Colleges and universities across the globe have participated in different forms of hazing to separate the incoming freshman class from upperclassman.
While today, the term “hazing” carries a very negative connotation, if we travel back 100+ years, we’ll encounter a different, more playful, style of hazing. Read through old copies of The Brand and The Bronco; you will come across the most outrageous and funny stories of upperclassman battling underclassman with pranks, a forced dress code, and campus rules.
Today we are going to investigate HSU’s use of the Freshman Beanie, also known as a Slime Cap.
The purpose of wearing a beanie was/is to identify and separate underclassman from the self-professed wiser and more steadfast upperclassmen.
We all know this mindset to be true. Those of you who are upperclassmen, think: in a non-aggressive way, you look down at the latest addition to this campus. They don’t understand your oasis yet. They don’t know the cheers out on the football field; which professors to take classes from; nor do they have a stockpile of free t-shirts highlighting the many events you have attended while here. They are newbies, with lanyards fresh from the bookstore, who have yet to understand how magical and important this campus is.
Freshmen: you may take offense to this judgement by your fellow Cowboys and Cowgirls. You have a crisp student ID, have avoided locking yourself out of your room, and affectionately provided Gilbert with table scraps. Congratulations. This is nothing personal against you; you just haven’t had as much time here as your older classmates.
And that is why they look down on you. They are envious of you. You have something they don’t: more time here at HSU, and without realizing it, you are taking it for granted.
Now, back to the Beanies.
The first mention of freshmen having to wear beanies can be found in a 1909 edition of The Corral. Rather than the purple and gold beanies you are familiar with today, the beanies from the early 1900’s were green.
They were green for two different reasons:
1. Freshmen were referred to as “fish,” “slime,” and conjointly “slimy fish”; and slime is thought of as green, hence the moniker, Slime Cap.
2. Funnily enough, in this small piece from The Corral, it’s inferred that the caps are also bright green because the president did not trust the students if he could not see them. So the obnoxious color allowed President Sandefer a watchful eye over his younger students.
The freshman’s graduation year was stitched on the front of the beanie, with the bill left blank for the freshman to write his name (along with the identifier “Slime”). Today, the graduation year has been replaced with “HSU,” but the bill is still left blank for the student’s name.
In 1920, the beanies were still green, however, enforcement of freshman wearing them had gone down. In an article from The Simmons Brand (now called The Brand), it is noted that students have not been wearing their beanies when off campus and that it is requested they do so.
Over the years, the tradition of the freshman beanie continued to change: the stark divide and competition between classes along with the enforcement to wear/punishment when not wearing beanies diminished with each class. This is probably due to the changing demographic of the student body. The 1900’s were riddled with catastrophic events, including The Great Depression, World War I, World War II, and other conflicts. These world events created “non-traditional students:” a student body that was older, matured, diverse and with different priorities.
In the spring of 1954 the Freshman Beanie went up for a vote among the student council. In the editorial section of The Brand, a student, named David McPherson, broke down the pros and cons of continuing the tradition and urged the rest of the student body to express their feelings with their student body representatives.
|Inclusion of freshman in campus activities||Creates a “persecution complex”|
|Create class unity||Some may not be able to afford the beanie|
|Help with learning names, since one would write his/her name on the bill of the cap|
It becomes evident, in the following 1955 fall semester, based on an article in The Brand, that beanies are no longer mandatory for the freshman class, but strongly encouraged for school spirit.
By 1959, the beanie changed from green to purple and by the early 1960’s the class year was replaced on the front with “HSU.”
Today the beanie acts as an induction to the HSU community. New students receive their purple and gold beanie during orientation, and wear it proudly with goofy grins, excited to begin their college adventure. Once orientation is over, however, the beanies go away.
Long gone are the days where freshman are singled out on campus by their headgear.