Tag Archives: underwear

Undie Run at Chapman University (College Traditions)


Collector: “Do you participate in any specific rituals or festivals?”

Informant: “At Chapman, we have Undie Run the Wednesday night before finals week. Everyone meets up in the Piazza in like, just underwear or a bathing suit, like no clothes. I think it’s at like 12 o’clock, or 10– I don’t know I didn’t do it last semester—and everyone just runs around campus and the outskirts, and in the circle. It’s just Chapman students and there’s some faculty to supervise.”

Collector: “Why does this tradition take place?”

Informant: “To get drunk and let loose before finals. People drink at a pregame, not during the run.” 


The informant is a female undergraduate student at Chapman University. The Piazza is a circular courtyard at the center of campus where many students gather for special events.


This college tradition provides insight into American student culture and what they define as “letting go”– Indulging in alcohol, stripping into undergarments, and doing wild activities with comrades. The practice of the tradition signifies that these expressions are not appropriate for everyday life. This activity takes place at Midnight, a liminal time between day and night, almost like a magic hour where students don’t have to present themselves as polished and collegiate. A rebellious version of themselves can run wild at night but not in the day.

Aspen Panty/ Underwear Tree

I: Informant, M: Me

M: So the first one I wanted to ask you about which I’ll ask {name blanked for privacy} about too when I have my interview with her is about the Aspen Panty tree because we saw it when we were going and I thought that would be really fun because I didn’t see anything about it in the archives.

I:Well that that was a. Long ago well I wouldn’t say long ago. It started theoretically in Aspen that’s the reputed legend. It was a tradition that was started by some woman who had gone to a party and decided she was going to have some fun with one of the other party goers and the guy that she met, I guess they got together and had some fun {referring to sexual relations}. Next day, to commemorate the experience with her he took the bra that she was wearing that night and as a skiier going up the mountain the next day, threw it into a tree as a goof.

M: Yeah

I: And so that everybody else, his friends going up the mountain that day would know that he had met this girl and that they had had some fun.

M: Yeah

I: So that turned into a thing, a tradition in Aspen and other people saw it and thought it was funny and started doing the same thing except it wasn’t restricted to just to bras, there were other things thrown out there, things that would get a little more risqué, and then

M: Like what?

I: landing in the trees. So you’d get bras, panties, and you know in Mardi Gras

M: Did you say ties too?

I: Ties, they are throwing all kinds of things in the tree. Hats.

M: Now is it only the people who um only the people who get laid sort to say and it has to be the opposite sex {or partner} to throw it or can you throw your own?

I: As I’ve learned it is as you go up the mountain you are supposed to take this off while you are on the lift.

M: Oh

I: You are not supposed to…literally if you are a woman you are supposed to reach under all your layers of clothing, pull you bra off and throw it over onto the tree. Now the funny thing is, the people in Aspen are a very, let’s just say not risqué community. They you know like to have fun and ski, maybe drink a little too much.

M: yeah

I: But they don’t allow things in town. Like they don’t like vaping. Vaping is banned.

M: Yeah

I: They consider it to be inappropriate because of the damage it does, particularly to the kids.

M: Yeah

I: So when they saw that this was going on, the ski patrol everyday would go up and take all of the stuff out of the tree.

M: uh-huh (Yeah)

I: Which was a pain because they had to climb up the tree. They actually developed a rig that would hang off of the lift, they stopped the lift and hang off the lift and pull the stuff out of the tree.

M: Yeah

I: And that’s a big nuisance. Well by the end of the day, people were already throwing stuff back at the tree. SO they eventually just cut the tree down.

M: *laughing because I know how this ended up working out according to the legend*

I: and instead of it stopping there, they just went to the next tree another 50ft up the hill and made that the panty tree. So they realized after a while that they weren’t going to win this war and it has held ever since. It’s been going on for 3 or 4 decades 

M: Is it on a specific ski route?

I: Yes, it is on Bell Mountain.

M: Uh-huh (agreeing)

I: What happened afterwards, it kind of fell out of vogue because when you got on the gondola, they built a beautiful enclosed gondola, there was no way for you to reliably wad up your panties or your bra and throw it out the window and actually make it to the tree. It was almost an impossible throw. It’s too far away so nobody did it anymore {correction: less people did it}. So they only way you could do it was if you took the outdoor, very old, kinda scary to ride Bell mountain chair lift specifically to go over that tree, which I do, but I do it to ski- I’ve never thrown anything in the tree beside Mardi Gras beads and uh it kind of a thing. You have to be kind of wanting to do it and wanting to go through a little bit of pain because you are outside and it is cold, the wind is blowing, to do that. Whereas most people are in the gondola enjoying a nice warm ride up the hill that goes a lot faster.

M: Yeah

I: So you gotta be motivated.

M: mkay

I: You gotta want to do it.

Context: The informant learned about this underwear tree by seeing it in person in Aspen and asking the locals about it about 6 years ago. We both see this tree every time we go skiing in Aspen and take that particular ski lift. It’s mainly been covered in bra the last few times I went.

Analysis: This Underwear tree is a perfect example of monogenesis with diffusion as this very specific custom, started specifically in Aspen and then spread to Vail and from there, spread to other ski mountain. The underwear tree has now become a staple in many ski mountains. Additionally, this piece of folklore shows how folklore can have multiplicity and variation and different meanings to different people because while I have been told about this legend twice with similar details, when I researched it, I found out that initially started as a protest of the hiring of the 1st woman ski patrol (more competition for the job openings). To the patrols and mountain management, the underwear tree had a different story and meaning entirely than it did for the party crowd of Aspen. Nonetheless, both parties participated. This folklore also shows how folklore can evolve to be inclusive of the times, as we progress in time, women have been taking much more pride and ownership of their sexuality and gender equality has become much more prevalent. Thus, as this developed, the underwear tree needed to progress as well. So there is now also a tie tree right next to the underwear tree- the tie symbolizing the men in the sexual encounters.

Undie Run-UCLA Folk Tradition

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”

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

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.