INDIANAPOLIS — Here at the National FFA Center on the
northwest side of Indianapolis, the day-to-day business and life of agriculture
can slip by without notice.
It can be easy to overlook the amount of time that has
passed since a former FFA member wore one of the antique jackets now on display
in the glass case at the entrance of the spacious building.
“The design of the jacket is just so neat, the way they
captured the owl in the FFA logo before the sun has risen,” said DeLoss Jahnke,
an FFA communications specialist, who marveled at the old-school, hand-sewn
design of one particular jacket, situated next to another jacket with a curious
arrow design around the pockets that looked to be of the same era.
Both of them wore an emblem that is gone from today’s
jackets, “Vocational Agriculture,” and replaced with “Agricultural
“Some of the blues may have faded a bit and may look
different from decade to decade, but to think of thousands of these jackets
being worn by students at the convention each year, signifying that they’re part
of something a lot bigger than themselves, is amazing,” Jahnke said.
A former member of the Riley County FFA in Kansas, he helped
organize a fashion review last year to showcase the common thread of the blue
jacket throughout the evolution of the organization and give employees who were
not members of FFA a glimpse into the jacket’s important journey.
“The blue jacket is such a strong part of our history, and
the jacket and emblem are such an important part of our brand,” Jahnke said.
“When you hear people talk about FFA and its members, many
times you’ll hear about the blue jackets. For a lot of former members, the
jacket is a real symbol of pride.”
The jacket on display in the lobby from Fredericktown, Ohio,
has strong historical significance because it was in Fredericktown that the FFA
jacket was born.
In 1933, a man was walking by a hardware store there and
noticed a blue corduroy jacket with a bulldog embroidered on its back in the
window. The owner of the store connected him up with the Universal Uniform Co.
in Van Wert, Ohio, where the jacket was made.
The adviser bought a few of the blue corduroy jackets from
Universal and put his chapter’s name on the back using gold thread. The group
then headed to the 1933 national convention in Kansas City.
The jacket was such a hit that the official delegates at the
convention voted to make it a part of the official attire.
That man was Gus Lintner, the adviser of the Future Farmers
of America, which has changed its name to FFA, but whose national blue and corn
gold symbol remains as bright as ever.
Jahnke said the jacket’s form has changed with the goals of
the FFA, noting that a painting displayed at the National FFA Center depicting
agriculture in the 1950s shows FFA members working in the field in their
Today, the official FFA jacket is fully functional and
designed to be worn for official FFA functions only.
Jahnke said the FFA has made a diligent effort to keep the
jacket as affordable as possible, though funding challenges between chapters
continue. While the jacket of 1933 cost $5.50, today’s jacket costs about
The jacket has changed in several other ways since its
younger days. Vintage jackets had snaps instead of zippers, embroidered emblems
rather than sewn-on patch emblems and square pockets instead of rounded
The fabric is 100-percent cotton, which is shipped as raw
cotton to China for weaving and dyeing and to Vietnam for cutting and sewing, he
The Universal Lettering Co. emerged from the farm debt
crisis of the 1980s following the Van Wert Co.’s struggles, reclaiming lost
clientele and growing into a state-of-the-art production facility that once
again produces the official jackets worn by FFA.