Monday, August 7, 2017


School letter jackets are a lot more complicated than they used to be.

After hemming and hawing about it for the last couple of years, everyone has finally come to agree that Tabitha does in fact want a letter jacket for Local Businessman High School.  She’s earned several letters during her time there, and it would be nice to have a warm jacket to hang them on.  So this afternoon she and I drove up to the shop just north of town where such things are sold and took a look.


The first thing I discovered is that the jackets have become sexually dimorphic – there are now boys’ jackets and girls’ jackets.  They both have the same wool core, but in the male version the sleeves are an off-white leather while in the female version the sleeves are the same color wool as the core.  Also, the female version has a miniature cape in the back, while the male version doesn’t.

Your name gets sewn on both sides – first name on the front, last name on the cape on the back.  No, I don’t know what the guys do.  Maybe they just settle for one name.  Or put both on the front.  In either case, you also get numbers for the right sleeve, up by the shoulder, to indicate your expected year of graduation, so don’t fall behind or you’ll have to revise your jacket.  Or worse, they’ll sell you a little cross-out that you can sew over the old numbers and then you’ll have to buy new numbers to sew underneath so you can advertise your miscalculations.

You know someone has done this.  You know that, right?

They’ll put your letters on for you – a service I appreciate, as my sewing skills can best be described as “drunk spider in a hailstorm” – and since we didn’t actually think to bring her letters with us, we’ll go back tomorrow and finish up the order.

Back in the stone ages, when I was in high school, we didn’t have so many options.

There was one jacket style for everyone, and it didn’t have leather sleeves or capes.  I’d never even heard of such things until I moved to the midwest.  Kim’s high school didn’t have the leather sleeves either, but did have the capes (which, she says, were scalloped in the back because technically they were a zip-up hood except nobody ever actually zipped them up).  She suggested that perhaps we did have two different designs, one of them with the cape, but that I don’t remember this.  I dug out my old yearbook (I’m a historian – of course I know exactly where my old yearbook is, don’t be silly) to check this and discovered that nobody in any of the pictures is wearing a school jacket!  I may have imagined the whole thing!

Except I do have my old one hanging in my closet, which would argue against that thesis.  I unearthed it a couple of years ago when LBHS had a “wear your parent’s jacket to school” day, and Tabitha was the only one there with a jacket from my old high school!  To be honest, she was pretty much the only one there with a jacket that wasn’t from LBHS or the other high school here in Our Little Town.  People tend to stay here, I suppose, and few of us come in.

Our old jackets came with the school name already sewn onto the back in big white block letters making a semicircular arc across your shoulders.  For LBHS, you have to buy the big patch that has the school’s name entire swooping across it in brightly colored chenille, and then they sew it onto the cape.  Again, I don’t know what the guys do.  Maybe they staple it to their foreheads in a display of manly manhood.  I’ve not seen that, but I’ve never seen Dallas either and people tell me it exists so I suppose nothing can be ruled out definitively.

We also had to sew our own letters onto our jackets back in the day, and for some reason I decided not to ask my mom to do that.  I spent several evenings working on those letters.  My high school had a two-word name and therefore had TWO letters – double the sewing fun! – for the varsity letters.  The JV letters were lumped together into one patch, which was not nearly as high status.  In the end I got the letters to look pretty good from the outside, and they never did fall off.  As long as you didn’t look at the inside of the jacket (vide supra, re: spider, intoxicated, foul weather) you’d think it was well done.  And you know, since they’re still on there, I suppose in a way it was.

The other thing that they do here that I don’t remember from my own not-nearly-as-misspent-as-it-should-have-been youth is give out medals.  I think you only get one letter in anything, and if you continue on with it they give you medals.  Big ones, with heavy round metal discs at the bottom to weigh you down and let you know that This Is A Medal And An Accomplishment, which really is kind of nice of them if you think about it.  You pin them to your jacket, preferably on top of the letter they go with but anywhere close will do if you run out of room.  And if you are a multi-sport, multi-activity student who gets good grades (they have academic letters and medals too here), then – logically enough – by the time you graduate you will end up looking like a North Korean general and you will sort of list to port from the weight of all the medals that you pin to the letters on your jacket.

Don’t even think of air travel.  The TSA will just go into conniptions.

So soon Tabitha will have her jacket, and no doubt it will look smart on her.

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