In the mansion turned dilapidated shared house where I lived my senior year of college, I was cooking eggs and listening to an old “This American Life” episode about America’s biggest party school. It was not my school, in case that wasn’t obvious coming from a person who spent a part of her senior year cooking a balanced breakfast and listening to a public radio program about other people’s parties.
In the episode, a reporter encountered a group of squealing women who had to repeat a term for her: the “fracket.” What’s that, she asked. “It’s a shitty jacket you wear to frat parties,” they yelled. OH! I thought, I have that.
A fracket is disposable outerwear that can be ditched at a party: Its fate does not concern you. Mine was a nubby fleece that I wore home after field hockey. It had a hole in the left pocket and a deeply unflattering elastic waistband. The fracket can be spilled upon; it can be stolen; it can be lost; you can even barf on it. If you made out with someone and left it behind and didn’t really want to deal with getting it back, you would sacrifice your fracket. Basically, if you’re going to a party in a basement, your jacket’s got to stoop to that level.
If you have a decent coat and even slight worry-wart tendencies, you will be distracted by it. How’s it doing? Does it miss you? Are its beautiful sleeves sopping up beer? Worse still is carrying your nice coat around all night, getting sore museum-elbow from tucking it over your forearm. It’s the physical manifestation of leaving a party before you even get there.
In my parents’ day, liquid courage was your only fracket, and every party was uphill both ways in the New Hampshire snow. But our generation is weak. Our generation needs specific attire for specific activities.
A veritable culture has arisen around the fracket. This seems particularly prevalent at Penn State, where there is reportedly an eye-for-an-eye fracket policy. One student wrote, “In the unwritten fracket law, if your fracket is stolen, you are in the right to take someone else’s fracket. While you are at it, you might as well upgrade like your robber did.” This sounds like full-fledged stealing, but there we are. Other reports from the university warn of fracket-centric rivalry: “That sorority hates our sorority, make sure you hide your fracket extra well.”
Despite the term’s Greek-system origins, one needs neither fraternities nor college to embrace the fracket. Even though bros and frats were fringe at my college, I immediately adopted fracket as a term because I like portmanteaus, and this one was happily evocative of the phrase fuck it, which is the attitude you should have toward your fracket. And frackets are still a part of my life — even though I eventually replaced the bedraggled field-hockey jacket with a fake leather zip-up. (Faux-leather: a great fracket material because errant beverages roll right off.) A fracket is useful for anyone who socializes in crowded, undersize places without coat checks or coat closets and where bedrooms are still at risk of being occupied by young loving or hotboxing.
The fracket represents the best part of parties. It makes a considerate allowance for having a good and messy time — a responsible way to be irresponsible. It means prioritizing experience over materials goods. The fracket is the clothing item that says: You can’t take it with you.