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The varsity jacket trend and the return of American aesthetics

The symbol of the archival fashion trend

The varsity jacket trend and the return of American aesthetics The symbol of the archival fashion trend
@shezimanezi
@shezimanezi
@laurentbentil
Y/Project FW21
Saint Laurent FW13
Raf Simons FW02
Number (N)ine FW08
Louis Vuitton FW21
Celine FW21
Tommy Hilfiger SS18
Ghali x Benetton
@shezimanezi
Boss x Russell Athletic

During this Milan Fashion Week, one item in particular has become recurrent both in the presentations of the brands and on the street, worn by fashion insiders who have invaded the city these days: it is the varsity jacket - an item that, while enjoying uninterrupted popularity from the 50s to today, this year has become a go-to of the season after appearing,  at the beginning of last year, in numerous different collections, and especially in the Louis Vuitton FW21. You want a little for its nostalgic American college aura, you want a little for the cult of vintage and archival clothes, the varsity jacket appeared this year on the catwalk of the Boss x Russell Athletic show on a baseball field, as a flagship product of the Ghali x Benetton collection and also worn by members of the fashion show audience,  captured in our reportages in Milan, London and Paris.

@shezimanezi
@shezimanezi
@shezimanezi
@laurentbentil

The frequency with which varsity has reappeared over the last few months is the spy of the revival of American aesthetics and imagination - that is, those of a country that perhaps more than any other in the West has had to rethink and seriously compare its identity. A process that, as Federica Salto explained on the pages of Rivista Studio, led to a New York Fashion Week and a Met Gala in which novelty but above all innovativeness have become the new paradigm with new types of creators, new types of marketing, new types of audience and, above all, a concentration so strong on the new generations as to make us suspect the existence of a profound need for renewal of the identity of society and of the American fashion.

The origins of the varsity jacket trend

As we said above, the popularity of varsity has been going on for decades – one could almost say that it is the piece was born to become vintage thanks to the inherent robustness of its wool and leather construction. Outside of its preppy origins, the popularity of the model began in the 60s and 70s with skinheads and scooterboys popularising the flight jackets found in the military surpluses of the time. Later, with the beginning of the 80s and the popularity of teen movies, the baseball jacket of American high schools, symbol of athletes and quarterbacks, becomes the most popular model. In all its forms, varsity indicates belonging – which is why Shawn Stussy chose it in 1987 for his jackets dedicated to the International Stussy Tribe, making it actually enter the vocabulary of streetwear.  

From there the jacket entered the vocabulary of the hip-hop artists of the early 2000s who wore it as a symbol of that sportswear aesthetic that a brand like Tommy Hilfiger had made extremely popular already ten years earlier. In all cases, the jacket could be personalized, embroidered, decorated with chenille letters and symbols – but above all it had become the symbol par excellence of the dreamy imaginary of American High School that entire generations of young people around the world followed in hundreds of films and TV series. On the basis of Stussy, Nigo and that aspirational wave of preppy style that overwhelmed the hip-hop world starting from big fashion since the release of Kanye West's The College Dropout in 2004, the varsity became the most luxurious garment of the streetwear repertoire of the time, and crashed into the language of fashion with Saint Laurent's FW13 when Hedi Slimane sent his famous Teddy Jacket on the catwalk inspired by the aesthetics of the subcultures of Saint Laurent Los Angeles of the time. 

Today's vintage mania

Boss x Russell Athletic
Ghali x Benetton
Raf Simons FW02
Number (N)ine FW08
Y/Project FW21
Saint Laurent FW13
Tommy Hilfiger SS18
Louis Vuitton FW21
Celine FW21

Today, the passion for archival fashion that has made millions of fashion enthusiasts rediscover Raf Simons' bomber jackets for collections like Riot! Riot! Riot! and Virginia Creeper as well as the passion for vintage fueled both by the need for more sustainable consumption and by the growing search for realness in fashion (ie a style that does not necessarily depend on hype) has led to the return in vogue of style, its graphics and its maximalist and imaginative lettering. A comeback that was also supported by the flowering of numerous Instagram pages and digital shops / showrooms dedicated to the recovery of vintage and archival garments such as @silverleague, @unsdoundrags and @middleman.store or, in Italy, @archiviofuorviante and @cocci.it who have created around varsity, as well as around western boots, workwear suits and Letterman sweatshirts, an entire culture of study and deepening but,  above all, of worship.