Friday, August 24, 2012

The Freshmen Beanie!

How do I look??

As I was walking around campus yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice all of the freshmen moving into the dorms. It got me thinking about the tiny brown and yellow hats that sit in the Baldwin Wallace Archive.
            What hats you ask? Well some of you might remember these hats, or beanies as they were known.  During the 1960s it was customary that frosh had to purchase a beanie during the first weeks of school. These hats singled out the new students and, according to The Exponent, “if caught without one, any upperclassmen could ask the beleaguered freshman to suffer such embarrassments as walking around trees backward.” Another Exponent article has a bit more serious result of the relationship, “This quaint practice often lead to an incoming freshmen having another adventure… his first visit to the Health Center. Or, in extreme cases it leads to the adventure of quitting his first college.”
            As it can be seen, the practice of wearing the beanies could be a bit frightful. When talks began about the possibility to get rid of the beanie, a student took to the editorials of The Exponent:
            “Don’t ban the beanie
Now, be reasonable, Charlie—how can you condemn the Freshman Beanie as being morally decadent when it’s actually one of the very few institutions (I know: “Who wants to live in an institution?”) remaining with B-W that really doesn’t harm anyone? Who cares that dinking is undignified? The petty embarrassment is only for the moment, and seven or eight hundred people having to dink in a common situation—that of being freshmen--might indeed have certain advantages.
            First, when a freshman is lost or even mildly confused while wandering about the campus attempting to get oriented, wondering where he’s supposed to eat, stay, go to classes, he is chagrined and shy, unwilling to ask anyone outright just where he should be; he doesn’t like being caught ignorant. But if he wears a beanie that marks him as a candidate for assistance, then most of the upperclassmen would thoughtfully inquire if they could help in any way, and he would not have to feel embarrassed. The dinking then becomes just one of those little irritations the freshman has to live with—and even then, for only a short period.
Teaching how to put on a beanie.
The gentleman to the right doesn't look impressed.
            Look at dinking more closely, though. The usually practice is pick on a frosh until his frustration toleration level is reached, then grin madly and introduce yourself. If he isn’t too sullen, he will reveal his mysterious identity, and you have each gained another acquaintance if not a friend. The freshman also realizes that it’s not a bad idea to get “connections” from the very start. Furthermore, in the line of meeting other people, he will know immediately which students are his own classmates and will not fear to break down and cry in their presence. So you see, what’s so bad about the Freshman Beanie? Recall that the student is under to real obligation to wear one, that he can beat the upperclassmen in some silly game and get out of his beanie days, and what upperclassmen doesn’t want posterity to have all the experience he had, besides? Plus the fact that it brings in a little more cash for College, and there’s no denying that nearly any source is welcomed these days. And colorful-brown and gold are rather attractive when you’re used to them, and the freshman will probably be satisfied with them eventually. The beanies begin a little cheer into the hectic weeks of becoming adjusted, here referring to all the student body. To summarize, each must find his own reason for wearing or in some cases, not wearing, the B-W Freshman Beanie, but the College should at least make them available to the freshmen at beginning of Fall Quarter.”

A beanie from the archive!
Needless to say, the beanie hasn’t been a campus tradition for some time now. 

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