Sacred Heart varsity jacket investigation


The Varsity volleyball team at Yokota for Far East, proudly wearing their varsity jackets.

Mia K (10) and Megu J (11)

The Sacred Heart varsity jacket, a symbol of athletic and Fine Arts excellence, is a much desired item students strive to earn during high school. But unlike American high schools, where originally the jacket was earned by playing baseball, at Sacred Heart it is associated with attaining a certain level in a variety of different sports and activities. Students can earn the jacket by playing in a varsity level sports team or by accumulating enough points through participating in Fine Arts events such as Vocal Ensemble, and Honor Orchestra to name a few. During the colder weather months the jackets are a familiar sight around the school.

But do the students know much about these jackets? Do they know where the jackets come from or how this tradition began at Sacred Heart?

According to past school yearbooks and information from the alumnae, varsity jackets were first introduced to Sacred Heart in 1979. The color was green with yellow detailing based on the school colors at that time. On the ten-year mark of Sacred Heart’s varsity jackets, the school colors were changed to blue and white and a new jacket design was introduced, featuring a solid navy body with white stripes around the shoulder, collar, and sleeves. The addition of this design created a two-generation year of jackets, when some students wore the green and yellow model and others wore the new blue and white style. Surprisingly, the new design lasted only one year. In 1990 the design was changed again to white leather sleeves and a navy blue body (similar to our current design) creating a year when three generations of jackets were worn. The new design endured for 24 years until 2014.

The two-year generation of jackets. Some are wearing the green and yellow model, and others are wearing the blue and white model.
The two-generation year of jackets. Some are wearing the green and yellow model, and others are wearing the blue and white model.
The two-generation year of jackets. Some are wearing the green and yellow model, and others are wearing the blue and white model.

Unfortunately the school was no longer able to acquire jackets from the original company, HEROX by Chuo Sportwear, because the company went out of business. However, this did not stop the school from continuing the varsity jacket tradition. The P.E. department contacted Rach Inc. (pronounced rock), a company the school previously used for other sportswear. Rach agreed to supply the school with varsity jackets similar to the previous design, but with a few differences. The material of the jacket changed with the sleeves switching to a sturdier cream-colored leather and the font of the embroidered name became a cursive font in place of  block letters. If this is to be considered a new design of a jacket, then the current varsity jackets are the fourth generation in Sacred Heart varsity jacket history.

Production of the varsity jackets is quite an extensive journey. Rach Inc. is a marketing distribution company that works with many Kanto Plain international schools for sports uniforms, and recently, varsity jackets. Other companies produce the products for Rach who then sells and distributes them. The journey first begins with the purchase orders sent to the head office in Blaine, Washington, USA. The orders are then sent to the Holloway Mexican facility where the jackets are made. The label on each varsity jackets say “Holloway”, noting the location where it was made. The jackets are then sent to the embellishment center in Sidney, Ohio, USA. This is where the personalizing of each jacket happens. The Sacred Heart chenilles prepared by Rach are sewn on to the jacket, and the names of the students are embroidered on as well. Finally, the finished products are sent to the Rach office in Japan for a quality inspection. After thorough inspection, the jackets are delivered to Sacred Heart. The production of Sacred Heart varsity jackets (currently 35,000 yen) involves three countries and two states before they are proudly worn by students.

Regardless of the changes in designs over the past 30 plus years, the feeling towards varsity jackets has never changed. Students from 1979 to 2016 all admire the concept of having a jacket, and aspire to earn it one day. Some students and alumnae who own varsity jackets were asked which version of jacket they liked the best. The majority answered that they liked the design of their own jacket. Perhaps it’s more about the idea of earning the jacket, rather than the color or design. That is why most student like their own jacket the best, because it is a symbol of their own success.

St. Mary's and Sacred Heart students wearing their varsity jackets.
St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart students wearing their varsity jackets.