TO BRAG THEIR CLASS AFFILIATION, wealthy students of elite boarding schools were adorned with class broaches. These insipid gold medallions were worn proudly on crested woolen blazers and were often exchanged by lovesick teens. But the idea of swapping an unattractive broach with your honey was deemed a bit severe by later generations, so teens of the roaring twenties turned to class rings. Soon, every wild-haired hussy sported the ring of her beau de jour, often inviting the outrage of her traditional parents, who had been pinned to one another since the tender age seventeen.
The class ring has a rich history as long as that of swirlies and undy-grundies.
It was in the Camelot years of the early sixties that the popularity of rings peaked . The teen market was seduced by the designs of fast-talking salesmen with penchants for selling teen drama. Soon the class ring was institutionalized by corporate America with gleeful pitches proclaiming high school "The Best Years of Your Life."
Every year, class officers selected a choice model to represent the authentic ideals of their senior class, and all the less popular kids eagerly followed suit by slapping down the hard cash club membership required. There was one model for the studs and one for the chicks. All involved whole-heartedly embraced the sense of identity they found in picking their own "unique" stone--though they predictably almost always chose their birthstone. Girls proudly flaunted their fella's ring on a necklace or on their middle finger. For an especially large ring, girls devised a special technique to scale it down to size: They coiled dental floss around its back, then meticulously applied up to thirty layers of nail polish to it.
Like most cherished icons of the fifties and early sixties, the class ring was scrapped in the late sixties, but a miraculous thing happened in the eighties-- Ronald Reagan. Over the span of four years, nostalgia for the black-and-white days of the pre-Viet Nam era kindled, and with the helping of Josten's clever marketing acumen, class rings came back.
Choice became the banner of the decade and dozens of rings became available. With an appropriate emblem, new rings commemorated sports, theater, and anything else, and were often presented at elaborate teary-eyed ceremonies. Everything from the initials of the purchaser, to a gilded outline of their school, to their SAT scores appeared on a ring chosen to fit the wearer's imagined identity. This broad market appeal caught the eye of lads from punk to pink Izod wearing preppy, who, living in the androgynous eighties, didn't fear being ridiculed for crossing gender lines by wearing a girlfriend's ring on a pinkie finger or on a herringbone gold chain.
Class rings are still a staple of every high school class today. Keep your eyes open for the sure-to-come 90210 models, featuring profiles of your favorite teen idol.