Inside Princeton’s closet of stripes, patterns, and plaids

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Bob Rodgers ’56 has been working to add jackets to the Princetoniana Committee’s collection. (Brett Tomlinson/PAW)

In a Princeton warehouse just across Route 1, behind a doorway marked “Do Not Enter,” a trove of Reunions garb compresses a full P-rade of colors into two neatly arranged coat racks. Stripes, plaids, patterns, and logos represent classes that span more than a century, from 1904’s Reunions blazer to 2010’s beer jacket. It is the archival equivalent of that closet space alumni reserve for their favorite orange-and-black gear.

 
The collection, managed by Bob Rodgers ’56 and the Alumni Council’s Princetoniana Committee, includes blazers and jackets from nearly 50 classes and the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni. The committee also draws on the personal collection of Kirk Unruh ’70, the University’s recording secretary, to produce an annual exhibit of Reunions costumes in display cases on the 100 level of Frist Campus Center.
 
This year, John Wriedt ’85, a local architect and Princetoniana fan, is designing the Reunions exhibit. He plans to spotlight some of the collection’s beer jackets, from the days when designs were stenciled on the backs of plain white denim coats. The designs are quite clever, Wriedt says, but “the stories behind the stencil are often very interesting as well.”
 

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The Class of 1941 jacket stencil, for example, provides a time capsule from that turbulent graduation year. In the logo, a tiger wears a battle helmet and carries a club, ready to go off to war. He sits on a globe that, on closer examination, is actually a cartoon bomb, ready to explode. Embedded in the globe’s land masses and the class numerals are the familiar profiles of two of the year’s most prominent figures, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler.

 
Rodgers says that the jacket project, like many efforts to preserve Princeton traditions, has a link to the late Fred Fox ’39, the venerable keeper of Princetoniana and longtime University administrator. Fox’s care for all things Princeton inspired a classmate, Hugh “Bud” Wynne ’39 *40, to start his own collection of jackets. When Wynne died in 2007, his widow, Irene, offered them to the Princetoniana Committee.
 
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Classes represented in the collection include, clockwise from top left, 1939, 1981, 1904, and 1956. (Brett Tomlinson/PAW)

Since then, the collection gradually has grown with donations from classes and individuals. In addition to blazers, beer jackets, and the occasional class sweater, the collection contains scraps of costume fabric leftover from a quilt fashioned by Sally Patton, wife of Henry Patton ’35, in the mid-1980s. (The quilt is on permanent display at Frist.)

 
The Mudd Manuscript Library did not have the space to store Reunions clothing, so Rodgers and his colleagues went looking for alternatives and found a spot in the University Building Services warehouse, the same place where class banners are housed in the months between P-rades. Patricia Potts and Rich Wilder, who manage the facility, were happy to accommodate the collection, Rodgers said.
 
This year, Rodgers has been “proactively filling the gaps” in the committee’s holdings, reaching out to class secretaries and presidents of classes from the 1920s through 1950, and he has received a “very upbeat response.”
 
There are a few reasons to collect the Reunions wear, Rodgers said. In addition to simply preserving pieces of the University’s history, the collection of old designs can provide ideas for future classes. The vertical stripes of the Class of 1933, for instance, were later duplicated by the Class of 1958 and the Class of 1983. While the Princetoniana Committee can’t take credit for that, Rodgers said, it would like to help others who might be inspired by seeing what past reuners wore.

3 thoughts on “Inside Princeton’s closet of stripes, patterns, and plaids

  1. Doug Rubin '81

    And now, way too soon, we say goodbye to Bob Rodgers ’56 h’81 as well. While his modified Cincinnati Bengal jacket that we wore to football and hockey games didn’t qualify as “official” Princeton garb, Bob’s spirit and love for Princeton and its community ran deep.
    .
    He is already being missed.

  2. Catherine Patrick Sullivan

    Thank you, PAW staff, for posting this. Charles will be dearly missed by our class, and our thoughts and best wishes are with his family at this difficult time. CPS/Class of ’85 Secretary

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