Top Of The Class

The bomber has been, without a doubt, THE jacket silhouette of recent seasons. However, the term ‘bomber’ is confusing, with the word now used by the industry to classify a wide range of cropped jackets that feature elasticated hems and cuffs.

This generalisation doesn’t do the silhouette justice, as each style of bomber – from Harrington to flight jacket – has a unique heritage and is associated with a distinct aesthetic. So when looking to differentiate between the wide variety of bomber jackets on the current market, as is often the case, the details provide the difference.

Today we focus on the classic varsity jacket, the sportiest of all bomber styles. Born out of the American school system, it graduated with full fashion honours and has gone on to cement its place within the wardrobes of style-conscious gents worldwide.

And with vintage Americana and sports luxe trending yet again for SS14, it’s time this iconic preppy staple takes its rightful place in the spotlight…

The 2014 Varsity Jacket

Traditionally, the varsity jacket (also known as a baseball or letterman jacket) features a boiled wool torso, button/popper fastening, ribbed cuffs and waistband, contrast leather sleeves and a boxy fit – yet the modern industry definition isn’t so rigid.

Contemporary versions are now crafted in a wide variety of materials, which range from cotton and nylon to suede, feature zip-up fastening systems and are cut slimmer through the body. And it’s not only the core construction that has been altered, with many current iterations choosing to eschew bold preppy colour combinations and chest detailing/patches in favour of an altogether more refined and minimal aesthetic.

However, although the style has evolved almost unrecognisably since returning to prominence back in 2010, this new approach by designers will be welcomed by men that maintain a versatile capsule wardrobe. Pick one in a classic neutral hue and it can be dressed up or down effortlessly, ensuring it will slot seamlessly into your personal style.

That’s not to say you should dismiss old school letterman jackets all together. While wool is not a practical choice for spring/summer, a slim-cut, two-tone version in lighter cotton, silk or a technical fabric would make a great statement addition to your casual collection. Ultimately, you’ll be sacrificing versatility but it will definitely make your off-duty looks stand out from the crowd.

In terms of detailing, cotton or even denim styles with leather sleeves offer a luxe take on the trend while traditional collegiate badges/patches give the piece a sense of authenticity – perfect for crafting preppy or Ivy League-inspired looks. If you opt for a more minimal take, look for tipped cuffs and waistbands as they add a subtle point of interest to an understated design.

Ways To Wear: Sports Luxe

Ever since the London Olympics, the distance between the runway and running track has become smaller. The continued rise of sports luxe aesthetics means that sportswear is no longer considered a dirty word in the world of menswear.

These days, contemporary fashion’s idea of sportswear centres on sport-influenced cuts, silhouettes and fabrics, as well as its heritage and an overall minimalist/clean aesthetic. It isn’t slovenly or sloppy and it is possible to craft smart, sharp looks that don’t sacrifice on style or comfort.

The varsity, in whatever form, instantly gives a sporty spin to your attire – it’s in its blood. To what degree depends on the jacket. Taking the lead from tradition, choosing a style with tipped elasticated cuffs and hems or constructed in a technical fabric immediately helps bridge the gap between bomber and sportswear.

In terms of styling, if you prefer smart and refined then look to the gentlemanly side of the sporting divide and team your clean-cut varsity jacket with cricket whites and preppy polo tailoring. American institutions such as Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Bastian and, of course, Ralph Lauren nail this kind of aesthetic every season, providing the perfect line of inspiration.

To get the look yourself, combine a varsity jacket with a pastel polo, sharply cut shorts and boat shoes for a luxe take on collegiate style that certainly wouldn’t be found loitering outside the likes of JD or Sports Direct.

Alternatively, if your style is more casual or you simply want to take a more relaxed approach to the trend, why not team your varsity with other sports-inspired pieces? Tailored sweatpants are making huge waves this season, after being spotted on the SS14 runways, making them the ideal partner to a minimal varsity design. Keep the cut slim throughout and team with high quality suede trainers for the perfect balance of high fashion and function.

On the other hand, a slim-fit indigo jeans, sweatshirt and loafer combination will never fail you.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Varsity/Baseball Jacket Outfit Inspiration - Sports Luxe-Inspired Lookbook

reiss 2012j crew ss14burton ss14h&m aw12asos aw13sandro ss13reiss ss14allsaints ss14office shoes ss14pull & bear aw13apc ss14topman ss12
Ways To Wear: Americana

The very term varsity immediately conjures thoughts and images of America. Much like sports luxe, the fashion industry is currently enamoured with vintage Americana aesthetics, with 1940s/1950s influences particularly prominent for spring/summer 2014.

From preppy and all-American to beatnik and rockabilly, the varsity jacket is engrained into the very fabric of Americana style. Give in to the silhouette’s roots and slot one into an Ivy League-inspired look. Smarten up your jacket with an Oxford shirt, knitted tie, chinos and penny loafers for a distinctly American ensemble that will look as good today as it does in fifty years’ time.

If you want to give this timeless outfit a contemporary update, switch your khaki chinos for a pair of slim-fitting coloured/patterned trousers – helping introduce a trend-led element while still remaining inherently close to the preppy archetype.

Alternatively, swing to the other side of the Americana spectrum by channelling an effortlessly cool rockabilly vibe. This is where leather and satin takes on the varsity jacket really come into their own – pair with dark selvedge denim, a classic white tee, braces and leather loafers, then finish with a modern pompadour.

Alex Turner is a great source of inspiration for those looking to take this rock ‘n’ roll-inspired aesthetic on. His recent rockabilly exploits have earned him a spot on many best dressed lists, including our own.

Overall, the varsity jacket is to the Americana aesthetic what the tweed blazer is to British style: a hallmark, staple and essential. You would be short of a key component of the look if you left it on the rack.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Varsity/Baseball Jacket Outfit Inspiration - Americana-Inspired Lookbook

pull & bear ss13j crew ss14he by mango ss14ymc ss13zara 2011tommy hilfiger aw13gant rugger ss14ti for men ss14balmainmango aw11pull & bear aw13primark aw13
Key Styles
  • Dickies Utah Baseball JacketDickies Utah Baseball Jacket
  • Voi Jeans Jacket BaseballVoi Jeans Jacket Baseball
  • American Apparel Heavy Terry Club JacketAmerican Apparel Heavy Terry Club Jacket
  • Vans Percy Varsity JacketVans Percy Varsity Jacket
  • Topman Bellfield Mulholland Bomber Jacket Topman Bellfield Mulholland Bomber Jacket
  • Sunspel Mens Navy Blue Loopback Varsity JacketSunspel Mens Navy Blue Loopback Varsity Jacket
  • River Island White Textured Contrast Sleeve Bomber JacketRiver Island White Textured Contrast Sleeve Bomber Jacket
  • J.crew Contrast-sleeve Jersey Baseball JacketJ.crew Contrast-sleeve Jersey Baseball Jacket
  • Reiss Trill Suede Bomber Jacket StoneReiss Trill Suede Bomber Jacket Stone
  • New Look Navy Collegiate Contrast Sleeve Bomber JacketNew Look Navy Collegiate Contrast Sleeve Bomber Jacket
  • Gant Rugger Chambray Varsity JacketGant Rugger Chambray Varsity Jacket
  • Hentsch Man Woven-cotton Bomber JacketHentsch Man Woven-cotton Bomber Jacket
  • Next Green Ecru Baseball JacketNext Green Ecru Baseball Jacket
  • He By Mango Contrast Sleeve Bomber JacketHe By Mango Contrast Sleeve Bomber Jacket
  • Franklin & Marshall Varsity Baseball Jacket NavyFranklin & Marshall Varsity Baseball Jacket Navy
Final Word

Already well-established in menswear, the varsity jacket isn’t a left field choice but it’s set to capitalise on the popularity of both the bomber jacket and Americana influences this season.

The rise of sports luxe and modern reworks of the silhouette ensure there is now a style for every discerning gent, while the design’s simplicity and versatility ensures it can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion.

But what do you think: will you be adding a varsity jacket to your outerwear collection this season? Or does its strong American/sportswear ties mean it has been pigeonholed to these aesthetics only?

Let us know in the comments section…