Over the years, I’ve noticed in many old movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s where a college campus or college life is depicted, some of the male students are depicted wearing long, heavy fur coats. If memory serves, one movie I can cite is “Blondie Goes to College”.
Seemed to be mostly men, but I’m not sure. Did college students actually wear such fur coats? If so, why? Was it like 20 degrees below zero or something? And if they never wore such coats, what gave movie writers and producers the notion that they did?
(Sometimes, they’re also shown holding or playing the ukulele, but that’s another mystery)
They wore beanies into the 1960s. I remember when I was a freshman and one of the seniors said they had to wear them until the first football victory*, but they abolished them soon afterwards. That would have put it at 1967.
*The team always scheduled their first game against a real cupcake, so it didn’t take long.
One thing to keep in mind is how much colder everything seems without central heating and modern insulation. A fur coat may seem overkill to us now, but a lot of that is that we are used to experiencing the full force of winter in small bits- on the way from the car to the supermarket, etc. A college student in the 20s would probably live in an unheated and uninsulated dorm room. His classes would probably be equally frigid. H’e probably have to walk everywhere. His access to hot water is probably limited to a few minutes in a shared shower a few times a week. Basically he probably never got a chance to warm up, and so a fur coat wouldn’t seem so excessive.
Got a cite for the claim that classrooms and dorm rooms weren’t heated?
It’s quite true that early cars weren’t heated, and AIUI, raccoon coats first became popular as driving coats. They were also cozy in unheated football stadiums in the days before down jackets and Thinsulate. But I’m having a hard time believing that college buildings for the upper-class youth of the Roaring Twenties were not expected to have any heating facilities at all.
What you describe sounds more like spartan schoolrooms of the 18th and mid-19th centuries. In fact, a quick google search on the subject turns up records of colleges building central heating plants to supply heat throughout their buildings in the decades before the 1920s:
So while I agree with your general point that people in the 1920s spent more time in non-climate-controlled environments than we do now, I’m not buying the claim that 1920s college students actually slept or attended classes in unheated rooms.
What kind of beanies are we talking about? I remember seeing mentions of beanies in books when I was a kid and I never knew what my mental image was supposed to look like. I always end up picturing a propeller-top beanie, and I’m pretty sure that’s not right.
The form of the beanie probably varied a lot between institutions. I was in the last class that got issued them at my school in 1970. By that time, nobody made you wear it or anything, and I don’t believe they had for several years. During the era of Vietnam, student strikes, Woodstock, etc, nobody would have stood for it. Ours took the form of a sailor hat. They were functional enough that people actually wore the things occasionally, usually with the brim turned down to make something like a beach hat out of it.
Naw, I’m just talking out of my ass. I’ve been living in an area that experiences fairly mild winters but does not use modern heating or insulation. Even temps in the forties and fifties can become bone-chattering cold when there is no way to warm up, and I’d regularly sleep in hats and gloves.