Campus Life

The Freshman 'Dink'

Caps and ribbons distinguished early underclassmen at Penn State

In 1906, upperclassmen at Penn State decided that freshman should wear small beanie hats -- called "dinks" -- to distinguish them from the other students. Credit: Penn State University Archives / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In 1906, upperclassmen at the then-Pennsylvania State College voted to have freshmen wear something to distinguish them from the rest of the students — thus the tradition of the "dink" was born.

Easily identified by the small beanie caps, freshmen were expected to know Penn State trivia and history and were often randomly called upon by upperclassmen to prove they were knowledgeable about their new school.

Female freshmen at Penn State wore green ribbons in their hair until 1954; you can see both in this photograph from the fifties, taken approximately from where the West Halls quad is today on the University Park campus.  Credit: Penn State University Archives / Penn StateCreative Commons

Freshmen were required to wear their dinks in class, traveling around campus, and at sporting events, and to tip their caps to passing upperclassmen. If discovered inappropriately without a dink, a freshman could face a student tribunal and be quizzed about Penn State, or be required to sing the Alma Mater in public.

Male freshmen wore blue-and-white dinks — except from 1932 to 1937, when dinks were green (to denote the "green" students' lack of understanding of how to behave in college). Female freshmen wore green ribbons in their hair until 1954, when they also adopted the dink. The practice of "freshman customs," including the wearing of dinks, was, for the most part, discarded in the late sixties.

This cap, on display in Old Main, was worn by a Penn State freshman in 1954. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated September 04, 2015