by Hermann Trojanowski
The tradition of class jackets made its debut at the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) in the late 1920s. Before the jackets became popular, the girls wore hats and sweaters in the class colors of green, red, blue, and lavender. This color scheme would be a continuing tradition with class jackets, although during the lavender years the girls preferred to substitute black, charcoal, or camel colored jackets. Early jackets had unique designs each year and were made of flannel, suede, or leather. Eventually, they would evolve into standard wool blazers.
The first class jacket appeared in 1927. A blue flannel blazer was designed with white piping and “N.C.C. – ’29” on a front pocket emblem, signifying their graduating class year. Later jackets included the girls’ initials also placed on or directly above the pocket. After receiving their jackets, the students of the Class of 1929 paraded through the dining hall singing their class song, beginning a new tradition at the school. The jackets were so popular, that they continued into subsequent years. The distinctively colored jackets were bought during the sophomore year and were worn by the students for the remainder of their college days. An extra pocket was included for students who wanted to wear their jackets after graduation and additional material could be purchased for a matching skirt. Jackets arrived during the fall of the students’ sophomore year, signifying that they were upperclassmen. “Jacket Day” was an important event as sophomores were given their jackets for the first time.
There was a great deal of pride associated with the jackets and the girls wore them on and off campus. This would be significant on February 1, 1960, when three white Woman’s College (now UNCG) students joined the Sit-ins occurring at the local Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter – wearing their class jackets. This protest, initiated by four African American North Carolina A&T students, was instrumental in the desegregation of downtown businesses. The college’s administration was not pleased to see their students figure so prominently in the Sit-ins, especially because of the visual association with the school that the class jackets provided. Although the students were allowed to remain in school, this controversial incident would foreshadow the changing mood of the 1960s which saw many school traditions fade into obscurity. After the school became coeducational in 1963, class jackets were one of the few traditions to remain intact. Male students were able to order class jackets, but it is unclear whether they were as popular as they had been with the girls. The tradition gradually died out, with the last class jacket being worn by the class of 1972.