For many, a varsity jacket is a key symbol of high school and American youth culture. In movies with a high school setting, you will find the main character wearing one. In our school, letters are awarded to varsity athletes, and some choose to proudly display these on their jackets. Varsity letters are embroidered pieces of fabric with stitched details highlighting school colors, and the fabric is cut into the shape of the first letter in the school’s name. In our case, the letter on our jacket is a stylized “W.” The requirements for earning a varsity jacket vary from school to school, but at Washington, participation on a varsity team is a requirement, and for some sports, with larger pools of athletes, there are additional baselines to earn a varsity letter. These baselines include making certain times in sports such as swimming or track. Varsity letters are typically awarded at the end of season banquet celebrating the accomplishments of the season. However, these traditional jackets come at a high cost, ranging from $200 to $800.
Junior Jason Kozak, a four-year varsity volleyball player who is planning on continuing varsity sports at the Division 1 level in college says that “I think getting your varsity jacket is worth it. Even though it’s expensive, it’s super cool to associate with other athletes at school. It’s also great to be able to do something that’s been a part of the high school experience for a really long time.” Usually, these jackets are tailored by shops such as Kim’s Customs in Hayward or Jacket Back in Livermore. Kozak notes that “The customization process is easy. Even though it takes a lot of time to place your order and for it to go through, the end product is really well made.” Senior baseball pitcher Brandon Louie agrees, saying that the sacrifice in terms of price and time upfront outweighs the costs because “You feel a sense of pride about yourself and your school whenever you wear it. You can cherish it for the rest of your life and can look back at it for great memories and your athletic accomplishments.” The varsity jacket is a tangible representation of sporting excellence and can be the payoff for many hard weeks of competition and practice.
On the other hand, senior varsity volleyball player Ryan Wong thinks that “they’re not [worth it] because I only play one sport for Washington. For varsity jackets, you [should have to play] multiple sports [and have the] awards and accomplishments to fill it out.”
Another factor to consider when buying a varsity jacket is the length of time it takes to make these custom jackets: around 8-12 weeks. A downside of this long wait is that seniors may not receive jackets before the season’s end. However, Louie says that waiting for the varsity jacket “builds a lot of anticipation and you’re very anxious to finally wear it and show it off to everyone.” All of these factors contribute to pose the pressing question: in the future, will a varsity jacket represent high school memories or will the cost and wait time prove too much?