When the Princeton University Band (cover story, Nov. 4) in 1952 switched from a quasi-military uniform to plaid jackets, straw boaters, gray flannel trousers, and white buck shoes, we were scared to death that we would be booed or laughed out of Palmer Stadium (our appearance at the first football game that fall was a total surprise to everyone outside the band).
While the Band Council of 1952 was responsible for choosing and implementing the full regalia, as president I was responsible for choosing the pattern from small swatches designed by Ruth Herron, the mother of my roommate, Matt. It was much louder in actuality than I had imagined based on that small swatch, but by the time we saw the finished product it had been woven in a mill in New England, tailored by a tailor shop in Philadelphia, and was delivered to us at the University just a few days before the unveiling. What to do? Go with it no matter what, was our unanimous answer.
The plaid jacket has been a constant subject of comment and amazement wherever the band has been and performed ever since. (I know because I have one and wear it in staid old Colorado Springs every once in a while, just for kicks.) How did it last for 57 of the band’s 90 years? It is because it fits so perfectly with the character and personality of the band: festive, mirthful, playful (in more ways than one), with showmanship. Those are constants since the 1950s, and probably before. They are different, but just as valid, as a spit-and-polish marching band. And a lot more fun.