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No cap? Not so fast–Why first-years wear beanies at Springfield College

By Tucker Paquette

One of the initial instructions first-year students are given on move-in day every year is to go check in for New Student Orientation, where they would receive their t-shirts and beanies.

T-shirts definitely make sense. After all, someone can get a t-shirt for just about anything these days. But beanies? What’s the point of that? Wouldn’t wearing a standard baseball cap, or no hat at all, work just as well?

Well, as it would turn out, there’s far more to this tradition than just the pursuit of style points. In fact, according to Springfield College Archivist Jeff Monseau, first-years at this school have been wearing beanies since 1926.

Monseau also mentioned how the beanies used to be green, as opposed to the red and gray ones worn now. 

“As a first year, you were ‘green,’” Monseau said. “You didn’t have a lot of knowledge.” 

For those who didn’t enjoy the experience of wearing the beanies, it could have always been (much) worse. Monseau said that previously, Springfield College first-years had to wear the beanies for the entire school year, not just during NSO weekend. 

If someone did not like donning the beanies, they were far from alone. Monseau feels that, for the most part, first-year students were not overly enthused about the tradition, but took part nonetheless.

“That’s usually the impression that I get, that it’s tolerated. Most people don’t enjoy wearing the beanies,” Monseau said. “But when I ask students whether or not they wore theirs, most say they wore theirs.”

“I think most feel like it’s nice to be a part of something, that it’s nice to be a part of tradition,” Monseau added. “So, in my eyes, that seems to be the main thing.”

As a matter of fact, Monseau said that a few years ago, the percentage of students who wore their beanies was above 90 percent. 

In terms of why students wear these beanies, Monseau has heard several different reasons.

“[One of them being] to mark you, so everybody on campus would know that you were new, that you hadn’t gone through all those experiences that made people true Springfield College [students],” Monseau said. 

Furthermore, the tradition of wearing beanies has been enforced consistently throughout Springfield College’s past.

“Early on in the school’s history, if you go back to the ‘50s and beyond, [wearing beanies] was a very important part of that early collegiate experience for the students,” he said.

While most students wear the beanies because they want to, or because they don’t have any valid reason not to, one would think that there has been a strong reason to not put on the beanie at one point or another. As it would be, this did happen, back around the time of World War II. 

Monseau shared the story of how a good number of students who came to Springfield College after the Second World War were on the G.I. Bill, a piece of legislation that gave help to veterans returning from war. It should be noted that some of these soldiers weren’t too happy with having to wear beanies. 

Notably, one person put up a particularly strong fight against the notion of having to wear a beanie. Eventually, this person went before a board to get permission to not wear it.

Monseau notes that while this student ultimately prevailed in his case, this story displays the weight of this tradition, as even a soldier had to get the required clearance to not wear a beanie. 

So, while many students likely won’t look back very fondly on the beanie-wearing experience, they can at least take solace in the fact that they are doing their part to uphold a longstanding tradition at Springfield College.

Photo: Springfield College


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