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Love Frank's Long but Cheap Way Around the Varsity Jacket Trend

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You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, sales, television, new shops, the recession, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls and getting blasted for Racked for almost two years. Well, we think it's time you got to know him and his quirky-irreverent views on life and fashion even better with his column: Love, Frank. Taking the form of an open letter and always signed with love, Frank will rant about whatever style-related conundrum he encounters in a given week. So buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, it's going to be ? Something.


Screenshot via WebJacket.com

Dear Jacket Buyers and Raglan-Obsessives,

We have a secret. And it might change your lives.

Some background: Two falls ago—in retail terms that's probably roughly July 2009—everybody was selling some sort of contemporary riff on the raglan-sleeved varsity jacket. There were twill versions and suede versions; feathery-light variations and winter coat variations; some were elongated, some were excruciatingly fitted. But, none of them felt exactly right.

This was due, in part, to the fact that most came in some unwearable non-color variant (bone, stucco, oatmeal, get out of here). But mainly, the fits were off or the fabrics were off or something was off—they just didn't work. And it wasn't just us—as two winters ago (that would be November 2009 in those aforementioned retail terms) all those very same jackets had languished for so long on the racks that they got marked way, way down ? From Steven Alan to Opening Ceremony to Zara to Brooklyn Industries.

Maybe designers are stubborn, maybe buyers won't learn a lesson—but they're back this fall. They're everywhere. And, somehow, they just look righter. Not that they necessarily even need to: This time there are some major cheapos in stores. Nothing like a virtually free disposable rag from H+M to rationalize temporarily tethering yourself to some flash-in-the-pan trend you might not actually be able to commit to.

And that's where our special secret comes into play.

You know how all those sporty high school kids and their perfectly perfect, classic baseball and varsity jackets in the wacky color combinations of their respective schools? Coaches order those from one of a handful of suppliers that custom make the jackets for schools and students around the country. And there's no reason you can't use those same suppliers to nab your very own varsity jacket (without having to try-out for any teams or deal with any hideously rank locker rooms).

Sure, you might not get the quantity discount coaches enjoy. But you won't need to wash any cars or sell any candy either; and these guys go for somewhere in the $100 range—pretty affordable. Maybe not H+M affordable—but going that route runs the constant risk of showing up somewhere in the same jacket as a tween or fry cook or fashionable hobo anyway. In other words, that extra $35 is money well spent.

The main draw, though, are the colors: Oh, man, the colors! Hunter green leather sleeves! A gold wool body! Tricot wrist- and waist-bands in a symphony of prep-colored stripes-on-stripes. You can even get some sort of initial or something patched on if you like that sort of thing.

Worried about sizing? Go with one of the kid sizes, they're even cheaper. On the other end of the spectrum—5XLs are available! That's a lot of raglan!

But take note: This coat is being made for you. It could take five weeks to arrive. So, order soon if you're envisioning a crisp Take Ivy October of turning leaves, brisk weather and burgundy baseball jackets (with bronze snaps!)

· Love, Frank [Racked]