(PAW Archives, July 12, 1989)
(PAW Archives, July 12, 1989)

During May, our Throwback Thursday posts will be highlighting some of this year’s major-reunion classes. Our series continues with the Class of 1954.

PAW’s July 12, 1989, cover (left) featured Somers Steelman ’54 at his 35th reunion, sporting one of the P-rade’s long-enduring favorites: the ’54 happi coat.

Jeremiah Ford ’54, designer of the original coat, explained in the class’s 50th-reunion book that he became absorbed in Japanese culture and history while stationed in the coastal city of Iwakuni as a Marine. He came up with the idea of a class happi coat — traditionally worn by tradesmen — in the hope that it would be “unique, simple, economical, and … ‘one size fits all.’” By that measure, it was a home run: a memorable, distinctive costume that cost each class member just $6 (including shipping from Japan).

Unveiled at ’54’s fifth reunion in 1959, the first happi coat was black with orange trim, white numerals, and a stylish tiger logo on the back. Other iterations followed — a mostly orange one for the 10th; white with orange trim for the 15th; white with black stripes for the 20th; and a white blazer with small happi-coat tigers for the 40th. In 2004, the graduating class paid tribute to ’54, its grandparent class, with an Asian-inspired design for its beer jacket.