In an earlier post I had some examples of felt letters that came off early sweaters or letterman jackets, usually worn by athletes at Oregon State. History has it that letterman sweaters were first worn by the 1865 Harvard basketball team. Typically the stripes indicated the number of years on the varsity team, while a star would indicate the player was a team captain. If you look through archives or yearbook pictures of athletes in the early ears of Oregon State, you can see many different sweaters being worn. However, I’m not sure when the formal “letterman sweater” became the norm at OSU.
The earliest Oregon State sweater I have dates to the late 1930’s. It is heavy wool and the sleeve has an orange stripe but no actual letter. I’m not sure if this sweater ever had a letter, but it doesn’t appear that it did. Made by HL Whiting out of Seattle, here is a picture of the sweater, the tag with the player’s name, and an original advertisement from 1938.
Here are three other letterman sweaters that date from the 1940’s-1960’s which have the letters in addition to the stripe on the sleeve. The third picture with two stripes is actually a child’s letterman sweater, made by Dehen, probably available from the team store back in the day.
Here is an example of a white OSU letterman’s sweater from 1943.
And lastly, we can’t forget the rally squad, who also wore sweaters with letters on them! This picture is the rally squad for the 1942 Rose Bowl bound team with “OSC” across the front. The second sweater with a beaver on the front and “Rally” on the back is circa 1940’s-1950’s.