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Beer Suits!
November 8, 2012 2:49 PM   Subscribe

In the early 20th century, the men of Princeton came up with a way to protect their two or three nice suits worn daily on campus from spilled beer (and the more likely vomit): The Beer Suit. Originally worn only by seniors and as white denim overalls, shirt and tie, with a white denim jacket over the top, future classes began decorating their jackets with slogans and designs of the day with current classes often going for black and orange jackets with tiger elements. You can see some of the original Beer suits at the Fashion Institute's Ivy Style exhibit in NYC, going through January 2013, or catch a Princeton class reunion where the beer jackets must be worn (unwashed) until your 25th reunion, when you can don a proper alumni blazer.
posted by mathowie (33 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
FIT does have an excellent museum space for fashion articles and the Ivy League show is aces WASP rag porn.

Hmm maybe I should organize a meet-up.
posted by The Whelk at 2:52 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, after researching this crazy story I first heard about on Jordan Jesse Go, I was getting beer jackets confused with alumni jackets (the photos of black/orange/tiger jackets aren't strictly beer jackets), and tweaked the last sentence to make it clear you don't get your alumni jacket until after the 25th reunion.
posted by mathowie at 2:56 PM on November 8, 2012


the Ivy League show is aces WASP rag porn.

When Mark E. Smith dies, you are so ready to take over The Fall.
posted by mykescipark at 2:58 PM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


tweaked the last sentence to make it clear you don't get your alumni jacket until after the 25th reunion.

Mods, was this an abuse of the edit button or not? Ruling please.
posted by dhartung at 3:05 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like to imagine that those 5 unidentified seniors from the first link are walking in slow motion and about to do some sort of Science!
posted by Zed at 3:13 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Swedes do this! The Swedish student unions will have "drinking teams" with different covered overalls... and slowly they accumulate patches and other stuff over time as mementos of drinking contest victories and defeats, because goddamn it if students are going to drink they should at least do so with some sort of organization. This was the only thing I could find on the web about it, at least in English.
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looked in vain for the pictures of Princeton seniors in Bear Suits.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:17 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those guys in the first picture of the first link? Are they wearing an uncustomized version (because it lacks the points) of the classic Jughead hat?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:26 PM on November 8, 2012


My alma mater's version of this is the Clark Hall Pub beer mug. I fully intended to drink from mine yet again at my 20th anniversary reunion, but the damn thing got too funky (you can't fully wash beer microbes out of tiny cracks in plastic) and had to be thrown out.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:35 PM on November 8, 2012


Seriously? Only seniors can sit by the Mather fountain? I have this mental image of a hundred beer-suited douchebags chanting some "wooly bully" frat chant as they dunk some unsuspecting ordinary student who's just taking a break from studies. What an insufferable experience this place must have been for non-bros (1910s version).
posted by Fnarf at 3:35 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is such a good idea. I don't know how many times over my drinking career I ended up with liquor spilled down the front of my shirt. I think we should embrace the advances made in protective gear and go with function over style. Adopt something like tyvek coveralls, or for the fashion conscious, commercial fishing bib pants.Sure bib pants may cost $120+ but you will never need another pair! No more ruined clothes. Simply come home and hose yourself off.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:39 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a Princeton alum, I find this very funny. I still have my beer jacket somewhere, although I haven't worn it to my more recent reunions. It's also worth noting that Princeton reunions features fairly elaborate costumes for each of the major classes (every five years). For my most recent reunion, the 15th, we had embroidered lab coats, T-shirts, orange safety goggles, and pocket protectors (theme: Phosphorous, the 15th element). Also, I've never heard that you can't wash your beer jacket until your 25th reunion.
posted by pombe at 3:44 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


When Mark E. Smith dies, you are so ready to take over The Fall.

Flagged as offensive.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:45 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


mathowie: "Sorry, after researching this crazy story I first heard about on Jordan Jesse Go"

Neat! I just finished listening to that episode.
posted by brundlefly at 3:59 PM on November 8, 2012


When I lived in Princeton as a pretentious teen an awesome alumni jacket that fit me perfectly was one of my favorite thrifting finds. It was especially fun to wear around reunions: "you look awfully young for class of '64."

It finally went to a Goodwill here in Michigan a few years ago when I realized my waist and shoulders were never going to be anywhere near the right size again.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:21 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ad hominem, I think if you want to do something like that then you should go the Christian Bale route.
posted by ckape at 4:45 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was the only thing I could find on the web about it, at least in English.

I found this video, and it seems like a freshman hazing ritual, although I imagine it's better than the Princeton tradition because you get to listen to lots of Swedish death metal.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:51 PM on November 8, 2012


Ad hominem, I think if you want to do something like that then you should go the Christian Bale route.

I like it. That would make for a very interesting pub crawl if you could get enough people dressed like Patrick Bateman. Putting newspapers down in the bar under your stool would be a bonus.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:08 PM on November 8, 2012


All the colleges I've attended or lived by have gotten rid of their pubs.

I'm sure there must be some universities left in the US with on campus beer sales. Anyone know?
posted by madajb at 6:13 PM on November 8, 2012


I'm sure there must be some universities left in the US with on campus beer sales. Anyone know?

It's highly problematic because of the 21 drinking age. You might be able to buy beer at an on-campus sports event, but even that is iffy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:16 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


University of New Orleans has an on-campus bar, The Sandbar. It's a pretty boring bar, though.
posted by Scientist at 6:56 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As the designer of a Princeton beer jacket, I find this post pretty awesome.

I've always thought that Princeton Reunions, with all its idiosyncratic traditions, could be a FPP-worthy topic. Reunions is an elaborate and excessive 3-day bacchanalia that culminates in a parade of alumni that proceeds, in sequence, from the oldest living alum to the current graduating class. It's hard to describe Reunions accurately without engendering some serious eye-rolling about moneyed Ivy Leaguers. About two weeks before Reunions begins, the entire campus is fenced off into a series of tented enclosures so that beer can be served outdoors. Each tent houses a major reunion (5, 10, 15, etc) along with the "satellite" reunions (basically the surrounding years). Yes, all of this infrastructure and booze and costuming and entertainment requires money - lots of money. Last year's 25th reunion tent featured performances by both Bon Jovi and Joan Jett. And perhaps an institution that managed to exceed a 1.75 billion dollar fundraising goal by tens of millions of dollars in the midst of a financial crisis and economic recession deserves some snark. In some ways, it's hard not to see Reunions as the orgiastic distillation of that classic trope of old white men celebrating themselves and the institutions that helped cement their place in society.

Mostly, though, Reunions is about tradition. Last year I met a guy (more specifically, an old white man - all of the seasoned alumni are old white men; Princeton first started admitting women in 1969) who was there for his 45th consecutive year. Many of my friends and classmates plan on being Reunions stalwarts in the years and decades to come - the only difference is that my classmates aren't just white males, and many of them came to Princeton from underprivileged families and took advantage of its no-loan financial aid policy.

I have to give credit to these rich old white men who keep coming back to celebrate alongside a student body whose demographics must look completely foreign to them now, and these rich old white men who continue to reach into their coffers to fund the tuitions of underprivileged students and minorities. So for now, at least, I'll hold off on my own eye-rolling tendencies and continue to don my beer jacket and head back to Reunions to celebrate my alma mater alongside rich old white men who will, in the decades to come, be replaced by a truly diverse population that they had a large part in creating. And if celebrating that requires blowing even more dough on fireworks and booze and a parade, so be it.
posted by hot soup at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm sure there must be some universities left in the US with on campus beer sales. Anyone know?

My mom went back to school when the drinking age in Arizona was still 19 and there was an on-campus bar that only sold beer, but that was gone a few years later when I got there. Same goes for beer sales at football games, which was a thing when I was a kid.
posted by padraigin at 6:58 PM on November 8, 2012


I'm sure there must be some universities left in the US with on campus beer sales. Anyone know?

Brown has the grad center bar which is aimed at (unsurprisingly) grad students so the 21+ thing isn't a problem.
posted by Perfectibilist at 7:14 PM on November 8, 2012


UCSD & the Universities of Wisconsin Madison & Milwaukee have on-campus bars.
posted by akgerber at 7:24 PM on November 8, 2012


Between its Eating Clubs and these Beer Suits, Princeton is like the epicenter of "White People Be Tripping', Yo." I'm sure other Ivy League schools have similar beloved/ridiculous traditions but Princeton seems to be the one you hear about when it comes to this stuff.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:35 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


UC Davis has the Gunrock Pub, but it closes at 2 in the afternoon so it hardly counts. Still, a pint at lunch is a nice thing.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:29 PM on November 8, 2012


I was going to say UC Davis but it closes at 2 now? That's lame. Swimming in the pool then riding your bike to sit outside and have a pint on a 100 degree day was the bees knees. Then going to lecture with 200 of your fellow students in an un air-conditioned auditorium, ugh. Hopefully they have air-con everywhere now.
posted by fshgrl at 11:20 PM on November 8, 2012


My beer jacket is invisible, but it invariably keeps me toasty warm when I get on the beer scooter and use the beer compass to get home. It's never failed me yet.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:54 AM on November 9, 2012


> Reunions is an elaborate and excessive 3-day bacchanalia that culminates in a parade of alumni that proceeds, in sequence, from the oldest living alum to the current graduating class.

They do this at Queen's, too, during halftime of the homecoming football game. One year when I was still in school, the oldest alum was being pushed around the track in a wheelchair and when he got around to the side where the current students sit he pulled out a flash from underneath the blanket he was wrapped in and took a pull. Oh, the cheering.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:56 AM on November 9, 2012


Hopefully they have air-con everywhere now.

As far as I know, they do. At least I never had a class in a building without it, though that's only just over a dozen buildings for me.

Oh wait, maybe some of the Environmental Horticulture buildings don't have AC, though it's so well covered by trees I don't remember being uncomfortable there.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:45 AM on November 9, 2012


As a Princeton alum (albeit a Grad alum, which is a different thing -our jackets, for example, look like alumni blazers from the get-go) I must say that hot soup's description of reunions is an accurate one as you'll get. "Reunions is an elaborate and excessive 3-day bacchanalia..." Yes, yes it is.
posted by ob at 11:07 AM on November 9, 2012


Oh my, is this where we post pictures of what our beer jackets look like? (Gratuitous photo of my me in my beer jacket next to our Class Day speaker, Bradley Whitford...I was in the band, among other things, so the plaid is my own addition).

Beer jackets, among everything else at Princeton, are at the same time utterly ridiculous and completely great. You have to balance a sense of humour with a sense of awe. I realize it's not cool or progressive to love silly school traditions, but I do. Here's something I wrote about Reunions the year before I graduated, and I think it essentially holds true for me:

"If you have never seen a P-Rade, it is almost impossible to explain; 20,000 Princeton alumni, all in their own class' personalized garish orange and black jackets (some more wearable or cooler than others) marching by class year in order (save the 25th reunion, which goes first), all lead by the Band and then the oldest living alumnus there. This year we had a man from the class of 1925. He must have been 100-103 years old; apparently last year, he walked half of the way. (He actually recently passed away this year; I made a comment about it here.) Old men and their wives carrying funny signs about what they remember about Princeton, silly slogans about aging. A guy from the class of 1957 riding a unicycle as people go nuts cheering. My partner meeting his dad's friends from the class of 1976 and marching with them. Generations of Princetonians in the same family marching, generations of Princetonians from different families all together, all cheering for each other, all to the music of school songs. The class of 1956 had assembled a Reunions P-Rade marching band- 15 guys, lead by the same two guys who were front and centre on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1955 when there was a cover of the Band. They had signs- "same two guys, 50 years later."

Everyone stands on the sidelines and waits their turn to march, and applauds those who march before. Locomotives (Princeton cheers) are issued to and fro. Silly floats and old decorated cars go by, to the themes of various reunions. Last year there was a fire truck and pirate cannons. The classes bulge for every 5 or 10 year reunion, and then in the most recent five years of alumni, the classes get huge, and since each class starts later down the route, the newest classes are soon screaming for the people who they knew and loved in years past. The band heads up the graduating class, full of drunk, excited soon-to-be alumni, and the band seniors link arms before the banner, trying to prevent a stampede.

I defy you not to be moved by this spectacle. Certain things- a very old man, alone, sitting under a tent, too tired to stand but beaming at the procession; a 1976-er with a poster of his daughter's baby picture, reading "Class of 2006". There is a man talking to a girl wearing a 2006 beer jacket. He tells her that he first marched in the P-Rade with his father, Class of 1912. The sense of history and connection that permeates this place will always make me glad I went here, no matter how many times I feel worthless or my grades are deflated. This is the only time you can get lost in a crowd wearing a garish orange plaid jacket."
posted by ilana at 4:02 PM on November 9, 2012


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