The following is an excerpt from the 2012 PAW Reunions Guide. To download a PDF of the full guide, click here.
One spring day, a group of seniors from the Class of 1912 were drinking beers around a table at the old Nassau Inn. The more they drank, the more foam spilled out of the sides of their mugs — and the more stains they got on their clothes. One member of the tipsy crew had a novel idea: What if they could design something to wear that was expressly for drinking beer? And with this idea, the beer jacket was born.
The beer jacket celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, though in fact it didn’t start out as just a jacket. The 1912 crew decided to don full suits — denim overalls with a workman’s jacket — when it came time to guzzle their favorite brews. Denim was phased out in 1914 when members of the senior class decided to make their suits in white canvas instead, which would remain the fabric of choice until recent years. After World War II, the beer suit was downsized to just a jacket, without overalls, to accommodate the seniors who still were wearing military attire.
When the Class of 2012 debuts its jackets at the P-rade this year, it will join 100 years of Princeton alumni who have worn their jackets not only as a way to protect their clothes from spills, but as a means of identifying and uniting the senior class. As Michael Jimenez ’12, the designer of this year’s jacket, puts it: “The jackets add a resounding sense of camaraderie.”
The jacket of each class carries a distinctive logo, which comes to serve as the unofficial emblem of the class. The designs, which originally were stenciled on the back shoulder of the jacket, often reference events from campus or national news that affects the graduating class. The black armbands on the Class of 1920 jacket, for instance, mourned the disappearance of beer drinking due to Prohibition, while the ’26 jacket celebrated the class’s narrow escape from the University ban of automobiles on campus.