatives to your favourite piece of clothing.

In lightweight outerwear, most people will think of leather, denim and Harrington jackets – these three form a cornerstone of the modern man’s wardrobe and will be forever classic and timeless. But what if you want something different?

The varsity jacket has been floating around for a while now but it still hasn’t reached the giddy heights of popularity as those previously mentioned stalwarts. This is a shame. I love varsity jackets and they can be just as versatile and stylish as anything else, you just need to think a bit more about how you wear them.

Of course, you can throw them over anything you would your leather jacket, but with some careful consideration the varsity jacket can help to elevate your look just one step further.

Varsity Jackets: Smartening Them Up

Men's Varsity Jackets - Smart Outfit Inspiration

Look 1: American Prep

The varsity jacket (or Letterman jacket) is one of the quintessential and must have items for anyone looking to create an outfit based on American prep. They form a central part of collegiate inspired dress and, unlike the next two looks, they offer you a great opportunity to work extensively with colour.

Being made in their institutions colours, these jackets were naturally quite bold, which makes them excellent for when you want to make a real statement.

However, it is also worth remembering that many of these original styles were very bulky, you only need to take a trip to your local vintage store to see numerous examples of old jackets that are, quite frankly, massive – and not at all appropriate.

Vintage shops can be an excellent place to pick up unique pieces, particularly for a look such as this, but you have to be careful to pick out only the best examples; some shops will also have newer reproductions of these bolder jackets that will serve our needs better, being less bulky and definitely less smelly.

With colour being the name of the game here, keeping other elements of the outfit simple will give us a great base to work from. A white shirt and a solid pair of loafers are the perfect accompanying anchors.

If you fancy wearing your louder chinos, opt for a darker, more restrained jacket – just switch this around for a statement jacket.

  • Reiss Charge Side Panel Detail Shirt WhiteReiss Charge Side Panel Detail Shirt White
  • Topman Navy Jersey Baseball JacketTopman Navy Jersey Baseball Jacket
  • Asos Skinny ChinoAsos Skinny Chino
  • Asos Suede Tassel Loafers With Leather SoleAsos Suede Tassel Loafers With Leather Sole
Look 2: For the Office

Deciding what to wear to the office can often be much harder than you think; particularly if your place of work has a smart casual or wear whatever the hell you want dress policy. However, if you have managed to strike the right balance and your dress code leans towards the smarter end of the spectrum, you might want to think of taking things one step further – pushing the boundaries just a little to make your excellent sense of style and passion for clothes known to everyone in the office.

If this is the case (or even if it isn’t for that matter), then a varsity jacket is a fantastic addition to your work wardrobe.

I have always found outerwear to be a big sticking point when it comes to what to wear on the way to and from your job, a problem that seems to get exponentially bigger as we enter the warmer months. Winter coats are no longer applicable and in our humid climate, and even macs can be a bit too heavy.

Finding a suitable, lightweight alternative can be a task. The usual suspects – leather, denim or Harrington – are probably slightly too casual (although some timeless leather jackets will work), but varsity jackets, when chosen correctly, can quickly fill this niche.

By opting for a restrained and classic style in a grey or navy, you will gain maximum versatility when it comes to pairing with your existing work wardrobe.

Keep details minimal and stick to slimmer cut designs. If you want something that stands out, why not look for one with a mix of textures – think leather sleeves and cotton/wool body or vice versa – but remember to maintain a contemporary and sharp image with monotone colours.

  • Burberry London Gingham Check Cotton ShirtBurberry London Gingham Check Cotton Shirt
  • Reiss Youngs T Formal Trousers InkReiss Youngs T Formal Trousers Ink
  • Paul Smith Stretch Cotton-twill And Leather Varsity JacketPaul Smith Stretch Cotton-twill And Leather Varsity Jacket
  • Johnny W Cap Ox BarkersJohnny W Cap Ox Barkers
Look 3: Fashion Foot Forward

In a similar way to the previous outfit, this look is about utilising a varsity jacket in a situation where it wouldn’t normally be used. By cranking up the formality of a smart/casual look whilst still using inherently casual items, you can create something exceedingly well styled and very special.

A rollneck under a varsity jacket is not a combination that many people are going to think of, let alone try to pull off, so you will already have an advantage. Again, slim is the name of the game here, we want to pull off an outfit that has flowing lines and a clear tailored edge.

Monotones will work best here; the basic elemental parts will be beautifully clean and simple but the whole produces something fantastically elegant and forward thinking.

Wearing a pair of formal trousers will immediately lift an outfit up a notch or two, and if you have them taken up to just brush the top of the shoes you can maintain the crisp and modern shape we want.

  • Alexander Mcqueen Cashmere Rollneck SweaterAlexander Mcqueen Cashmere Rollneck Sweater
  • Reiss Breaker Baseball Jacket BlackReiss Breaker Baseball Jacket Black
  • Topman Black Skinny TrousersTopman Black Skinny Trousers
  • Reiss Haque Suede Leather Wingtip Brogue GreyReiss Haque Suede Leather Wingtip Brogue Grey
Men’s Varsity Jackets

With a few ideas above to give you inspiration, here is a selection of current varsity jackets styles on the market; note the clear development from the traditional Americana inspired Letterman jackets towards a sleeker, more refined and arguably more European take on such an iconic style. If you are interested in mixing up your textures, you could do a lot worse than investigate Topman’s experimentation with denim:

  • Asos Varsity Jacket In Quilted FabricAsos Varsity Jacket In Quilted Fabric
  • Topman Leather Look Jersey BaseballTopman Leather Look Jersey Baseball
  • Topman Denim Jersey Baseball JacketTopman Denim Jersey Baseball Jacket
  • Original Penguin Retro Varsity Jacket GreyOriginal Penguin Retro Varsity Jacket Grey
  • Topman Denim Stone Baseball JacketTopman Denim Stone Baseball Jacket
  • Chateau Roux Ronnie Scott Black JacketChateau Roux Ronnie Scott Black Jacket
  • Gucci Suede-front Jersey Varsity JacketGucci Suede-front Jersey Varsity Jacket
  • Mcq Alexander Mcqueen Black Denim Sweat Sleeve College BomberMcq Alexander Mcqueen Black Denim Sweat Sleeve College Bomber
  • Private White V.c. Wool-tweed Bomber JacketPrivate White V.c. Wool-tweed Bomber Jacket
  • Paul Smith – Jeans 218m-408 Black JacketPaul Smith - Jeans 218m-408 Black Jacket
  • American Apparel Nylon Taffeta All Star JacketAmerican Apparel Nylon Taffeta All Star Jacket
  • Band Of Outsiders Suede Varsity JacketBand Of Outsiders Suede Varsity Jacket
Final Word

So, now I have covered a couple of outfit concepts, it’s time to see what you guys think. I personally believe the varsity jacket to be a worthy alternative to any of the big three and I would even go as far to say that they add that fashion forward edge that the others just can’t give.

  • Are you a fan of varsity jackets?
  • Do you think they can be an alternative to the big three (denim, leather, Harrington)?
  • Do you think they can work in smarter outfits?
  • Have you been inspired to consider a varsity jacket?

Let me know in the comments below.