By Abhi Raghunathan '02
The colors of the beer
jacket this year go beyond orange and blackfor some seniors,
anyway. This year, students have the option of adorning their jacket
sleeves with a slender red, white, and blue ribbon.
With the exception of the patriotic ribbon, the other elements of
the jacket this year could not be more traditional: the school colors,
a tiger, the Princeton seal, and 2002. But Rebekah Wagner '02, who
designed the jacket that got the most votes this year, also added
a red, white, and blue ribbon to a sleeve. After the results were
announced, the ribbon led to a small clamor from students who felt
it was inappropriate and the clamor led to a concession by senior
class officials to make the ribbon optional. Now, for the first
time in a long time, the beer jacket will not have a single uniform
Rebekah Wagner was not the only one to embroider her design with
a remembrance of September 11. About half of the submissions had
some sort of patriotic badge. The runner-up design even had 9-11-01
inscribed on it, a far more explicit remembrance than Wagner's somber
and simple ribbon. Still, the ribbon was enough to raise questions
How quickly debates change. A few years ago, during the height of
celebrity culture and the Clinton sex scandals, a beer jacket design
was heckled and finally tossed out because it was too tacky. "It's
not stylish enough!" detractors said.
These days concerns are moral and philosophical. They look toward
how we should remember the impact of September 11 on our class,
and if we should be forced to remember them during the most festive
of times during graduation. Some look on the jacket as a symbol
of class unity and argue that giving people an option defeats the
purpose of the jacket. Others contend that the purpose of a beer
jacket is to be worn while drinking beer and that any patriotic
badge on it is in poor taste.
And then there are foreign students who wonder why they should have
to wear a symbol of American patriotism on an article of clothing
they will put on to go drink beers at the end of their stay at an
In the midst of this commotion, the powers-that-be in the senior
class let each student choose whether or not they wanted a ribbon
on the sleeve of their own senior jacket. "We decided in discussions
that we wanted to make as many people content as possible,"
said Brandon Hall '02, the chair of the committee in charge of the
senior jacket. He said that about 70 percent of seniors had decided
to get a jacket with a ribbon.
So Reunions and commencement this year will be tempered by a physical
symbol of how different the world has become. Hundreds of seniors
will walk through the beer-drenched tents wearing a memorial to
that fact. The ribbons will be conspicuous when friends toast each
other, when they hug, when they slap high-fives. Even those who
choose not to get a ribbon will bear testament to what has happened
through the absence of the patch on their arm. But this does not
mean the campus will have been divided into patriots and pacifists.
There are so many different reasons why people decided not to have
the colors of the American flag embroidered on their orange and
black beer jackets - taste, political differences, confusion - that
any attempt to lump them all together under any classification (except,
perhaps, as Princeton University seniors) would almost certainly
You can reach Abhi at email@example.com.