Collegiate apparel is a booming industry, reported by Forbes in 2015 to be worth a whopping $4.6 billion dollars. Donning spirit-ware is a rite of passage for many college students, as they rush to buy new gear the moment they commit to their school of choice. This phenomenon is a continuation of a long history of representing your favorite university on your clothing, a tradition that Mundelein College* students participated in for decades. Journey through forty years of history as we ask the age-old question: who are you wearing?
Before printing your alma mater on your t-shirt came into vogue, Mundelein students found other pieces of memorabilia to show their school spirit. This group of ladies waved their goodbyes and their Mundelein pennants as they boarded an Eastern Airlines flight in 1960.
One of the most powerful traits of collegiate apparel is the ability to wordlessly communicate identity to those around you. These Mundelein students displayed their academic home in rainbow fashion as they joined the fight for equality at the 1965 Selma Freedom March.
Showing school spirit doesn’t have to stop at the university level, why not represent where you live? While attending a senior citizens outreach event in 1977, this student donned a shirt reading “Coffey,” a reference to the Mundelein dormitory located just north of where this photo was taken.
Coffey Hall was constructed for student housing in 1963 and served as dorms and gathering spaces for Mundeleinites. Since Mundelein’s affiliation with Loyola in 1991, Coffey Hall has transformed into classrooms, offices, and labs, but retains the namesake of Sister Mary Justitia Coffey, BVM, the founder and first president of Mundelein.
A defining characteristic of college clothing is the color, and Mundelein students proudly wore the school’s classic red and gold, a sister color scheme to the Loyolan maroon and gold next door. However, school colors are a suggestion, not a rule, as demonstrated by this purple Mundelein College t-shirt featuring a Chicago sunset.
Of course, representing your school of choice isn’t just about the academic program, it’s about supporting the team. Mundelein College offered a wide range of sports, and their fans showed up in red and gold to help cheer the team to victory. Mundelein sports teams had a variety of mascots throughout the school’s history, but the moniker that stuck was the Lakers, aptly named after Lake Michigan to the east of the Mundelein skyscraper (check out this WLA blog post to learn more about the characters that represented the school throughout the years).
At the end of the day, even though styles and trends change, college apparel has remained in style due to its ability to foster a sense of comradery (or hatred, if you run into someone with rival gear). Anyone who has made an unexpected friend hundreds or thousands of miles away from campus because of matching baseball caps can attest to the power of showing your colors. All the photos featured in this article have been digitized and are in the process of being uploaded to the Illinois Digital Archive. Browse the website to get some sporty outfit inspiration and check back in to see what the Women and Leadership Archives are uploading next!
* Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago.
Kaylee is in their first year of master’s programs in Public History and Library and Information Sciences. They have a BA in History, with interests in art history and religious studies. They love calico cats, crocheting, and going to museums in their free time. For more information about this post, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Williams, Grace L. “Is College Apparel Poised to Become the New Athleisure Wear?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, December 1, 2015. https://www.forbes.com/sites/gracelwilliams/2015/11/30/is-college-apparel-poised-to-become-the-new-athlesiurewear/?sh=6e4b12d216e2.
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