Seen especially on high school campuses across the United States, a letterman jacket is a heavy, winter-style coat that typically is in the school's colors and has a school letter sewn onto the front of it and other decorative trim. At most U.S. high schools, students who participate in varsity sports and certain other school-sponsored extracurricular activities are awarded a letter for successfully completing a season. This large, cloth letter — the first letter of the school's name, or sometimes the first letter of each word in the school's name — is then sewn onto the front left part of the letterman jacket. Students who already have received a cloth letter often receive a much smaller cloth letter or a small, metal pin for each additional letter that is earned, and these can be added to the jacket. Other items the might be sewn onto or attached to the jacket include things such as the student's first name, his or her graduation class year, a school logo, symbols representing the student's activities and representations of other awards earned.
Letterman jackets come in a variety of styles, but they usually have a few things in common. For instance, many of these jackets have leather or imitation leather covering part or all of the sleeves. At the top and bottom of a letterman jacket, and at the ends of the sleeves, there usually are stripes in the school's colors. The jacket also usually has two small pockets on the bottom of the front side. Some letterman jackets have built-in hoods, but most have only small, striped collars.
The name or nickname of the school and the school logo usually appear somewhere on the letterman jacket, such as across the back of the coat. The student's name might be sewn in cloth letters across the back, stitched onto the right front or added elsewhere on the jacket. The student's graduation year — usually represented by the last two numbers of the year — are most commonly added near the top of one sleeve or at the bottom of the front of the jacket, under one of the pockets.
Other decorative or commemorative items are added according to the student's preferences or the school's traditions. For example, certain patches might be sewn onto the sleeves for various reasons. Metals, awards and pins might also be added, usually on the letter or elsewhere on the front of the jacket.
As a Fashion Statement
These jackets are most common at U.S. high schools, but they also can be found outside of the U.S. and at some colleges. There also are letterman-style jackets that do not represent an actual school but are simply a fashion statement. These types of letterman jackets might include the name or letter of a fictional school, the jacket's manufacturer or designer or even another company.