For a night out at Penn, an average student’s going out routine is usually something of the following: hair, makeup, outfit, perfume, gum, and the finishing touches—their fracket and their beaters.
Frackets, or “frat jackets,” are ideally cheap, durable jackets to wear to a frat party, and frat shoes, sometimes known as beaters, are sneakers that are designated to be “beaten” at frats. These two clothing items are Penn party essentials and are larger symbols of Penn’s student culture.
While beaters are seen year round at Penn, frackets arrive as the temperature drops. The goal is for the fracket to keep you warm enough on your walk to and from the frat houses, while also being inexpensive enough that if you lose it, or it is stolen, you won’t be losing a valuable coat. In the winter months at Penn, frackets are always on display on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, shaping a large portion of the school year’s social dynamics.
Frackets are an essential part of the almost ritualistic nature of going out to frats. When a friend group enters a frat party together, they all go to a corner and find a place to leave their frackets, signifying that, as a unified group, they are entering this party together—and will likely leave it together too. If someone can’t find their fracket, all of the others in the group will rally around that person and try to help them find it. If someone tries to steal a person’s fracket, their friends will intervene. It may sound trivial, but frackets do create a bond between Penn partygoers; if you tie your fracket to someone else’s, you have an established connection to them.
There is also a form of a social hierarchy when it comes to protecting frackets at a frat. Anyone with connections to a member of said house will likely ask someone to put their fracket in a safe spot to avoid it being stolen. For those with connections, their fracket can be found quickly, but for those who don’t know someone in the frat, it’s every fracket–owner for themselves in terms of making it out of the frat wearing the same coat you walked in with.
As for beaters, their role is reserved for practicality—at a party, whatever shoes you go in wearing will come out looking significantly worse. Because of this, students will wear either an old pair of shoes or a pair they’ve bought especially for frats. The beater of choice is almost always a pair of Air Forces or Converse high tops (some people have both), or any shoe that can withstand the filth of frat floors.
There is something to be said about the classism that exists with beater culture. People buy new Converse or Nike sneakers with the sole intent of using them as “beaters” for frat parties, and they won't wear these $100 sneakers anywhere but to places where they will be destroyed. Many students cannot afford to throw away money for sneakers that are designed to soak up spilled beer and frat floor dirt. The “beater” culture plays into the omnipresent wealth gap at Penn, and the separation between the “haves” and the “have nots” can be seen clearly with footwear present at a party—and the footwear present nowhere else.
When students casually throw on their frackets and their beaters, they’re likely not thinking about what these items represent in the grand scheme of Penn’s culture. But while they are (on paper) clothing items that serve practical functions, they embody the Penn students' philosophies, along with its social scene. People who go to Penn know what a fracket is, know what frat shoes are, and understand that if they want to go out, they’ll need to find both—and, if they can, find a frat member who will put their things upstairs.