You are on page 1of 14

20

The Journal of American Culture  Volume 31, Number 1  March 2008

Winner of the Best Graduate Student Paper Award at the 2007 American Culture Association Conference

Caps, Canes, and Coonskins: Princeton and the Evolution of Collegiate Clothing, 1900–1930
Deirdre Clemente
The study of fashion is proving to be far less capricious than it was considered two decades ago; the subject has received attention from scholars ranging from anthropologists (e.g., Tranberg Hansen; Eicher) to sociologists (e.g., Davis; Crane) to scholars of material culture (e.g., Barnard; Steele). However, it is the visual manifestations of fashion that have most often caught the eye of scholars; fashion photographs, designer’s illustrations, magazine layouts, and the garments themselves document the dramatic shift in the American wardrobe over the course of the twentieth century. While the evolution of the era’s aesthetic is well-studied, questions remain as to how specific trends evolved and came to national prominence. There has been limited inquiry into the social, cultural, and economic forces that bring fashion trends to life and inexorably lead to their demise.1 This is a case study of the clothing worn by students at Princeton University between 1900 and 1925. It aims to demonstrate how the University’s homogenous student body actively crafted a clothing style to fit their leisure-focused lifestyle. Long before sportswear was acceptable street attire, Princeton men wore it on a daily basis to socialize and to study. Clothing carried much currency on the Princeton campus and one’s tie, hat, or lapel decoration told of his social standing. Yet not everyone enjoyed the privilege of participating in the campus’s fashion system. Freshmen were forced by convention—and roving bands of sophomores—to wear a specified uniform, consisting of a black sweater, corduroy pants, and black shoes. This well adhered to ‘‘pecking order’’ actively controlled the clothing of all students. Each class was allowed more and more freedom, and, by the spring of their senior year, students earned the right to wear the coveted beer suit—a white canvas suit perfect for protecting Brooks Brothers jackets from leaky keg taps. Both gender and class provide analytical frameworks for this study. The sportswear worn on the campus year-round signaled a dramatic shift in menswear styles and in notions of manhood. The article explores how the University’s elitist and self-regulating student culture played a

Deirdre Clemente is a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, where she studies the interface between clothing and social and cultural change.
The Journal of American Culture, 31:1 r2008, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation r2008, Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

in the words of an editor of the Princeton yearbook Bric-A-Brac in 1958. were worn around the clock and across the seasons. Axtell pays much attention to the extracurricular activities and socializing that were at the very heart of the Princeton experience. ‘‘a pastoral paradise among the Jersey . fashions associated with elite sports. as they often focus on changes in university policy. More significantly. and sportswear marks their main contribu- tion. leisure focused and casually. as it connoted belonging and honors earned. club-associated regalia took on increased meaning. Regulating what freshman could and could not wear was part of the initiation into a campus culture that stressed the importance of clothing. especially for the period between the Civil War and World War One’’ (1). Unapologetically homogenous. Princeton was a rich boy’s university. He wrote of the era. in the period studied. Historian Bruce Leslie acknowledged. The dominance of leisure clothing illustrates the interface between class and gender. this study considers the elite nature of the Princeton student body and the role private high schools and selective eating clubs played in keeping it so. The relaxing of freshman regulations in the late 1910s resulted in a flurry of protest by students who considered the following of such rules to be part of the freshman experience and their indoctrination as Princeton men. yet carefully dressed. The seemingly frivolous aspects of fashion trends take on much meaning when considered in the context that created them. Varsity sweaters and sports team blazers spoke of an involvement with sports. It was. The emergence of Princeton as a progenitor of men’s fashion is but one example of how the study of clothing can add texture and tangibility to American history. The cultural significance of these rituals was seen when their usefulness was called into question by the students themselves. surrounded only by acres of farmland. ‘‘Undergraduates tolerated their formal studies only to gain access to four pleasurable years of college life’’ (239). Fashion flourished in this well funded and fertile ground. the development of a standard curriculum. When considered in tandem. ‘‘The social role of the American college has received relatively little attention from historians. One exception is found in James Axtell’s The Making of Princeton University: From Woodrow Wilson to the Present. and Coonskins  Deirdre Clemente 21 pivotal role in redefining the American man as youthful. ‘‘Brilliant Adventurers and WellDressed Philanderers’’: The Role of Student Culture in De¢ning FashionTrends Historians have underplayed the social aspects of college campuses. The elite were still fundamental in defining fashion. The golf knickers and oxfords so commonly associated with the era were popularized on the Ivy League campus in the first quarter of the twentieth century. this study illustrates that clothing is a powerful lens for examining social and cultural change. Canes. and the diversification of the student body.Caps. Princeton men implemented casual attire such as knickers and oxfords into their wardrobes on a year-round basis. Class is central to understanding how students were able to indoctrinate and monitor newcomers. more than eighty percent of its students came from private high schools. as it was isolated. First. The focus here is twofold. Princeton men were avid sportsmen who took to the links and courts with fervor—and they dressed the part. these two aspects of Princeton’s student culture tell us much about the social and cultural history behind the menswear trends to emerge from the college campus during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Princeton men were able to define fashion trends because they were rich and young—an ideal combination. In this ‘‘birds of a feather’’ environment. such as golf and tennis. a harbinger of the casualization of menswear. The second aim is to understand how the University’s elaborate social hierarchy served as a means of turning a Princeton boy into a Princeton man.2 The location of Princeton University itself fostered an environment ripe for an active campus culture.

such social control was essential to student self-regulation. ‘‘How the Rich Students at Princeton Enjoy Life’’ noted. ‘‘The musical clubs practice for three months in order to make a few appearances in starched shirts and to ‘advertise’ the University’’ (371). Fitzgerald wrote of Amory: Several times he could have sworn that men turned to look at him critically. 1883 and entitled. the honor code was still intact and holding sway. Scott Fitzgerald. An air of organization prevailed. open lawns. The layout of the campus also contributed to the insular nature of Princeton. as it was readily visible to the judging eyes of those students higher up in the pecking order. ‘‘A student caught by his fellows cheating at examinations loses his social status. Many young men stayed in the same dormitory for all four years. one hallmark of the University was self-regulation by the students. Princeton students ran most extracurricular events with little to no input from University administrators who took a decidedly ‘‘hands off’’ policy to monitoring campus culture. Such was also the case with Princeton. felt watched from the moment he stepped on the Princeton campus. and they are unreflectively accepted and obeyed. He wondered . fourteen-carat spree the boys jump over to New York of Philadelphia’’ (1). clothing took on a heightened meaning. The Princeton Alumni Weekly wrote on March 12. This is control by indoctrination’’ (Cowley and Waller 136). Cars were allowed on campus until 1927 and trains provided easy access to the outside world. a wide range of student activities was available in the form of dances. Number 1  March 2008 swamps’’ (225). sporting events. Large walls and iron gates cut the campus off from the comings and goings of its main thoroughfare. and the campus itself became a place where Princeton men were made. The authors wrote. One early account published in the New York World on October 21. written by Class of 1917 alumnus F. A sociological study of student life on American college campuses used the Princeton honor code as an example of how enduring such self-regulation could be. edited. Scribner’s Magazine published an article on student life at Princeton and wrote of its honor code. cheating was one exception and students viewed it with disdain. Nassau Street. Its aesthetic was heralded as the archetype for other campuses to follow. complete with towering spires and crouching gargoyles. is disgraced. and sometimes printed by students. ‘‘When they want a fine. as its many steps. ‘‘One student generation transmits (such codes) to the next. The article continued. Deslandes wrote that ‘‘manhood was acquired in this setting not only on the playing fields and in college rooms but also in Oxford and Cambridge thoroughfares and alleyways’’ (85). Gothic-inspired buildings. In an atmosphere marked by an unwavering nonchalance to all-things-academic. While the vast majority of students’ time was spent on campus. ‘‘Indoctrination is supplemented by other variety of regulation: informal gossip. many upperclassmen did venture off campus on the weekends. such as the famed Renwick’s. In such an environment. During the period studied. 1904. These groups became ambassadors of the Princeton style. Amory Blaine. In his study of masculinity on the Oxford and Cambridge campuses between 1850 and 1920. Students planned team sports and associated trips. Amid constant scrutiny.22 The Journal of American Culture  Volume 31. and club activities. In this secluded world students became their own judge and jury. lined long quadrangles. Student publications were written. has to retire from the University’’ (673). Decades later. and. upperclassmen were determined to bring newcomers into the fold via harassment for actions or attire deemed inappropriate. and campus hangouts were the perfect locale for watching other students. Musical and theater groups such as the Glee Club and The Triangle Club orchestrated their own touring schedules. historian Paul R. Indeed. the main character of the novel This Side of Paradise (1920). initiation practices and other mores of assimilation’’ (136). leaving campus only to eat at a private eating club or one of the town’s many student-focused sandwich shops. During the period studied. The most telling example of this self-regulation was in the adherence to and respect of the insti- tution’s honor code. In June 1897. as a matter of fact.

Social scientists have long recognized the interaction between fashion and social stratification. and barrel. Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) was a particularly pertinent study of how and why the upper class used fashion to display their wealth. With time. Princeton students were conscious of their status as fashion trendsetters. . In an era when the issue of higher education was center stage in national discourse. Jesse Lynch Williams touted the University as a place where fashion mattered. including the yellow slickers worn by upperclassmen. we’ve stamped you. Writer Upton Sinclair. To Veblen. Jacobson & Sons of New York city featured in The National Clothing Retailer on July 7. and Coonskins  Deirdre Clemente 23 vaguely if there was something the matter with his clothes and wished he had shaved that morning on the train. or topcoats were called ‘‘The Princetonian’’ to invoke the University’s cultural cache. and Princeton wrote.Caps. stock. the desire to prove one’s economic status drove the individual’s ‘‘need of conforming to .’’ To Veblen. He felt unnecessarily stiff and awkward among these whiteflannelled. Canes. Axtell wrote that students ‘‘tried to fashion a recognizable ‘Princeton style. Of the Ivy League universities. hats. Through the desire to display wealth and the desire to conform to others of the same caste.6 While few modern-day fashion theorists take Veblen’s theories lock. ‘‘You can’t Tom. judging by the savoir faire with which they strolled. (the) unconquered citadel of the elite’’ (Schreiner 8). the accredited standard of taste’’ (168). In this interactive environment. and Ladies Home Journal. Amory would become the watcher. Tom declared. Many models of shoes.4 Popular novels such as Fitzgerald’s and the earlier Princeton Stories (1899) by alumnus and founder of the Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW).’’ Amory quickly replied. Wherever you go now you will always unconsciously apply these standards of ‘having it’ or ‘lacking it. Aside from an atmosphere where men were perpetually watched and judged by their peers. . The Saturday Evening Post. Princeton remained the closest thing to a WASP preserve’’ (Karabel 71). An advertisement for F. ‘‘Yale. You’re a Princeton type’’ (Fitzgerald 94). Manufacturers of menswear used the image of the University to convince buyers that a garment was in vogue. 1926. fashion was used to illustrate that one is a member of the privileged class and clothing took on an increased meaning in settings where one has constant interactions with others of the same class. Of the profiles of campus life that ran in publications such as The Smart Set. feigned apathy to fashion was the sign of a masculine man. not the watched.5 It was also considered the most homogeneous. ´ which as near as he could analyze was the prevalent facial expression’’ (Fitzgerald 44). Harvard and other leading colleges and universities of the East bear out the verdict of Princeton’’ (43). read. A historian of the era’s admission policies at Harvard. Women were the primary participants because they were used as objects onto which their husbands projected their ‘‘pecuniary strength’’. ‘‘Princeton is the first school of . Yale. ‘‘Of the Big Three. Princeton and its Ivy League counterparts were perpetually in the public eye. proclaimed in the Daily Princetonian on October 11. (43)3 At Princeton. the upper class fueled the fashion system. Scribner’s. who penned The Jungle (1906) in a tarpaper shack a few miles from the campus. the clothing one wore was a visible symbol of whether—to borrow terminology from This Side of Paradise’s Amory Blaine—one ‘‘has it’’ or ‘‘lacks it. bare-headed youths who must be juniors and seniors. Its reputation as a haven for the elite was essential in the establishment of Princeton as the soothsayer of collegiate clothing trends. ‘‘I want to go where people aren’t barred because of the color of their neckties and the roll of their coats. his work does explain how Princeton became the impetus of the collegiate style.’ For better or worse.’ whose distinctiveness some popular magazines were all too ready to certify’’ (311). Amory’s pal Tom D’Invilliers became disillusioned by the critical and snobbish air of Princeton. 1927. Princeton was considered the most fashionable. most mentioned the students’s clothing. Princeton was ‘‘more than any other institution of its kind in the United States. In their senior year. Amory ‘‘tried conscientiously to look both pleasantly blase and casually critical.

seventyfive percent participated (Karabel 65). Yale. 348 of them were from private schools and only 87 from public schools. Two key institutions were fundamental in forming and maintaining the homogenous nature of the student body: private preparatory schools that served as ‘‘feeders’’ to Princeton and the University’s exclusive eating clubs for upperclassmen. by 1907.7 Private boarding schools were not only a means of protecting the children of the privileged but they became a first-line of defense in cultivating the ‘‘right’’ kind of students for universities such as Harvard. an average of seventy to ninety percent of freshman were admitted from private day or boarding schools (118). and Princeton. Trends in these hats changed yearly and the alumni newsletter informed graduates of these changes.8 Once at Princeton. Groton (1884). only fifty percent of eligible students joined clubs. followed by Cottage Club in 1884. was ‘‘an impressive melange of brilliant ad´ venturers and well-dressed philanderers’’ (51).24 The Journal of American Culture  Volume 31. His efforts to eradicate eating clubs failed. In its place grew the University’s eating clubs. and Coate (1896) were founded by the Protestant elite ‘‘as a means of preserving their social positions in the face of threats from groups encroaching upon them’’ (Levine 63). and Princeton did all they could to encourage and maintain close liaisons with the boarding schools so that the latter became feeders to them’’ (371). with students getting bids from clubs during ‘‘Bicker Week’’ in the spring of their sophomore year. which was Fitzgerald’s own club. Number 1  March 2008 snobbishness in the United States amid an education system that suppresses individual opinion and exalts false social standards’’ (1). According to Axtell. the class admitted in 1920 contained 435 students. Social climber Amory Blaine described the former as ‘‘detached and breathlessly aristocratic. between the years 1900 and 1940. According to Admission Office records. Each year these various clubs changed the colors of their hats to throw off the administration. harmless. students aligned themselves with private eating clubs. on April 15. They came under increased scrutiny during Woodrow Wilson’s tenure as University president. Earlier classes were even more highly skewed.’’ The latter. Sophomores sidestepped school regulations prohibiting their participation by creating ‘‘sophomore hat lines’’—groups of hat-clad underclassmen who formed close alliances with associated eating clubs. In 1879. the University required incoming students to sign a pledge not to join any of the growing number of fraternities on campus. An expanding middle class and second-generation immigrants were deemed by the upper class to be uncomfortably close in light of educational reforms sweeping the nation. Beginning in the 1880s. Yale. 1902 until 1909. club membership actually grew. the Princeton Alumni Weekly wrote. In 1855. During Wilson’s presidency. the Greek system was dead. These displays of club pride were. club ties began to supplement and eventually replace club hats. Ivy Club was formed. and within ten years.’’ ‘‘Harvard. Beginning around 1912. and sent dozens of students every year to the University. Despite being blamed for the lack of alumni donations to the University. the stifling of individuality on campus. to a large degree. received funding from Princeton for its founding. Club-associated regalia was a prominent part of visual aesthetic of the campus. Eating clubs had hatbands of club colors and insignia that were worn with pride by current students and alumni. 1904. ‘‘Education of an Elite. Clubs had both fall and spring hats. for example. however. and the students’s disinterest in academic endeavors. Mention of such organizations are found in the University catalog as early as 1846. In 1902. were . Lawrenceville. Eating clubs were often at the center of criticism—usually from those who were not admitted or from the usually reticent administration. ‘‘The proper thing this spring in upperclass club headgear is a white canvas hat with the club ribbon tied around it—sloppy but spectacular’’ (466). Eating clubs. Most of Princeton’s students came from such environments.9 It is important to note that eating clubs were a privilege reserved for upperclassmen. the eating clubs persisted. all of the early clubs have passed from existence. private boarding schools such as Lawrenceville (1883). Historian Edward Saveth wrote in his article.

At the Reunion in 1914. Most clubs and organizations had badges. gave its board of editors waistcoat pins. ‘‘Manliness. Extracurricular activities were also an essential element of undergraduate life at Princeton and participation proved one’s masculinity. 1924. accomplishment in athletics. Members of Clio were given oblong pink ribbons worn on the jacket lapel. On January 21. Over the course of a few years.’’ Yet. classes began to adopt costumes. the editors recognized the coats as being indicative of a larger social issue. and 1910 donned the attire of locomotive engineers. The Princeton Alumni Weekly noted on January 16. Such practice was also popular at other universities’s homecomings. Yet. and Chinese parasols will help you distinguish the various classes’’ (345). . and Coonskins  Deirdre Clemente 25 notoriously judgmental about their members’s clothing. the better it will be for the men and for Princeton. which were the oldest student organizations on campus.’’ They argued that raccoon coats. the Princetonian or other student-run activities and sociability on Prospect Street’’ (484). ‘‘represent a false standard of affluence. 1909 dressed as a deck of cards. The University’s snobbishness and its intrinsic relationship with fashion was illustrated in the fall of 1923 and winter of 1924. ‘‘With the increase and individualization of organizations has grown up a love for insignia and emblemed regalia . one angry alumnus named Van Tassel Sutplen from the class of 1882 responded to the presence of women in a letter to the editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly published on June 17. the fine shades of campus distinction are.’’ The editors concluded the article: ‘‘a social stratum based on clothing is fatal’’ (2). and advertisements in student publications for New York and Philadelphia furriers were prominent. In 1902. Hence. The amount of group-associated accessories became almost comical. The Daily Princetonian. 1900. which ran between $200 and $500. Historian Anthony Grafton wrote. The knowledge of such connotations was indeed limited to Princeton students and alumni. the Princeton Alumni Weekly explained ‘‘hats. On June 2. Fur coats figured prominently in campus fashion for several more years. which while it may not be dangerous is certainly not in keeping with the so-called democratic spirit that is supposed to flourish in Princeton. 1924. the Daily Princetonian featured an editorial on the trend that editors termed.Caps. at Princeton. for example. complete with black overalls and orange shirts. pins. and getting a bid from a club often came down to one’s appearance. club. These rituals were considered part of the experience of the Princeton man and when wives and daughters joined the procession in 1914. for example.’ for getting drunk one night ‘not like a gentleman’’’ (81).and organization-associated regalia played a pivotal part in illustrating that one was a Princeton man. meant class spirit. Senior Council banned all freshmen from wearing fur coats. The literary societies Whig and Clio. until they died the natural death of most clothing trends. ‘‘In his own group. He wrote. the class of 1904 all wore Scottish kilts. lost to the outsider’’ (149). and hatbands as symbols of belonging. the call for equality in dress was hardly heeded. Amory Blaine’s cohort seemed a telling example.’ for having ‘too much pull in heaven. ‘‘coonskins were almost as thick as flies’’ (294). both gave members ribbons. as if a medieval spirit of festivals and saint’s days had breezed through the modern university’’ (161). One editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly wrote on June 9. Canes. Fitzgerald wrote. 1914. . Amory saw men kept out for wearing green hats. 1900. however. ‘‘The sooner Princeton men get over judging their fellows by their external appearances. ‘‘the fur coat evil. Complaints about the club system published in the student newspapers well into the 1950s routinely mentioned the importance put on clothing and attire. They wrote. balloons. The wearing of insignia took center stage during the University’s yearly Reunions and P-rade. ‘‘In these days of militant feminism I am well aware that I am taking perilous position in venturing to deny any privilege whatsoever to the . the student newspaper. one that was at the heart of the University’s student culture. Thelin wrote of such occasions. for being ‘a damn tailor’s dummy. and Whig gave a blue looped ribbon to be worn on the wrist. ‘‘All these details lent an air of pageantry to the proceedings.

declared. Frank Presbrey and James Moffatt. but on masculine pride. The Daily Princetonian reported on October 15. Having written such songs as ‘‘Princeton. Remarkably. 1910. from a turtle-necked. Number 1  March 2008 newly dominant sex’’ (730). To a large degree. An exceptionally important sports emblem was the varsity sweater as. at Princeton sportswear was around-the-clock attire. In 1869. and black was added in 1874. complete with a team crest. The social status of sports and its players gave rise to sportswear on the Princeton campus. special deference was given to those who wore the varsity sweater’’ (Thelin 166). were standard fare and worn with pride. . golf. in an era when sportswear was rigidly confined to the time when one was actually playing sports. Anthony E. orange was selected in 1867 to represent freedom. who wrote Athletics at Princeton: A History (1901). Sutplen went on to insist that women were not welcome to march and noted that while he was a bachelor. and track and field were also popular and respected campus activities. the varsity sweater took several forms during the period studied. The letters ‘‘denoted initiation and acceptance as well as individual accomplishment in a sport’’ (Martin and Koda 139). ‘‘on each campus. enlightenment. swimming. but it also represented colleges and universities to America at large. Rotundo noted that athletics had a ‘‘special significance for the redefinition of manhood at the turn of the century’’ (239). American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era. but it was football that became its most followed. the University’s team played neighboring Rutgers and. The fear of appearing ‘too rah-rah’ no longer seems to terrify the modest. Sportswear provided the opportunity to claim participation in a manly activity and redefine the rules of men’s dress. the only changes made came in 1910 when the Committee on Publicity standardized the shade of orange to be used. within a few decades. Princeton’s football team was dominating the sport. Blazers. Trends emerging at Princeton set the pace for collegiate fashion. ‘‘No American university can prosper or do its work without athletics’’ (4). Baseball was the first organized sport at Princeton when the Nassau Baseball Club formed in 1858. all varsity sweaters were black with a large ‘‘P’’ in either black or orange on the center of the chest. turned institutions of higher education into athletic agencies. The tradition began with the crew team and was extended to other teams. Some of the most-coveted emblems of association were those of the sports teams. In doing so. Guy Lewis wrote in his article ‘‘The Beginning of Organized Collegiate Sport. the University’s signature orange and black were used on such regalia and also for general attire. as ‘‘intercollegiate athletics soared as a major source of campus public relations’’ (Thelin 208). crew. students unwittingly shaped menswear styles for the coming century. and progress. 1902. Commonly. By wearing clothing associated with sports teams. Not only did the rise of collegiate sport shape campus life. Princeton became a progenitor of menswear styles because of its vibrant sports culture and the clothing such activities inspired.’’ ‘‘After students organized it. the alumnus begged the administration to ‘‘leave the Princeton Orange in undimmed luster’’ (317). Princeton athletics were a matter of national attention. Instead. ‘‘Orange and black is distinctly the style.’’ Clark was awarded a varsity letter for his musical contributions. tennis. ribbed cable-knit to a loose fitting boat neck. Class of 1905. brought change in the curriculum and influenced administrative policy’’ (224). his reaction was not based on jealousy. Sports took a central role on university campuses. students laid additional claim to the image of the physically fit Princeton man. At Princeton. In his book. That’s All’’ and ‘‘Going Back to Nassau Hall. In a letter to the Princeton Alumni Weekly dated February 15. collegiate sport revolutionized campus life. there is an honest wearing of honors won’’ (3). The colors themselves were relatively new. Rugby. Yet despite such efforts. One exception did exist in the case of composer Kenneth Clark. An alumnus launched an unfruitful campaign in 1901 to return the colors to only orange. During the period studied. Even contemporary observers understood the power of athletics.26 The Journal of American Culture  Volume 31.

the two-toned versions were made of leather and known as saddle shoes. as they came to be called. after the Duke of Norfolk who wore the garment to hunt on his estate in the 1860s. casual shoes emerged in response to the popularization of golf. The first example was the sports jacket. Princeton students popularized articles of clothing that revolutionized the American man’s wardrobe in the coming decades. has served as a fertile ground for sportswear styles’’ (Martin and Koda 123). More than two decades later. and Coonskins  Deirdre Clemente 27 Golf wear was the most telling example of the adoption of sportswear. called brogueing. the holes assumed a merely decorative purpose. Canes. Golf clothing was popularized early at Princeton and was worn regardless of season. Knickerbockers.’’ were one of golf’s biggest contributions to the aesthetic of the Princeton campus. with links to wealth. For this practical reason. For example. Princeton men implemented these casual clothes into their wardrobes on a yearround basis. ‘‘In the winter of 1895 the prevailing costume was a golfing suit of rough tweed. shooting.’’ While the sports jacket may have been born of athletics. Amid the strict social standards for an appropriate place for sportswear. Knickers were the privilege of the upperclassmen. The Norfolk in its original form and in paired-down versions such as the blazer. the jacket made its way to the United States. A second example of menswear trends to emerge from collegiate athletic culture was the sports shoe. athletic-inspired clothing was a sign of belonging (Martin and Koda 143). Originally heel-less. This transition was a harbinger of the casualization of menswear. Princeton and other elite colleges were . it was rapidly adopted as a more casual alternative to a full suit. and eventually golf. and by mid-decade they were ubiquitous for college students across the country. rubber-soled shoe made of white buckskin was the choice of tennis players. which began as a wool. and was picked up as casual wear for hunting. and by 1915 had taken on black or brown accents. the odd jacket became popular in the mid-1910s. later shortened to be called ‘‘knickers. Costume historians Harold Koda and Richard Martin wrote of the sports jacket in Jocks and Nerds. During the period studied. but a dressier. paved the way for the popularity of ‘‘odd jackets’’—a term used by Brooks Brothers to describe jackets made to be worn without matching pants. heritage and clubs.Caps. High-top. The golf craze of the Gilded Age brought brogues into the wardrobes of American men. ‘‘It is ultimately about style and leisure rather than sports.’’ but in the sports-crazed culture of Princeton. This was also the case with white flannel pants worn to play tennis. ‘‘Even those men who do not play golf or tennis prefer this style for regular campus wear’’ (3). the brogue originated in Scotland and Ireland and was worn by field and bog workers in the 1700s. With time. were commonly sighted on Ivy League campuses in the first years of the twentieth century. allowed water to seep out of the shoe in an effort to keep workers’s feet dry. hay was stuffed into the shoe to prevent foot irritation. The shoe’s signature holes. tweed pants were a common sight in the first decade of the twentieth century. The sport was incredibly popular at Princeton and ‘‘golf. By the early 1930s. or a sweater’’ (679). The edict stood until such rules were relaxed by the early 1930s. The Daily Princetonian noted on September 15. Fashion historians claim that ‘‘golf was never able to transfer knickers to town. several years before it was accepted in other environments (Martin and Koda 117). While many men at the turn-of-thecentury wore ankle-length boots. The most common form was brogues. lower cut. At Princeton. an article in Scribner’s Magazine in June 1897 noted. where knickers were not popular attire until the wake of World War I. 1923. box-pleated. White bucs. with heavy corduroy waistcoat. Princeton men were still dressing in relaxed golf wear. Such was not the case with noncollegiate locales. and fringed tongues were added for additional waterproofing. With time. canvas versions made by companies such as Spalding were not worn off the basketball court during the period studied. freshman and sophomores were strictly forbidden from wearing them. golfers took to brogues. and the below-the-knee. Also significant was the rubber-soled athletic shoe. belted coat called the Norfolk.

10 The cane sprees were but one example of campus ritual. It wrote of the demeanor: ‘‘It is the natural indifference of irresponsibility and careless boyishness’’ (4). The magazine asked: ‘‘Who was it that started this business of wearing oxfords the whole year round? The college man’’ (Boot 99). ‘‘You will be expected to adhere rigidly to these rules. which were intricately carved with the names and dates of previous bouts. which were published yearly by the Philadelphian Society. Open bouts were scheduled yearly until 1881. Above all. The newspaper then commented on ‘‘the air with which they wore their yellow slickers. The trade publication. and devote loyalty in male–male friendships. or even walk on ‘‘upperclassmen-only’’ walkways. competitive games. when each class picked representatives to wrestle in three different weight divisions. The contemporary press of the era often commented on the youthfulness of Princeton students. 1909. The Independent wrote on March 4. A particularly enduring form of ‘‘horsing’’ was the annual cane spree when the freshman class was forced to wrestle with the sophomore class for control of canes. Freshmen were forced to push past crowds of sophomores in order to get into the gym to elect their class officials.’’ as the sophomore class perched on the building above them and dumped flour on their heads as the camera snapped. sit in particular areas. ‘‘The students of Princeton struck me as being more boyish than elsewhere. Despite attempts to organize according to weight.’’ A freshman could not smoke on campus. ‘‘Freshmen were obliged to wear a standard uniform designed to tame their coltish exuberance. peer-pressure. Axtell wrote. the crowd often jumped in on the action. Clothing was ripped off of bodies. broken bones and bruises were commonplace. They seemed like Peter Pan not quite grown up and not quite wanting to’’ (474). The freshman class picture was known as the ‘‘flour picture. Princeton men and the like were responsible for breaking down many of the established rules of seasonal dress. it stressed the sanctity of initiation into the ranks of the student body. It often involved gangs of sophomores making newcomers act out silly scenarios such as ‘‘milking’’ a bicycle or belly dancing for the amusement of the crowd. 1929. The tradition began in the early 1860s and grew out of upperclassmen’s annoyance of freshman using walking canes as fashion accessories. Regulating what freshmen could and could not wear was part of their initiation into a campus culture that stressed the importance of clothing. ‘‘Style ideas developed in the colleges have played and are playing a tremendously important part in influencing the trend of men’s shoe fashions generally’’ (34). Many examples of student body’s intricate rules were found in the freshman handbooks. ‘‘the mores and fashions of collegiate youth culture heralded the rise of a middle-class masculinity formed around consumerist desire and youthful hedonism’’ (39). Boot and Shoe Recorder wrote on September 21. Number 1  March 2008 instrumental in popularizing sports shoes. obeying the rules was part of freshmen’s process in claiming their rights as Princeton men. youth. develop class spirit. hazing or ‘‘horsing’’ freshman was elaborate and unrelenting at Princeton. and leisure Bill Osgerby wrote that during this era and the two decades to follow. In his study of the interplay between masculinity. enter certain restaurants. As with many college campuses. ‘‘Abiding by These Customs Stamps Them as True Princeton Men’’: Clothing and the Social Hierarchy at Princeton Youth and youthfulness were important tenets of a new masculinity to emerge from the period studied. and honor . The student culture of Princeton encouraged juvenile pranks. The handbook for 1914–15 warned. Most-significant and telling of the campus’s social hierarchy were the many regulations on clothing. and accounts of nearly naked students abound in the student press coverage of the matches.28 The Journal of American Culture  Volume 31.’’ a campus sartorial staple. The goals of these regulations were multifaced.

black corduroy pants without cuffs. as students had to earn the privilege. Regular caps. smoking our pipes on campus. freshmen could only wear black ones. The reaction to this loosening of the rules was dramatic. The deregulation of the freshman uniform resulted in a flurry of letters to the editors of The Daily Princetonian and the Princeton Alumni Weekly in late 1916. particularly the sophomores. Freshmen were not allowed to wear colored garters or patterned hosiery. soft shirts. and Coonskins  Deirdre Clemente 29 Figure 1.Caps. socks. From the turn of the century to about 1915. Canes. and a black tie (Figure 1). ‘‘Diary of a Freshman’’ featured in the Princeton Alumni Weekly on October 17. Note: Reprinted with permission from the Princeton University Library. shoes. 1916. ‘‘If this new order of things is to be continued. ‘‘We have had a great time. 1923 declared. While sophomores and upperclassmen wore bright yellow slickers. effeminacy. and Miss Baldwin’s should be considered for entrance . which. One freshman documented the relief of such occasion in a weekly column. the freshman wore a ‘‘uniform’’ that included black corduroys.’’ While the purpose of the uniform did not change over the period studied. no knickers. the seniority of all upperclassmen. published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly on October 14. who were delegated the duties of campus-cultural enforcement’’ (321).11 Freshmen could forgo the dress code when they walked on campus with out-of-town visitors. In 1916. asked for editors to clarify ‘‘the exact date on which Princeton became coeducational’’ (82). sweater. A letter to the editor of Princeton Alumni Weekly published on October 31. and hat. hose. Farmington. the garments associated with it did change. 1916 commented that when the Senior Council passed the resolution to allow for the change. 1916. This requirement lasted until World War II. Freshmen could not wear the school colors. One letter. and that the relaxing of standards was interpreted as ‘‘feminizing’’ the student body. black shoes. The first thing students did was change their attire. along with the hat and tie. only entrance candidates from Spence. ‘‘may readily result in self-interest. the uniform consisted of a black turtleneck sweater. so for once I got out of my freshman clothes and sported a loud tie. the black corduroys and sweaters were discarded. A similar yet stronger reaction occurred several years later when the freshman regulations no longer required newcomers to wear black shoes. 1914. Sophomores forced them to roll up their pants to check that the rules were being followed. and no silk could be worn. the uniform was only a black hat and tie. These letters illustrate that the upperclassmen viewed such regulations as important markers of manhood. and lack of respect for college traditions’’ (208). ‘‘All the wise ones on campus shook their heads with a ‘what-are-we-coming-to’ expression’’ (82). A column entitled ‘‘Undergraduate Week’’ in the Princeton Alumni Weekly on October 14. A similar relief was felt on the last day of classes at the end of freshman year. were the only remaining vestiges of the all-black uniform. Harrington Green (Class of 1911) wrote to his parents. at the Yale football or baseball games or on Sundays. and hat. complained that changing such rules. loud ties. Another letter published in Princeton Alumni Weekly on November 20. For the first fifteen years of the twentieth century. and by the early 1920s. No vests. and freshmen were allowed to wear regular trousers with cuffs and soft-collared shirts. ‘‘On Sunday I had the luck of being asked to dinner. trousers rolled up and last but not least. These standards were relaxed around 1915. I went so far as to replace my black garters with pale pink ones’’ (47). He wrote.

The . Number 1  March 2008 and the upperclassmen should give frequent pink teas to make their first year friends feel at home’’ (98).’’ As with freshman regulations on behavior. Princeton students could dress as they pleased. the graduating class created the infamous beer suit in the spring of 1912. The writer appealed to the freshmen’s sense of manhood. the shape of the dink called to mind a Yamika. One regulation that endured from the 1890s until the mid-1950s was the requirement to wear a black beanie called a ‘‘dink. Juniors donned top hats and canes and marked down Nassau Street in an elaborate procession watched by other students and locals. Freshmen who broke the dress code were physically punished. In the 1920s. such hats were very common for a freshman at other colleges around the country. Freshmen dress regulations changed with the times. canvas suits. they looked like skullcaps. called to mind the apparel of workmen (Figure 2). Sophomores were indeed responsible for making the freshmen respect Princeton’s ever-evolving ‘‘traditions. ‘‘Freshmen themselves should express their indignation at being treated like their sister class at Vassar. a letter on the same subject was published in The Daily Princetonian. Such dress hats were strictly forbidden for all underclassmen. ‘‘The freshmen should feel that the very fact that they are abiding by these customs stamps them as true Princeton men’’ (3). adding. dressing overly fashionable or wearing elaborate jewelry attracted too much attention to oneself. freshmen were prohibited from wearing them. and it was worn on the back of the head. noted ‘‘One fresh- man assayed to wear a shirt with a soft collar to the ‘flour picture. dinks resembled berets. 1921. Dinks changed in size and shape over the course of their tenure at Princeton. John Carson wrote to his parents of a freshman whose Class of 1907 watch fob was too prominently displayed. those who neglected tradition would ensue the wrath of the sophomores.’’ Two years back. One account in the alumni newsletter on October 7. they had a similar appearance to sailor hats. Ties were allowed to be discarded on Washington’s birthday or earlier. consisting of overalls and a loose-fitting jacket. for example. in 1924 when raccoon coats were at the height of their campus popularity. Sophomores were not allowed to wear white flannels or knickers. however.’’ but they themselves were not allowed to wear whatever they wanted. on October 3. Early in the century. in the 1930s. and the Junior High Hat parade served as an important rite of passage. In the mid-1920s. However. 1914. many of the dress regulations faded due to lack of enforcement and growing freshman insurgency. Many freshmen claimed to have valued such ‘‘horsing’’ because it united them as a class. The University went on record in the 1930s to claim that the suits were worn in protest of the rising price of fabric following World War I. a privilege reserved for those higher up in the pecking order. The sophomores attacked him. In 1903. Again. 1915.’ but needless to say that he did not wear it home’’ (45). however. During the period studied. the suits were popularized nearly a decade before.30 The Journal of American Culture  Volume 31. ‘‘Hazing included being made to wear class ‘beanies’ (often known as ‘ducs’) and to adhere to various rules of conduct’’ (174). students claimed and the name suggests that the utilitarian suits were worn to protect students’s clothing from spilled beer. One tradition held to mark their status was the yearly Junior High Hat parade. reported ‘‘The horsing I received from the sophomores was the first thing I had in common with my classmates’’ (442). The dink was worn with a black tie. Freshmen who wore clothing or accessories that were too showy were also punished. most sophomores dressed in a manner to ingratiate themselves with upperclassmen who would be offering bids to join eating clubs. One account published in Princeton Alumni Weekly on May 5. Thelin wrote. as enforcement of regulations was their inherited responsibility. if the freshman football team beat their colleagues from Yale. As juniors. Both were sold at the university store in the first few days of school. It played to the freshmen’s sense of masculine pride. the dink was worn all year. and by 1914. In an effort to assert their ultimate seniority. These white. stating.

the following year. As is the case with sportswear. The second contribution of the study speaks to the legacy of Thorstein Veblen. Canes. Princeton was the acknowledged trendsetter of the Ivy League and the image its students created spoke to their elite social standing as gentlemen and sportsmen. First. From suits and shoes to haircuts and headwear. the evolution of consumer culture. The students of Princeton University in the first two decades of the twentieth century took an active role in shaping these new standards of masculinity. the Princeton beer suit consisted of white canvas overalls and a jacket featuring a class-designed logo. the elite undoubtedly set the pace at the turn of the century (Figure 3). fashions defined by Princeton men set the sartorial standard for college boys around the country. each class designed and voted on a design. first suits were embellished only by a black stripe on the arm. juniors lobbied Senior Council time and again to allow them to wear the suits in the spring of the third year. social trends. one is able to more fully understand its evolution and gauge its cultural resonance. had passed gracefully from the scene. More significantly. they recast American masculinity to be defined not by work ethics and stiff collars. As scholars of fashion squabble over the modern-day relevance of a theory that allows only for the ‘‘trickledown’’ dissemination of fashion. Each attempt was denied until the early 1950s when beer suits. The present analysis illustrates how the silent undercurrents that bring clothing trends into ex- istence can provide much insight into an era. As the ensembles were not worn until the last few weeks of senior year. These logos spoke about the social.Caps. One of the first signs of spring. his theory carried much weight. became the prerogative of juniors. the juniors petitioned for an earlier distribution of the suits. The appropriation of these styles reflect broader changes in American society: the escalating popularity of sports. students silk screened a cartoon representing their class on the back of the jacket. whose wardrobe was as fixed as his stoic expression. In 1922. University policy. In doing so. the redefinition of gender roles and new notions of ‘‘masculine’’ and ‘‘feminine’’. This is important to note because the remainder of the century was marked by the co-opting of sportswear by the nonelite. The research presented here offers historical background for understanding the menswear styles of the early twentieth century. In the decades to come and to this day. the suits had two stripes. the democratization of higher education. it contributes to the field of American cultural history and to the burgeoning field of fashion studies. By understanding a style’s social and cultural context. and Coonskins  Deirdre Clemente 31 Figure 2. cultural. These cartoons have documented the events shaping Princeton’s campus culture including wars. . which were by then just jackets. and inside jokes undecipherable to those who were not in-the-know. thus giving them more time to enjoy the suits. When creating their own version did not work. attempts by juniors to create their own beer suits were met with disdain from seniors. but by leisure activities and the casual clothing needed for participation. Much like the outrage that followed changes in the freshman dress regulations. The jacket is still worn by Princeton seniors today. Note: Reprinted with permission from the Princeton University Library. The stodgy Edwardian father. this study affirms that during the time when Veblen was writing. this study fills a gap in historical research dealing with the social aspects of college life in the early twentieth century. and economic events to occur in the senior’s last year. In his place developed a distinctly different portrait of the American man.

wearing golf trousers. 1987). Malcolm. Important texts on the history of eating clubs at Princeton include Dean A. we can come to more fully understand the interrelation of clothing and American culture. The Making of Princeton University: From Woodrow Wilson to the Present. 3. Works Cited Admissions Office Records. Crane. 2000. Folder 3. 4. John. Barnard. The character of Tom D’Invilliers was based on Fitzgerald’s friend and fellow Princetonian. Boot and Shoe Recorder. Veblen’s theories lost some of their punch in light of the working-class generated trends of the twentieth century. 8. Carson Brothers Papers. Horsing was officially abolished in 1914. His expertize added much to the paper.3 (March 1935): 132-32. sophomores at Columbia in 1902 handed out to freshmen their ‘‘sophomore orders. The author would like to thank Steve Schlossman and Scott Sandage of Carnegie Mellon University for their help and encouragement. University archivist Dan Linke served as an important aid in the researching process. Letter to parents. such as the hippie look of the late 1960s or the grunge movement of the early 1990s. Box 3. the University considered any student who came as a freshman to be an alumnus. The influence of the collegiate style on American culture would only grow. H. Notes 1. Also. or sporting prep school hats. For example. 7. Research for this project was funded by The Friends of Princeton University Library. Bric-a Brac. 1903. but during the period studied. ‘‘Princeton University’s Analysis of the Freshman Class 1920. Cowley. Fashion as Communication. Figure 3. Note: Reprinted with permission from the Princeton University Library. The raccoon-skin coat was a ‘‘must have’’ for men from the late 1910s until the mid-1920s. 6. Lee. 1970). 2. As illustrated by this program.32 The Journal of American Culture  Volume 31. ‘‘A Study of Student Life. Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz. although these were not as diligently enforced or enduring as those of Princeton.’’ The Journal of Higher Education 6. It should be noted that Fitzgerald did not graduate from Princeton. Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present (New York: Alfred A. Chicago: U of Chicago P. Allen (January 1955) and William Selden (1996). Cane sprees continued into the 1950s. and Identity in Clothing. Other boarding schools such as Phillips Andover (1778) and Phillips Exeter (1783) were established earlier and went through significant restructuring during the 1880s. Axtell. Number 1  March 2008 provided everything from research assistance to editing advice. 5. Princeton: Princeton UP. and the creation of a standard curriculum that would fit with university requirements. 21 Sept.’’ in which they forbid new students from using walking canes. Knopf. Gender. 1958: 225. student attendance. student fashions gained almost as much attention as the game. 10. James. T. The Campus Scene 1900–1970: Changing Styles in Undergraduate Life (New York: David McKay Company. It should be noted that other Ivy League colleges had similar clothing restrictions. 2002. Box 1. Part of the reason for the lack of students from public schools was because such institutions were still struggling with accreditation. London: Routledge. and Willard Waller. the evolution of individual fashion trends is a powerful lens for examining social and cultural change. Princeton University Archives. Yale also received attention for its students’s wardrobes.’’ Princeton University Archives. Key texts in campus culture during this period include Calvin B. 1929: 34-35. Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class. While Princeton was mentioned to be the most fashionable of the Ivy League. Dan Linke and Christine Kitto of the Mudd Library at Princeton were instrumental in securing the artwork that accompany this article. poet John Peale Bishop. James Axtell .. many of the century’s most groundbreaking styles emerged from the college campus. 14 Oct. Ivy League football games were highpoints of the elite’s social season. Diana. Carson. Folder 12. 2006. 11. W. As is often the case. As more and more scholarship is produced to explore the underlying catalysts of such styles. 9.

Anthony. Karen.’’ History of Education Quarterly 28. 1883. Folder 3. ‘‘The Precept System: Myth and Reality of a Princeton Institution. Chicago: U of Chicago P. — — —. New York: David McKay Company. — — —. 2001. ‘‘The Beginning of Organized Collegiate Sport. 15 Oct. William. 21 Jan. Lewis. — — —. Princeton University Archives. Green.’’ Social Problems 2. 2005. Culture.’’ Box 8. F. Princeton Stories. 2004. 17 Oct. Harrington Green Papers. 5 May 1915: 442. ‘‘The Rise of American Boarding Schools and the Development of a National Upper Class. 16 Jan. Lee. New York: Frank Presbrey Co. 1901. A. Paul R. 1911.’’ 1865–1917. 1996. — Davis.. Harrington. Knopf. 12 Mar. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 11 Oct. This Side of Paradise. The Jungle. — Rotundo. 1989. 1990. 7 July 1927. Levine. Presbrey. 1942. Princeton: Princeton Prospect Foundation. Paris Fashion: A Cultural History. — — —. — — —. Jesse Lynch. Frank. 1916: 208. 2005. Oxbridge Men: British Masculinity and the Undergraduate Experience. T. ‘‘Education of an Elite. Princeton Alumni Weekly. 1992. 14 Oct.’’ Scribner’s Magazine June 1987: 673. New York: Berg Publishing. Official Publications Collection. 1904: 371. Veblen. Gentlemen and Scholars: College and Community in the ‘‘Age of the University. 15 Apr. — —. and Coonskins  Deirdre Clemente 33 Daily Princetonian. 1908. Theory of the Leisure Class. 15 Feb. PA: The Pennsylvania Sate UP. 1999. — — —. ‘‘How the Rich Students at Princeton Enjoy Life. Youth and Leisure-style in Modern America. . Grafton. New York: Rizzoli. 1916: 82. 4 Mar. 1914: 47. Richard. 1992. Calvin B. — — —. 1906. John R. and Identity. Bill. A History of American Higher Education. E. New York: Arbor House Press. Jerome. Upton. Princeton University Archives. Letter to Parents. Athletics at Princeton: A History.’’ American Quarterly 22. 1924: 264. Guy. and James Moffatt. Scott. New York: Macmillan Company. 31 Oct. Jocks and Nerds: Men’s Style in the Twentieth Century. Steven B. and Princeton. Leslie.’’ New York World 21 Oct. Joanne. 19 Jan. New York: Berg Publishing. 1926: 1. and Harold Koda. Box AC-018. Fitzgerald. Deslandes.Caps. 1987. ‘‘Life at Princeton. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP. Anthony. Bloomington: Indiana UP. Karabel.3 (Spring 2003): 467-503. — — —. 1924: 2. — — —. Fashion. — — —. 1923: 98. Playboys in Paradise: Masculinity.’’ Social Problems (28 October 1980): 63. 1910: 3. 2 June 1900: 345. New York: Scribner. ‘‘History of the Undergraduate Social Clubs at Princeton. 9 June 1900: 149. University Park. Thorstein. The Campus Scene 1900–1970: Changing Styles in Undergraduate Life. New York: Pocket Books. Schreiner. 1904: 466. The National Clothing Retailer. Saveth. 1909: 274.2 Part 1 (Summer 1970): 222-29. Samuel A. New York: Berg Publishing.’’ Princeton University Library Chronicle 64. Osgerby. — — —. 2000. 1993. Tranberg Hansen. Steele.3 (Autumn 1988): 367-86. 1921: 3. Bruce. Allen. Dean. Lefkowitz Horowitz. 3 Oct. Fred. 1850–1920. Canes. New York: Alfred A. New York: Penguin Books. 1995. New York: Basic Books. Edward N. Sinclair. Yale. Williams.Number 3 (January 1955): 160-65. — — —. 1970. Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present. — — —. Thelin. Dress and Ethnicity: Change Across Time and Space. — —. Valerie. 1923: 3. Eicher. Martin. The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard. A Place Called Princeton. 15 Sept. American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era. The Independent. 1998. Selden Club Life at Princeton. Salaula: The World of Secondhand Clothing and Zambia. Chicago: U of Chicago P. 1902: 317. Helen. 17 June 1914: 730. ‘‘The Freshman Handbook. 20 Nov. Jr.