How many posts are we going to do on raccoon coats? Answer: as long as we keep getting fresh material, which in this case was supplied by Yale undergrad Riley Ford, who wore his great-granddad’s coonskin coat to The Game. Yeah, we realize that was six weeks ago: The kid had to finish finals.
For Bulldog fans, the 2009 edition of The Game was one to forget. Off the field, however, there was plenty to celebrate: Regardless of outcome, the annual Harvard-Yale football game presents one of the best opportunities of the year to put together traditional preppy ensembles and turn out in force.
My great-grandfather graduated from Yale in 1916, and I’m the proud owner of several sartorial artifacts from his time in New Haven, among them a pipe, a smoking jacket embroidered with the Yale crest, and his ankle-length raccoon coat. The latter appeared on my doorstep in 2007, just after I matriculated at Yale; it had been passed from attic to attic until a distant relative heard I was heading to New Haven and graciously handed it down to another generation.
Although the coat is in remarkably good shape, I wasn’t bold enough to ship it the 1,000 miles between home and school during my freshman year. I was similarly unwilling to risk its health in the alleys of Cambridge in 2008. This year, however, I decided to brave the tailgates and constant threat of rain in true Old Yale fashion, and invoke the spirit of Yale legends past in the process.
My homage was in vain, but the weekend was not lost. I attended the Mory’s brunch tent with friends. While we found it rather sad to be posing for pictures on makeshift tables and chairs, rather than at the famed eating club itself, it was wonderful to taste the Baker’s Soup after the year-long drought brought on by the club’s temporary closing. Furthermore, we were able to continue exercising our love for the 1920s at Yale’s Prohibition Party (formerly Casino Night), and channeled Zelda and F. Scott all evening as flapper and philosopher.
Of course there was the potential for backlash from other undergraduates, indignant that their peers held Old Yale in such high regard. Save for a few catcalls from PETA devotees, we emerged unscathed. It was not nearly as cold as previous years, so fewer alums were sporting their own coats, but I bumped into a handful at the Mory’s tent who were more than willing to reminisce about the golden age. Those undergraduates who knew of the tradition found the revival genuinely cool, while those who didn’t simply scratched their hoodies in confusion.
It was the first time in almost a century that the coat had seen the inside of the Yale Bowl, and while I regret it didn’t see victory, as in 1916, it made an already special event even more memorable. Perhaps next year, my last at Yale, it will make the trip with me to enemy territory, and we shall see if the Cantabs respect the tradition of Ivy League fashion as much as their Yale brethren. — RILEY FORD
Riley Ford is an English major from Harbor Springs, MI. A member of the varsity polo team, he also rowed lightweight crew his freshman year and is involved with the Tory Party, the Yale Political Union’s most sartorial-minded and bow tie-heavy party. He’s an aspiring novelist and devoted acolyte of Fitzgerald, Rand and Wolfe.