Campus Capers

In the ’80s it was the preppy look. A generation before that, the Ivy League Look. And a generation before that was the Joe College years.

What they all had in common, besides some sartorial ingredients, was appeal to the broader masses, and in the case of the ’20s and ’30s, guys who’d never even been to college but wanted to look like they had. The ’20s, ’50s and ’80s all saw huge jumps in college enrollment and produced fashion trends based on the collegiate look, as well as songs that parody the idea of looking like Joe College when you’re really Joe the Plumber.

There may not have been a mass of such deceivers, but there were surely one or two. Enough to inspire the pop song “He Ain’t Never Been in College” by  Harry Reser:

Collegiate tunes were a recurring motif during this period, with plenty of references to clothing. Such as raccoon coats, which, according to the lyrics, were de rigueur at all the Ivies. Here’s “Doin’ The Raccoon” by George Olsen & His Music:

There was plenty of toxic hanky-panky at the time. Take Collegiate Sam, of whom “I’ve heard it said on good authority/He’d wreck a whole sorority.” Harry Reser & His Syncopators:

And we can’t forget “Freddy the Freshman,” who took a page from Collegiate Sam’s playbook and got himself bounced from Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Brown for being the “freshest kid in town.” Here’s Gene Kardos & His Orchestra:

As for Reser, he died of a heart attack in 1965 while sitting in a Broadway orchestra pit waiting to perform “Fiddler on the Roof.” — CC

Top image from Esquire, 1988.

11 Comments on "Campus Capers"

  1. Thank you for a great blog on this topic. It is truly the best blog in terms of this area. WASP 101 showed promise early on but it has degenerated into a pigsty of polo outfits and general vulgarity. The author of that blog has no clue about WASPdom.

  2. Chip Parks | May 11, 2009 at 11:29 pm |

    If anyone is interested, you can download about 100 of Harry Reser’s songs from the site. They also have quite a bit of George Olsen…only a few Gene Kardos songs though. However, these songs are all in the public domain, so you can download them for free.


  3. Also of note, the roaring 20’s had a resurgence in the 50’s with lots of themed parties and a revival of dixieland music. Similar to how the 50’s pop culture was resurrected in the 70’s with Grease, Happy Days, and American Graffiti (ok that was ’62, but same basic ‘era’). And then the 60’s ivy look was reborn in the 80’s with the preppy thing.

  4. Forest Lacroix | February 15, 2019 at 1:45 am |

    Some of us didn’t know that the Ivy look had “died” after the ’60s, and continued to dress properly in the ’70s. (Yes, all the Trad/Ivy items were still available during that decade). Consequently we didn’t fall into the exaggerated Preppy trap.

  5. Greg Parker Winston | February 15, 2019 at 2:02 am |

    For those tyros who didn’t understand the reference to WASP 101 in the first comment above, here’s a taste of that late, unmourned blog:

  6. Old School Tie | February 15, 2019 at 10:46 am |

    Well, I just had to look. The chubby girlfriend was about the best thing in it….

  7. One of my most divisive actions and still I believe the most trafficked post out of the past 10 years:

  8. Raccoon coats are making a small comeback – my vintage friends have a raccoon coat party every year. Your ticket for admission is your own raccoon coat (i.e no loaners).

  9. Charlottesville | February 15, 2019 at 1:16 pm |

    Thanks for re-posting, Christian Fun to listen to. Fred Waring (promoter of the bar-top blender that bears his name) also had a collegiate tune in 1925 called, appropriately enough, Collegiate.

    As for the coat, I am almost tempted. Looks like a new one can be had for less than $300 on eBay:

  10. Vern Trotter | February 16, 2019 at 6:59 pm |

    Collegiate, by Fred Waring, was for decades considered the top college song of all time, as you are likely aware.

  11. Larry Vargo | February 5, 2021 at 9:57 am |

    “Collegiate” was the thing. And don’t forget “Animal House”.

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