The “beanie” is a peculiar bit of Southern Methodist University (SMU) material lore that is “like a baseball cap, but it’s been shortened and it intentionally fits badly.” AB tells me about the beanie’s history at SMU:
The whole university’s freshman class, circa 1930s, used to wear them as a signifier that they were freshmen. They were required to wear them at all times when outside, and recommended to do so while inside. Over time, they were less and less used and enforced until it became just the football team and the band that kept the tradition (this was around the 1980s). By the 2000s, only the band was still enforcing the beanie tradition.
Nowadays, the band makes freshmen wear their beanies just at ceremonies, such as Homecoming. However, while not required to wear their beanies at all times, the freshmen are expected to carry it at all times: if an upperclassman asks them where their beanie is, and they don’t have it, they have to sing the Beanie Song:
- “Oh where, oh where has my beanie gone?
- Oh where, oh where could it be?
- With its big-ass blue bill and its diamond M on the back
- Oh where, oh where could it be?”
This song carries the tune of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
AB is a university student at Southern Methodist University (Dallas), originally from the California Bay Area. He is a member of the SMU band.
AB described this to me during a phone call when I asked him to tell me about SMU traditions, rituals, and rumors.
The beanie tradition seems to be a good example of an initiation ritual (or, in other terms, “hazing”) that serves to humiliate the new members so that they have to go through what all the other upper-classmen have been through, to officially be a part of the group. Also, it is notable that the tradition started with the entire school, but dwindled down to just the band over time, who are charged with carrying school spirit.