Skip to content

1967's Costume Chronicles

Introduction: Memoirs of a Costume Chairman

In our 50th Reunion Book, the Class of 1967 published an in-house history of the many P-rade costumes that we had donned during our half-century of reunion rah-rah. Here’s that same tale of sartorial (mis)adventures, offered to the entire alumni community for everyone’s amusement.

Because I’ve been producing ’67’s reunion outfits for over four decades, the Class has tapped me to gin up this little photo essay. Along the way, I give a nod to many of the other classmates who have had a hand in suiting us up. The resulting chronicle depicts a typically mixed bag of ensembles. ’67’s outfits reflect many of the sartorial traditions peculiar to Princeton Reunions. In particular, they exhibit lots of ways in which costume designs can reflect the theme, slogan, logo, and budget of each major reunion. Ditto, of course, the fundamental facetiousness of the whole P-rade ensemble ’cept.

Tim Tulenko '67

Introduction:  Memoirs of a Costume Chairman

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.


1966-1967: Senior Year

1966-1967:  Senior Year

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

In the beginning was the beer jacket. Just before Houseparties in the spring of 1966, the Class acquired the emblematic jackets that we would wear all through senior year, and far beyond. These off-white housepainter’s jackets came in the same traditional style that Princetonians had been wearing since the beer suit was invented half a century earlier. On the right shoulder the U-Store stenciled a cartoon logo chosen by a Class-wide ballot. Pepper Pettit’s insouciant design won the vote. Over the summer of 1966, many guys used fabric paints to decorate their jackets with individualized artwork. The cartoons on mine, for instance, reflected my thesis on the British Navy and my interest in Marvel Comics.


1967: Graduation

1967:    Graduation

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

As graduation approached in 1967, the Class needed to come up with something to wear in the P-rade for the next four years. Back then, the seniors did not march in their beer jackets. That custom came along only in the early 1980s, as did the practice of acquiring the beer jacket in May of senior year. Both of those traditions continue today with the stylized windbreakers that replaced the classic beer jacket in the 1990s. But back in our day, a graduating class would choose an actual P-rade costume—not their existing jacket—to wear until the 5th Reunion.

The usual custom was to pick some minimal garment like a shirt, a vest, or overalls. ’67’s more ambitious approach was to opt for an actual blazer like those worn by grown-up 25th Reunion classes—except that ours were made with a type of reinforced paper (!). The outfit also came with a clip-on paper tie. Topping things off was a styrofoam boater hat of equally obscure origin. (The authorship of this ingeniously economical ensemble is lost in the mists of time.) Unfortunately, the grand experiment in cheap-’n’-cheerful costuming fell apart as quickly as the paper blazers did. Armpits were particularly susceptible to disintegration, and the rest of the jacket didn’t hold up too well either. Following a weekend of partying and P-rade marching, hardly any survived to be packed away after graduation.


1968: The "Fabulous First" Reunion

1968:    The "Fabulous First" Reunion

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

The following year our new Reunion Chairman, Gus Escher, rose to the challenge of replacing the paper blazers. He came up with a jaunty item reminiscent of what old-time newsboys wore—an apron in orange-&-white checkered fabric with three big black pockets stitched on it below the waist. The look was topped off (at least for any guy whose hat had survived) with the boater from the old paper-blazer costume. As Class Secretary John Armstrong put it in our PAW Class Notes, “The uniforms were a success, being lightweight, easy-to-wear, and having pockets large enough to hold six beers.” We wore this outfit through what John called the “Fabulous First”, “Super Second”, and “Thrifty Third” Reunions, plus the apparently un-nicknamed Fourth. The aprons, which Gus sold for $5 apiece, certainly embodied the “cheap-’n’-cheerful” school of costume design.


1972: The "Freaky Fifth!!" Reunion

1972:  The "Freaky Fifth!!" Reunion

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University. Photo source: PAW 6-27-1972; Logo source and copyright: Princeton Class of 1967

Five years on from graduation, Vietnam was still much in the news. Riffing ironically on the occasional hippie habit of wearing army-surplus items, Gus and Reunion co-Chairman Rick Hesel came up with the idea of wearing jungle-fatigue jackets for a “Freaky Fifth!!” Reunion. These fatigues introduced a rather novel hue into the P-rade—olive drab. A dash of Princeton color was supplied via orange rectangular badges and circular shoulder patches with the Class numerals in black. No official hat or pants were issued. Guys were free to wear whatever else they liked with the jackets; some accessorized them with a bit of hippie gear, like the flower-print bellbottoms shown here in a Freaky Foto of the P-rade. The minimalist outfit was certainly comfy. It also continued a cheap-’n’-cheerful (if gently sardonic) approach to costume design.


1977: Tenth Reunion "Scots on the Rocks"

1977:  Tenth Reunion "Scots on the Rocks"

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University. Photo source: PAW 7-11-1977; Logo source and copyright: Princeton Class of 1967

By the mid-1970s, ’67’s reunion organizers began to think it was time for a more traditional pre-25th outfit of the sort that covered the bod from head to foot. The one eventually chosen even came with ’67 socks.

If memory serves, the design first arose during a brainstorming session at the 8th Reunion in 1975. Some classmate (not moi) said “How about kilts?” Other heads nodded speculatively. Incoming Reunion Chairman Buck Wood came up with the slogan "Scots on the Rocks" and (I think) the logo, too. That ’cept gathered momentum in subsequent Class discussions. The, ummm, cross-dressing aspect did arouse some misgivings, but no alternative motif emerged.

Back then I was living in North Carolina, home in those pre-NAFTA days to many textile firms. So I volunteered to produce the kilt outfit, my first foray into costume design. The key element turned out to be industry-standard patterns of red-&-black tartan fabric that I was able simply to order in orange instead. Ditto orange-&-white argyle socks. “Auld Nassau” bonnets were easy enough to mock up out of black berets. To complete the ensemble, each classmate was told to bring from home any white shirt he wanted to wear. While nowhere near as cheap to produce as our earlier minimalist apparel, the $30 Scots outfit was still pretty reasonably priced as ’67’s first full-body costume ensemble.

Though the ’67 kilt outfit was an original design, it was not an original theme. Later research revealed that the Class of ’34 had worn kilts before us, as had ’04 before them.

On the classic question of what to wear underneath, guys were told via the Class Notes that anything goes—but ultimately advised to wear shorts. The kilts turned out to be tricky to put on, and the hats a tad hot. (Lessons for the future.) Some classmates hated the outfit, some loved it, and many simply donned it in the quirky spirit of P-rade couture.


1982: Fifteenth Reunion "67's P-rate P-rade"

1982:  Fifteenth Reunion "67's P-rate P-rade"

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University. Photo source: PAW 7-12-1982; Logo source and copyright: Princeton Class of 1967

When it came time for the Class to consider what next to wear, I stuck my hand up again to design the costume for the 15th. I also wound up creating the slogan and the logo, incorporating both directly into the garments.

With this “P-rate” outfit, ’67 carried forward the cheap-’n’-cheerful approach. Cheapness took the form of a black tee shirt, white surgical scrubs, and repurposed 10th Reunion socks, plus a sash and headscarf made out of leftover kilt fabric. The cheerfulness took the form of “Buccaneering Behavior”, a nautical brand of rowdiness that classmates were encouraged to pursue for the weekend. Though no official P-rade hand-toy came with the outfit, guys were urged to bring their own rubber cutlasses, fake hand-hooks, and other cheap-o P-ratical doo-dads.

As reunion themes go, the pirate look wasn’t original. Several classes had done it before, most recently (I think) ’57 at their 5th. But it was a fun motif, and it lent itself to an original twist of Princeton word play, with a slogan that literally incorporated a reference to the one-&-only P-rade.


.

.

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

The P-rade was where ’67 reached the pinnacle of Buccaneering Behavior. At the end of the march, half a dozen classmates and wives (also in costume) stormed the reviewing stand with grappling hooks. This resulted in what’s probably the only photo ever taken of Bill Bowen flinching in public. (In private, the rumor ran that this incident was the reason ’67 would never win the P-rade Trophy for as long as Bowen was President.)


1987: Twenthieth Reunion "'67's Polo P-rade"

1987:  Twenthieth Reunion "'67's Polo P-rade"

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

This time the Class came up with a theme and a costume that were unique. Nobody else has done polo outfits before or since. The ensemble turned out to be comfortable (breathable polo shirt), economical ($1 plastic helmets, bring-your-own white pants), and arguably rather handsome. The black diagonal stripe and tapered spandex puttees (boot-tops) even looked, umm, kind of slimming. This costume also came complete with ’67’s first-ever official hand-toy to carry in the P-rade, a lightweight polo mallet.

As usual, costume development went through a couple years of trial-ballooning. Classmates may remember that the Reunion Committee took at least one survey of the whole Class by mail in 1986. This displayed a couple of design proposals that I had mocked up, and the polo outfit got the nod.


.

.

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

Slogan-wise, it’s never a bad idea for a Princeton class to pick a theme that begins with “P”. Choosing the polo motif enabled us to do an alliterative segue from the 15th Reunion’s "P-rate P-rade" motto into the "Polo P-rade" slogan for the 20th. I was also able to heed one of PU’s traditional principles of logo design and incorporate the image of a tiger into the artwork.


1992: Twenty-fifth Reunion "Clear the Track!"

1992:  Twenty-fifth Reunion "Clear the Track!"

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

With any 25th Reunion outfit, the theme’s the thing. That’s because of the custom that says alumni can abandon unduly quirky garments at their 25th and settle down with a Class blazer, tie, and not-so-funny hat. This more conventional ensemble places a premium on thematic creativity.

The "Clear the Track!" motif created for our 25th embodied one of the most self-referentially Princetonian themes ever devised. The slogan came right out of the lyrics to the most famous of all Reunion songs, “Going Back to Nassau Hall”. Another Princeton landmark set the scene for our costume concept: dressing up as passengers returning to the Dinky station on the “Princeton Junction & Back Railroad”—the PJ&B. (That’s the historical nickname for the Princeton Branch line of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, which folded not long after ’67 graduated.) The choo-choo theme also reflected the locomotive cheer that every Class gives the President at the end of the P-rade—but only ’67 gives with actual hand-held train whistles.

As ever, the 25th costume design was a long while coming. The Class toyed for a time with seeking the Holy Grail of reunion couture—a blazer sober enough that it could actually be worn somewhere other than a Princeton party venue. But nothing panned out when we canvassed candidate concepts by mail (one got rejected as politically incorrect). I then came up with the uncontroversial PJ&B Railroad theme. This resulted in a blazer that, while far from grail-like, was no more than routinely garish by traditional reunion standards.


.

.

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

The choo-choo theme got expressed on our orange jacket fabric via black “stripes” in the shape of railroad tracks with tiny train cars on ’em. Our class numerals and phrases from “Going Back” were also worked into the design. Even the belt reprised the same track-stripe graphics. (This way, even when a guy took off the jacket, the belt kept the theme and color scheme on display.) The plain gray pants and understated black tie kept the ensemble from getting too gaudy. Topping it all off was a white fedora with an orange PJ&B RR “Return Ticket” stuck in the hatband. Pocketing the handy train whistle rounded out the thematic effect, enabling a guy to give a locomotive toot at a moment’s notice.


1997-2017: Thirtieth thru Fiftieth Reunions "Clear the Track! '67's Back!"

1997-2017:  Thirtieth thru Fiftieth Reunions "Clear the Track!  '67's Back!"

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

We’ve been wearing that same ensemble ever since. The theme’s durability has given us time to augment it with lots of optional accessories. We’ve also been able to add more choo-choo art.

My rather sketchy locomotive logo for the 25th has been sharpened up a lot in subsequent years. Galen Aoki and I also devised ways to work the numerals of each successive major reunion into the smoke cloud. Then when I drew a caboose logo showing the back of a ’67 tiger, John Davis suggested adding the parallel slogan " ’67’s Back!" – a rhyming pun derived (again) from the lyrics to “Going Back to Nassau Hall”. The suggestion to reverse the smoke cloud over the caboose came from the guys who print logos on beer cups at perennial Reunions beer distributor Ritchie & Page Inc.

Nowadays we pair up these two logos on many Class items—from beer cups, to P-rade signs, to wine labels, to sheet music for the Class Song, to the covers of the 50th Reunion Class Book. Since 2007 we’ve also exhibited another iconic bit of ’67 choo-choo art, the PJ&B Railroad “keystone”. Modeled directly on the logo of the old Pennsylvania RR, it has frequently displayed our two-part slogan on ’67 apparel items, P-rade signs, and the PAW Class Notes.

As the 50th approached, the Reunion Committee pondered whether it was time to change blazers. Though quite happy with the whole choo-choo thing, in 2016 I did pitch a couple of different outfits with jackets notionally capable of being worn elsewhere than at Reunions. Still, the Committee frugally chose to retain the PJ&B ensemble.


.

.

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

Keeping the same theme for decades has given us ample opportunity to design compatible accessories for classmates, family members, and reunion guests alike. They’re for optional wear anytime during the weekend. In the P-rade itself—when classmates are of course wearing the full standard outfit—having others wear lots of extra choo-choo apparel helps round out the thematic image of a Princetonian crowd detraining from the old PJ&B shuttle. The line of ’67 optional apparel is now quite extensive. It has even come full circle to include a reprise of our senior-year beer jacket, now pre-printed with Pepper’s original beer-mug logo plus lots of PJ&B Railroad artwork.


2017 and Beyond: Prankishness and Practicality

2017 and Beyond:  Prankishness and Practicality

Copyright Princeton Class of 1967. Princetoniana Museum use only.

So that’s our story—one Class’s half-century quest for costume creativity. Every other Class has its own approach. Paying due heed (or not) to sartorial traditions and their own budgets, Reunion Committees will perennially ponder what P-rade “character”—original or otherwise—to impersonate next. Their costume and logo designers will then puzzle out how best to embody that ’cept in ways that combine prankishness and practicality. And bad puns, too, of course.

Entire text of this exhibit is Copyright Princeton Class of 1967