Tag Archives: underwear

Undie Run-UCLA Folk Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Nigerian American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/27/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Igbo

Context: This is a folk tradition that occurs at UCLA during finals week as a means of blowing off steam, my brother learned this tradition as a freshman and gave his opinions on the tradition and its value.

K: So ya….uh. Undie Run is basically a quarterly tradition at UCLA in which the Wednesday of finals week, where….uh at…I wanna say starting at midnight….ya right at midnight. 

Basically, everybody that’s capable….comes to…um…under the bridge…across from UCLA. 

It’s a certain start point at UCLA that everybody gets to in their underwear and then we run from there up until the top of Janss Steps which is at UCLA and basically…uh.. its kind of a..its a way in which you commemorate finals. 

It’s just a tradition…uh… I don’t know how long we’ve been doing it for.

K: It’s important to us because it’s like…it’s just tradition. 

It’s the student experience. I know that like I remember like..um..some of my older friends like they would have their sashes.

Like you would see seniors with their graduation sashes doing it….you know…its..its just a college experience…a college thing…fundamentally it’s a UCLA college thing.

K: Um..why underwear…you know that’s…actually….you know  I don’t ….

Some people can wear like their pajamas….you know..but typically you wear your boxers, wear like….uh..wear like leggings…you know what I’m sayin…if you’re a dude.

You know people are wearing…you know…they..they determine their spectrum as to what constitutes as underwear. 

Thoughts: After interviewing my older brother about UCLA’s Undie Run tradition, it honestly made me laugh at first because I thought it was ridiculous for students to run while practically naked and not get in trouble. When I was in high school they banned having any kind of senior prank or event because of a previous year so I never had the chance to do anything to commemorate my high school graduation. Hearing my brother describe the Undie Run gave me the nostalgia that he must have felt coming in as a freshman and being introduced to this folk tradition. The Undie Run is a unique tradition because its meaning is subjective to each individual person and its something that continues to live on with both the students and the school. As a freshman, my brother’s experience was less sentimental because he had just arrived at UCLA and was getting used to his environment and its many traditions. However, for the senior friends that he described the meaning was different. The Undie Run for them meant that they were not only commemorating their finals being over but were also celebrating four or so years of hard work as they were about to leave UCLA and this run would be there last. I would never have imagined a large group of people collectively running in their underwear, it sounds so strange, but that seems to be the beauty of folklore in this case. A tradition like the Undie Run is something that I view as strange because, as a student at USC, I’m not apart of the culture. As a sophomore at USC, I understand how events like these can be an important feature of the college experience like my brother emphasized. Now that he is a senior, he was finally able to participate in his last Undie Run as a UCLA Bruin and was able to fully appreciate its importance and commemorate all his hard work.

For another version see: Vassar, Ethan, and Ethan Vassar. “Seriously: Undie Run Cancellation Threatens CSU Admission Rates, Sponsors.” The Rocky Mountain Collegian, 7 May 2019, collegian.com/2019/05/category-opinion-seriously-undie-run-cancelation-threatens-csu-admission-rates-sponsors/.

UC Davis “Undie Run”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 24
Occupation: Actuary
Residence: San Diego, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: The informant is an American UC Davis 2018 alumni who currently works as an actuary in San Diego, CA. He learned the tradition while attending university in Davis, CA, but never partook in it himself. 

Context: The following piece was collected in a brief, casual over-the-phone interview.


Informant: “So around finals, usually like the Wednesday of finals week every semester there was an ‘undie run.’ So everyone uh, if you were going to donate your clothes would just strip off whatever clothes you were going to donate, leave them there, and then just run around the campus in your underwear.” 

Collector: “Wait so there’s like a clothing drive?”

Informant: “Uh, there was at some portions er like at some of them like as I was going there it seemed like it was becoming less and less popular.”

Collector: “But people still took off their clothes and ran around in their underwear?”

Informant: “Yeah in like a big group, a big mob. They’d run through all the dorms, all the like cafeterias so you’d be like out getting cookies and there’d be a bunch of people just acting like drunk idiots.”

Collector: “Would they be drunk?”

Informant: “I’m sure some people were drunk but not most of them.”

Collector: “Was it during the day or at night?”

Informant “Mostly at night. Anyone who wants to go can it’s like a Facebook event.” 

Analysis: I have heard of a similar tradition at USC in which seniors run across campus half-naked and swim in each of the fountains before graduation. This tradition differs in that it is open to all UC Davis students and occurs more than once in an academic year. Finals week is a transitory period in which the results from a semester’s worth of classes is still largely undetermined. It is usually a very stressful time for students, so the undie run provides a brief liberation from traditional social expectations. It’s important that it happens in a group so that the act becomes more publicly acceptable. If it were just one individual, it is possible that they would get arrested for public nudity, whereas a larger group performance assures the unlikelihood that law enforcement would be able to punish every individual. It would be interesting to examine more colleges across the country to see how many have an underwear run tradition.

Tradition – University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

--Informant Info--
Nationality: African-American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Valencia, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: MArch 21, 2008
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

UCLA Tradition: The Undie Run

This particular tradition is actually something I was able to take part in, even though I attend UCLA’s rival school USC. My brother enrolled in UCLA as a transfer student and therefore came in a junior. He commuted his first quarter, so it was not until his second quarter when he moved into on-campus housing that he began to experience the life and traditions of a UCLA student. One such tradition is the undie run, undie being short for underwear of course. This event takes place on the Wednesday of finals week when students strip down to their underwear and make a mad dash across campus. There is no particular reason for the run other than a way to burn off energy and relieve a little bit of the tension and stress associated with finals. After the run, students normally gather in the quad and exhibit school pride, whether cursing their cross-town rivals or partaking in other Bruin traditions such as the UCLA 8 count.

UCLA is not the only school with such a tradition however; there are many variations of stress-relieving traditions organized by the student body that garner high participation on other college campuses as well. Typically, students come together, like those at UCLA, en masse and create some sort of commotion or ruckus as method of coping with the rigors of finals. In fact, USC has its own version of the undie run. Deemed the Fountain Run, seniors and other upperclassmen run around campus, looking to jump in one of USC’s many fountains during the last week of class. This is because they are almost done with school entirely and therefore fear no disciplinary repercussions.

I feel these traditions create feelings of school pride and are a welcomed spectacle, even if they cause a large commotion. Each school has its own customs unique to the campus, which students feel makes them closer to the school for having experienced such an exclusive event. Although I have not witnessed or partaken in a USC Fountain Run yet, I am excited for when I finally do get the opportunity.