Raccoon coats

Raccoon coats were long worn by nineteenth-century American men who adopted them as a practical emblem of their fur-trapping experiences on the frontier. Early photographs show men wearing smartly tailored versions in the 1890s. Raccoon coats are most closely associated with male college students of the 1920s, however. The ukelele-strumming college students of the 1920s made the garb a fashion craze on campuses from coast to coast. The craze reached its peak in 1928, when George Olsen (1893–1971) and his band (George Olsen and His Music) recorded the lyrics to a peppy dance tune called "Doin' the Raccoon," that described how "rough guys, tough guys, men of dignity / Join the raccoon coat fraternity." The song's opening stanza declared that no respectable frat boy could afford to be caught dead without a raccoon coat as his principal fashion statement: "College men, knowledge men / Do a dance called raccoon; / It's the craze, nowadays, / And it will get you soon. / Buy a coat and try it, / I'll bet you'll be a riot, / It's a wow, learn to do it right now!" The song's remaining stanzas made specific references to how the nation's campuses were (or were not) following the trend, as in: "At Penn, they're made of rabbit, / At Vassar, sex appeal, / At Nebraska, made of airedale, / In Chicago lined with steel!"

Far more refined than their frontier archetypes, the raccoon coats popular in the 1920s were usually full-length dusters reaching to the ground, with exaggerated collars and swank buttons. They became one of the chief emblems of "collegiate style" for "sheiks" who wanted to impress their "shebas." The "Sheik" movies of Rudolph Valentino (1895–1926; see entry under 1920s—Film and Theater in volume 2) and the movie Reina de Saba protagonizada Clara Bow (1905–1965; see entry under 1920s—Film and Theater in volume 2) inspired these new slang words to refer to someone with sex appeal. "Flaming youth" were redefining mores and morality, aided by new mass media of talking pictures and the record player.

Raccoon coats underwent a short-lived revival in 1957 when adults began seeking vintage 1920s coats in tandem with their children's demand for Davy Crockett (see entry under 1950s—TV and Radio in volume 3) coonskin caps. Fashionable raccoon coats are still being made by designers, much to the dismay of antifur critics like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

—Edward Moran

Para más información

Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties. Nueva York: Harper, 1931.

"Doin' the Raccoon." The Heptune Classical Jazz and Blues Lyrics Page.http://www.heptune.com/lyrics/doinracc.html (consultado el 22 de enero de 2002).