Curious Case of the Letterman Jacket


Graphic Design teacher Brad Cook’s varsity letterman jacket from 1996.

Old customs have given way to new ones, it is evident in all parts of society. With the advancements of technology and change in American culture, schools across the nation have been changed greatly. Whether that is for better or worse will be debated for many years to come. However, I look around today and notice something missing from high school culture that was prominent even through the early 2000’s. This poses the question: what happened to the varsity Letterman jackets?

  My father had one, his father before him had one and I almost guarantee that if a family member of yours participated in athletics back in the day, then they had one too. It was a staple of social class at one point in time. You could easily identify the football team at the local Dea’s diner by  looking for these jackets, for example.

  However, if you look around the halls of this school today, you will not see students wearing them. In fact, the number of students who actually own one is few and far between.

  “In my opinion, they aren’t that popular anymore because they aren’t considered cool,” senior Dominic Martin said. “The fact of the matter is that so many students nowadays have their own agendas and social groups that support for school has faltered a ton.”

 This is an odd trend to see in such a historically athletic town. It is not as if the Letterman jacket has completely vanished from high school athletic culture. While watching shows about high school like “Thirteen Reasons Why” and “Riverdale” on Netflix, viewers will still see characters perceived as “jocks” outfitted with a jacket that represents their high school.

  Varsity letters are still handed out at every end of the year banquet and receiving that letter is definitely still an honor for underclassmen who earn it.

  “When I got here in the fall for freshman year, I really expected to see the stereotypical high school things like letterman jackets,” freshman Fonzy Chavez said. “In fact, I was actually disappointed to find that that tradition wasn’t alive at Gresham.”

  The possible answer to this odd occurrence of missing Letterman jackets may be the dramatic culture change that this town has experienced. Brad Cook, a 1996 Gresham graduate thinks this is the reason for change.

  “If you look at towns in Oregon that have kept their culture, even with the changing of the world around them, certain traditions like the Letterman jacket still live on in places like Roseburg,” Cook said

  Cook believes that students can save this tradition, if they want to.

  “All it takes is for one class in Gresham to buy into the idea of bringing back the Letterman jacket,” Cook said. “and I would really like to see it.”

  In an effort to save the historic tradition that this high school has, there is a rumored resurgence of “The Varsity Club” that could make its appearance next year.   This club is comprised of all varsity athletes at Gresham and strives to create great support system for all athletic teams in the school. Requirements for acceptance into the club are maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA and having a Varsity Letter. All participants in the club would receive special recognition within the club and at graduation as well.