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What’s the Princess Diana-inspired varsity trend all about?

WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS

The American dream.

You’re not imagining it. Princess Diana’s bike shorts and sweater outfits are all over our Pinterest feeds, sporty chic is infiltrating our lockdown looks and a whole host of American Ivy League sweaters have been spotted in high street stores. 

From our year 12 varsity-inspired leavers jumpers to wearing a Harvard-emblazoned sweater despite never setting foot on an American campus, what’s the deal with our obsession with varsity?


Keep up to date with ethical designers over at our Fashion section. 


The term varsity means the main sports team representing a high school or college and is quintessentially American. If you grew up on US television like Gossip Girl, The O.C and Riverdale it’s probably a familiar motif. 

But for us folks down under, Australia just doesn’t have the same level of college competitiveness that we see on screen. Whole seasons of American shows have been dedicated to which Ivy League school the characters get into (how could we forget Blair Waldorf’s Yale dreams) and repping a sports varsity jacket signifies where you belong. 

While I can’t imagine my Australian uni jumper becoming a trend in the US, we seem to love throwing on an American sweater and pairing it with chunky dad sneakers for weekday errand running. 

 

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To unpack this trend I spoke with Joshua Chait, a womenswear buyer at Superdry Australia/New Zealand. The British-founded company has just released a varsity-inspired collection available for us Southern Hemisphere-goers to rep during winter. 

Featuring oversized hoodies, sports-inspired bomber jackets and vintage Americana style T-shirts, Superdry is another brand that’s jumping on this timeless trend. “I think it’s fair to call varsity a perennial trend at this point,” Joshua tells me over the phone.  

“It’s timeless because it has a lot of nostalgic call-backs for people. Either people lived through a collegiate time or they’re constantly digesting movies and media that have call-backs to college stories.” 

The Superdry campaign looks like it walked off the set of a university drama. With basketballs, arcade games and milkshakes, the brand is definitely emphasising the playful and fun nature of varsity-inspired gear.

“These fits are a bit more oversized and unisex. We wanted to make them comfortable but also that they stand the test of time. The blocks are a little bigger and have the freedom to be styled how the customer wants whether that’s oversized, a little tighter or layering to make it more of a statement piece.” 

 

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Joshua explains that perhaps the reason the varsity trend won’t leave our street style cycles is down to globalisation and the merging of our media. 

“Varsity has a lot to do with the way we absorb social media and TV shows. It’s this idea of globalisation and everyone digesting information in real-time through Instagram. If seasonality wasn’t playing a part with this change in weather patterns between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere I think we’d be wearing the exact same product.” 

You can tell by what’s trending in stores and via the Instagram shopping button that we want what the American influencers and off-duty models are sporting right now. While they may be wearing oversized cotton T-shirts and bike shorts in summer, we’ll rep a Harvard jumper with our long leggings in the middle of winter.

“People are seeing what’s on the street in New York or London or Paris and they want that now,” Joshua says. “Before it was the trends that came through six to nine months afterwards through magazines or TV shows, it wasn’t instantaneous but now it is. I think in Australia we’re finding ourselves having to be more agile and reactive.” 

Agility is another reason this trend has been seen on ’90s icons such as Princess Diana and off-duty models like Hailey Bieber. You can wear it as a trending piece or chuck it on casually to head to the pilates studio.

“Varsity is something people can definitely wear out on the streets if they want to but is also something to be relaxed in and enjoyed with friends. Kind of not too dressed up in a sense,” Joshua says. 

Above all else, the varsity trend is about escapism. As we can’t leave the borders of Australia and spend our days in lockdown bingeing American TV shows (hello new Gossip Girl), buying into this trend means we can feel like the main character (the main character that just got into their dream Ivy League school and who has a crush on the captain of the football team… duh.)

Find the full Superdry collection here.

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