Class rings, letterman jacks and other merchandise find few buyers among seniors

November 15, 2023 — by Annika Gho and Victoria Lin
Courtesy of Jostens
 Jostens’ rings are fully customizable and made from real metals.
The popularity of varsity jackets and graduation packages, which are commonly distributed by Jostens throughout the country, have decreased over the past decade.

The classic varsity letterman jacket in every American high school movie is nowhere to be found at Saratoga High. 

Class rings and letterman jackets, elements that have long been the epitome of American high school culture, seem like the shadows of retro fashion trends that have not translated with the current generation of high school students. 

Jostens is the vendor that handles Saratoga High’s senior package, also known as a Mascot (Falcon) package. The Falcon Package is a bundle which includes several personalized cards and envelopes with the name, two T-shirts, a pull-over hoodie, key ring and mascot tassel.

In a poll about class rings conducted on the Saratoga Falcon’s Instagram account, 3 out of 28 seniors said they would buy the class rings. For some, their reasoning was quite simple.

“Two words,” senior Jarett Singh said. “Too expensive.” 

Other seniors said they preferred cheaper forms of memorabilia. 

“I personally wouldn’t buy them because I have no reason to,” senior Vidhi Patel said. “I don’t need a big ring that says ‘24;’ maybe if they were smaller, I’d reconsider. I definitely think there are better things to remember my class with though, like the tassel.”

The letterman jackets start at $170, while the class rings begin at around $360 and can cost thousands for rings made with precious metals like gold. While these prices were shockingly high for some, Jostens representative Eric Persson said it’s integral for their high-quality, lifetime warranty products. Their rings contain real white and yellow gold, ranging from 10k to 18k

Jostens has designed several types of rings and jackets for customers to choose from and each year it sends out design groups across the country to meet with incoming seniors to ask their opinions on ring designs. In addition, all of the rings are fully customizable.

“Every student is different, so we give all students a lot of designs to choose from. Then, we can design their ring to tell their story of their high school years,” Persson said. “Jackets are more of a branding of the school and therefore don’t change much from year to year. Similarly, the tassel colors only change when the school colors change [because of branding].”

Currently, they also offer gowns and school packages at Saratoga High School and in 45 high schools around the Bay Area. According to Persson, around 28.7% of students in the region ordered the $291 Mascot (Falcon) Package. However, a Falcon Instagram poll found that only 2 out of 23 students said they were planning to buy the package. 

From the poll results, it seems that the Jostens package is not selling well at Saratoga High. 

“If my friends were buying them, I probably would,” senior Diego Rocabado said. “It seems more like a college or ‘80s thing, not really common in high school now. They look okay, but I think there could be better ways to symbolize a class such as a tassel.”

Statistics from previous years show that class rings and letterman jackets used to be popular. According to activities secretary Anna Ybarra, the sales of class rings have only decreased in the past 15 years.

“I can probably count the number of class rings that have been sold while I’ve been here on one hand,” she said.

English teacher Erick Rector said varsity jackets used to be super popular back when he attended Saratoga High school from 1996-2000.
“They looked really cool, and I know a majority of varsity athletes had them,” he said. “But I personally didn’t want to spend $185 at the time.”

According to a Cornell blog, the reason for the declining popularity of high school memorabilia may be attributed to several factors. Class rings simply aren’t fashionable anymore. Several decades ago, high school may have been the highest level of education for some, meaning graduating was a huge milestone to be celebrated with your friends. Now, with a camera readily available and the power of social media, people can connect and reminisce anytime, even long after they graduate.
Additionally, with the pandemic, Jostens said it caused their sales to decline. The level of sales is more consistent now, but definitely not the same as it was back in pre-pandemic days.

Persson further explains that Saratoga High’s purchasing habits are similar to schools in the Fremont Union High School District and Palo Alto such as Fremont, Lynbrook, Cupertino, Monta Vista, Homestead, Los Altos and Mountain View High School. 

While these are all public schools, Persson said that some schools — mostly private schools such as Valley Christian, Saint Francis, Presentation, Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo and Junipero Serra High School — have different spending habits. For example, the school may provide a free cap and gown for each senior.  Furthermore, their class rings sales are also higher, as they may have a history of stronger school pride. Junipero Serra High School has  significantly higher sales of class rings, compared to the neighboring schools in the Bay, most likely because Tom Brady went to that school. 

“I was planning on buying [the Falcon package], but after doing more research into the pricing, let’s just say I’m now undecided,” senior Ethan Canahuati said. “They look cool and my parents had high school rings, so I think it’s just something cool to remember your high school memories with, but I’m just not sure if it’s worth the price.”

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