Do Varsity Jackets Stretch or Shrink over Time?

Varsity jackets are really having a moment right now. Every celebrity and influencer is rocking these classic pieces, and the “Americana” nature of the jacket is being utilized by the who’s who of fashion.

Varsity jackets (also called letterman jackets) have been around for a really long time. Take any John Hughes film from the 80s, and you will spot the jock in his trusty old varsity jacket. They are stylish, they are warm, they are comfortable, and if bought vintage, they are also easy on the wallet.

But there’s one problem. With a varsity, you need to make sure that the fit is absolutely on-point.

And especially if you love shopping at thrift stores, it is essential to know how your varsity jacket is going to perform in the future. Is it going to stretch? Is it going to shrink? That’s what we’ll explore in this article.

Do Varsity Jackets Stretch or Shrink?

varsity jacket

Varsity jackets stretch by a very small amount over time. The stretching is usually contained to the leather sleeves, but sometimes the woolen body of the jacket can also stretch depending upon how the sleeves and body have been sewed together. However, varsity jackets do not shrink at all.

A varsity jacket is made up of two materials – leather and wool. Because leather is going to stretch over time, the sleeves of a varsity jacket can also be stretched out. This increase in size of the sleeves also results in the increase of size overall.

The woolen body and the leather sleeves are attached at the armhole, which can often swell up due to the stretching of leather. This stretching of the armhole also stretches the torso region, which leads to a domino effect that increases the size of the varsity.

Thus, because of the innate nature of leather, varsity jackets also stretch over time. However, they do not stretch as much as leather jackets. And thus it is much better to go true-to-size for varsity jackets because it is also going to give you some wiggle room for layering purposes.

Are Varsity Jackets Supposed to be Big?

Varsity jackets are not supposed to be too big, but going for oversized varsity jackets has become acceptable in streetwear fashion.

Originally, letterman jackets were worn by the athletes of a particular school or university. And because athletes like to show off their muscles, the cut of the varsity jacket was kept fairly slim.

However, their revival in streetwear has come with a bunch of new modifications. For instance, many people are now buying their varsity jackets a couple of sizes too big. This fits in with modern streetwear’s affliction towards comfort and loungewear clothing.

But alas, streetwear is not for everyone.

And if you place yourself firmly in the menswear category, then there is no need for you to go for an oversized look.

In essence, varsity jackets are supposed to be big if you are getting them for a streetwear-oriented look. However, traditionally varsity jackets have always fit very close to the body because of their slim and tapered silhouette.

How to Stretch a Varsity Jacket?

The best way to stretch a varsity jacket is to wear it as often as possible. Regular usage will stretch both parts of a traditional varsity jacket – the leather sleeves and the wool body.

Varsity jackets are pretty unique in the way that they utilize two completely different materials – wool and leather. This makes stretching the jacket quite difficult because what might work for leather does not work for wool and what might work for wool does not work for leather.

Therefore, the only solution to this problem is to employ a method that stretches both the wool body and the leather sleeves – regular usage.

As you start wearing your varsity jacket more and more, the fabric will start molding to your body. This will make the jacket stretch out a little bit, which will make for a much better fitting varsity jacket.

How to Shrink a Varsity Jacket?

The best option for shrinking a varsity jacket is to simply take it to a tailor. There are tailors who specialize in leather goods, and they will have no problem reducing the size of your varsity jacket.

I recommend tailoring because it gives you complete control over the proportions of your varsity jacket. You can communicate with your tailor about the exact alterations you want to be made and all this can be done for a pretty cheap rate.

I have covered this topic extensively with expected costs, tips and tricks, and other useful information in a dedicated article about tailoring a varsity jacket. So check this link out if you want some more information.

There is one other way to shrink a varsity jacket, but I recommend that you use it only in the case of emergencies.

For this method, machine wash your jacket in extremely hot water. In all likelihood, your jacket would have shrunk by at least some amount by the end of the wash cycle.

However, because you have zero control over the proportions of your varsity jacket in this method, it is much better to go for tailoring instead.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about stretching and shrinking a varsity jacket:

Can Varsity Jackets Shrink in the Wash?

Varsity jackets can definitely shrink if they are machine-washed using hot water. It is therefore recommended to wash them in cold water by hand.

Can Varsity Jackets Shrink in the Dryer?

Exposure to the high heat of a dryer can lead to the shrinking of a varsity jacket. It is much better to air dry them instead.

How much does a Varsity Jacket Stretch over time?

A varsity jacket stretches for another 2-5% of its original size over the course of time. Usually, the leather sleeves tend to stretch more than the woolen body.

Do you have to Break in a Letterman Jacket?

Like any other leather jacket, breaking in a letterman jacket is absolutely essential for the comfort of the wearer. This process does not take a lot of time, and the jacket starts feeling more comfortable after 2-4 wears only.

Final Remarks

Varsity jackets stretch over time because of the natural properties of their leather sleeves. As a result the woolen body of the jacket also stretches by a small margin. But there is no possibility of a varsity jacket shrinking over time.

There are a few ways to shrink a varsity though, just as there are a few ways to stretch them out. But by far the best way to do either is to just go to a tailor who specializes in suede or leather and ask them to make some alterations to your jacket.