White Side Out–Tricking Marching Band Freshmen

“So as part of our [USC] marching band uniforms, we have capes. On one side, the cape is gold and on one side the cape is white, and you’re supposed to wear the gold side out because that looks nice. But every year for the first home football game, older band members tell the freshmen ‘oh, it’s the first home game, so you’re supposed to wear your cape white side out.’ And they do this every year. Sometimes the freshmen are lucky enough to figure it out or have older members tip them off, but that’s one thing they try to trick us with. You look really stupid if you fall for it, and band alumni tend to be really rude and they’ll heckle you. When you get to the call time outside Heritage Hall and you have your white side out, people will laugh at you.”


This is part of the initiation of the freshmen into the band culture. Part of becoming a fully fledged band member is learning the customs and traditions of the band. The first home game is a very important event for freshmen band members because it is the first time they perform in the stadium during a football game for thousands of people. Being tricked by the older members into dressing incorrectly for that first big step reminds the freshmen that they have a lot to learn and will be held publicly culpable for all mistakes that they make. They are the lowest, most ignorant members of band and will be shown that in the most embarrassing way possible until they learn better. When the freshmen learn that they are always supposed to wear their capes gold side out, they have made the first step in separating lies told by older members from true band traditions. Freshmen who are not tricked prove that they are not gullible and are aware of their lower status in the band. It also allows the sophomore, junior and senior band members to flaunt their own knowledge of band traditions, and appreciate how much they have learned in the years they have been in the band, as they would not have been tricked into wearing their capes white side out. This serves to create a band hierarchy with a severe difference between the freshmen and all older band members.