All the racket about the jacket

“It looks so ugly…on one side it looks really plain and the other side looks really full,” junior Laura Vu said.

It is bulky, heavy, and hot—so since “we’re in Texas, it’s hot as it is…I’m probably never going to wear it outside of school,” senior Andres Valencia said.

And yet, there are still students like Edgar Contreras who knew in freshman year that he wanted a letterman jacket. The junior said he was inspired after “seeing seniors walk around in lettermans, seeing how proudly they wore it.”

On May 2, the latest crop of lettermen-to-be were measured for their letterman jackets. Every year, students who have accumulated enough points undergo this rite of passage, donning sample jackets and ordering personalization packages. They will receive their lettermans in the fall of the following school year.

Although organizations set their own point requirements for jackets, the process in any area is an arduous one, involving winning awards, heavy participation, and hours of hard work. A letterman signifies contribution, excellence and status.

The school district pays the basic costs of a fine arts jacket, with just the letter in the front. Students must pay to personalize it with patches and their names on the back, with personalize packages ranging from $99 to $299.  

Contreras went for the highest-priced package, because for him, the letterman represents years of hard work.

“I had to make Region two years in a row,” he said. “[So] I wanted to go all-out and get the full package. Getting a lower one really didn’t make sense to me especially since I had done so much to get it. It represents everything I worked for in the last few years of Band.”

Contreras also values the jacket because of its history.

“It’s much like a sports team—they have their old uniforms from the ’70s and ’80s,” he said. “Once in a while they bring them back to honor the history of the team.”

For junior Marie Gonzales, who earned her letterman after her freshman year, the jacket represents not years of hard work, but a turning point.

“I was really surprised that I got it so early,” she said. “It made me strive to participate in art more. Instead of focusing on trying to win in art competitions, the letterman made me value just experiencing the competition.”

Gonzales opted for the lowest-priced package ($99) and practical value.

“I don’t need that many patches,” she said. She plans on wearing the jacket for the next several years, even through college.“I paid for it, I spent money on it, so I will wear it. If I wasn’t gonna wear it in college then I wouldn’t have bought it.’”

Contreras, on the other hand, sees sentimental value as reason enough.

“You don’t necessarily have to wear it. But at least keep it so you can show your kids.”