In December, the Gossip Girl reboot’s resident influencer, Julien Calloway (played by Canadian singer Jordan Alexander), was spotted on set wearing Balenciaga sneakers, cycling shorts, and a monogrammed Louis Vuitton handbag. The look was simple, sporty, and comparable to the sorts of outfits you find in triplicate on TikTok. But Calloway topped off the ensemble with something decidedly new for a Constance Billard uniform: a burgundy-and-gold varsity jacket that signalled an update to Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen’s well-known ‘fits. As with the scandalous original series that ran from 2007 to 2012, set photos from the reboot show that it’s also on the cutting edge of trends. Also called a letterman jacket, varsity jackets are made of wool and leather and traditionally given to high school and college athletes who participate in a varsity sport or organisation. It’s also shaping up to be one of this winter’s top outerwear picks.
Models Bella Hadid and Roxy Horner have worn iterations of the style in recent months. Hadid wore baggy jeans, loafers, and a shrunken Lauryn Hill T-shirt with a gold-and-green coat from Reese Cooper, while Horner chose a black hoodie dress, combat boots, and a newsboy cap to go with her all-black oversized jacket. Hedi Slimane’s SS21 menswear collection for Celine, titled “The Dancing Boy,” also included varsity jackets, along with a handful of other varsity-inspired trends, from baseball caps and high-top sneakers to sweatsuits and track shorts. The TikTok-inspired collection, which was revealed in July on a Formula One track-turned-runway in the South of France, was a hickey and a history book short of an ode to classic high school Americana. And Slimane wasn’t the only designer who sought out inspiration from Friday Night Lights for 2021. A black, logo-covered varsity jacket also appeared in Burberry’s resort 2021 collection that debuted later in the month.
The return of varsity jackets en vogue isn’t solely based on nostalgia — the silhouette has royal ties, too. Ever since Netflix released the fourth season of The Crown, we’ve had Princess Diana on the brain, seeking out the truth behind her sapphire engagement ring, as well as shoppable alternatives to her best fashion moments. A pioneer of the varsity aesthetic for adults, Diana wore her fair share of collegiate crewnecks, baseball caps, and cycling shorts. In 2019, Hailey Bieber recreated many of the late princess’s most famous sportswear looks in a shoot for Vogue Paris. But Diana’s most casual (and coveted) look has yet to make it on the show, nor was it incorporated into Bieber’s shoot. The item? Her green-and-silver Philadelphia Eagles varsity jacket that she debuted in 1991 before recycling it three years later.
According to Marie Claire, Diana’s varsity jacket was a gift from Jack Edelstein, a friend of the late Grace Kelly’s. Edelstein, a former statistician for the Eagles, told the Philadelphia Daily that when he and Diana met at Kelly’s funeral, they got to talking about American football. Diana asked Edelstein about his team’s colours, and when he responded with silver and green, she told him those were her favourites. Upon Edelstein’s return to the States, he had the varsity jacket custom made for her. In 1994, Diana’s letterman jacket made its People Weekly debut, with an image of the smiling ex-royal on the June cover.
Between Celine’s show and Diana’s return to the spotlight following The Crown’s fourth season, nearly all of the pieces were in place for varsity jackets to become the outerwear trend of the season. Getting the approval of the Upper East Side’s most talked about influencer, though, not to mention a Hadid, was simply the final component.
Grab yourself a varsity jackets this season, but remember — unless they’re made with a thick lining and heavy wool or leather — aren’t always the warmest, so be sure to layer with plenty of Uniqlo Heattech (and maybe a retro crewneck, too).