The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Sororities design, paint coolers to keep Southern traditions

Sorority+girls+decorate+coolers+for+their+dates+for+formals+and+away+weekends.+Designs+often+include+references+to+the+specific+sorority+and+fraternity.+Girls+then+fill+the+cooler+with+sorority+items+and+alcohol.+
Spencer J Eggers/The Daily Campus
Sorority girls decorate coolers for their dates for formals and away weekends. Designs often include references to the specific sorority and fraternity. Girls then fill the cooler with sorority items and alcohol.

Sorority girls decorate coolers for their dates for formals and away weekends. Designs often include references to the specific sorority and fraternity. Girls then fill the cooler with sorority items and alcohol. (Spencer J Eggers/The Daily Campus)

With the hours ticking away, sophomore Kappa Kappa Gamma Weslynn O’Neill sits on the floor of her friend’s study room surrounded by an assortment of acrylic paint bottles, paint brushes, tracing paper and, most importantly, a huge cooler.

Down in the south, along with finding the perfect dress and the perfect date for formal, it is also tradition to find the perfect designs to paint the perfect cooler.

The sorority girls of SMU are all about keeping this tradition alive, spending hours on the ground, hunched over while painting their hearts out.

Sophomore Kappa Alpha Theta Morgan O’Hare was one of the few to know of this cooler phenomenon before she came to SMU through friends that had gone to colleges in the south.

“A ton of Southern schools that people from my high school go to all do coolers, so I heard about it that way,” O’Hare said.

Others, like O’Neill, were left to find out about the practice when “cooler delivery” dates were announced during weekly chapter meetings.

“We were in chapter, and they told us cooler delivery was in two weeks. I had no idea what that meant, so the older girls and friends of mine that knew about the coolers had to explain it to me,” O’Neill said.

Junior Delta Gamma Emma Giddens found that even if the hardest part is choosing who to take and what to put on the cooler, it takes the most effort to complete the actual cooler painting process.

“Actually painting it probably (took) around a week. Thinking about what to paint and who to ask probably (took) a month,” Giddens said.

Before pulling out the paintbrushes and squeezing out the acrylics, girls must make the decision of what logos, quotes and designs are going to bring their coolers to life. The Cooler Connection group on Facebook is a place that allows girls’ creative wheels to begin turning.

Kappa Kappa Gamma graduate Caroline Dowell made four coolers during her time at SMU and always looked at The Cooler Connection page to see photos people from all over the country uploaded to share inspiration.

“It is a great place to get ideas and tips on how to make your paint last,” Dowell said.

Once girls have added the finishing spray to their artwork, local runs to the grocery story and to McCartney’s University Spirit store off Hillcrest Avenue are made to finish the job. Walking down each aisle, girls pick out the favorite treats and eats of their date.

As well as a stop at McCartney’s to purchase tank tops, T-shirts, hats, koozies, pins and other memorabilia with the sacred Greek letters printed on them to top off their coolers.

Around $200 later, the traditional cooler is complete. Greg Pasiadis, a sophomore Lambda Chi Alpha, received his first cooler freshman year for his fraternity’s White Rose away weekend. Pasiadis understood that exceptional coolers do not just materialize out of thin air.

“My guess is it takes the girls over five hours to make the cooler, but that’s for a damn good cooler, like mine,” Pasiadis said.

The question of “Is this really worth it?” is one that has crossed the minds of all sorority girls when logging hours to accomplish the impressive cooler for their dates. If a regular cooler would suffice, then what motivates the girls to keep the tradition going?

“All expenses and appreciation, or lack thereof, aside, it’s a fun tradition. I always enjoyed it because I love to paint in general. I liked the challenge of seeing what I could do with the abnormal shapes and surface textures of a cooler. Plus, I looked at is as another piece I could add to my art portfolio,” Dowell said.

Even if the girls enjoy the experience of creating a cooler, when paying someone else is an option, some are eager to take the opportunity. Coolers by Design and Coastal Coolers are both websites that anyone can utilize and have a customized cooler painted and shipped without the demanding time commitment. CBD coolers begin at $35 for extra small coolers, go up with size and have additional fees for the desired designs.

A cheaper alternative is to hand off the responsibility to a craftier friend.

“I had one friend who paid me $20 to paint a cooler for her date. I would have done it for free,” Dowell said.

O’Neill thought it was great to experience the excitement of painting a cooler one time, but in the future she’d rather pay someone to do it for her.

“It was a lot of fun painting the cooler with all of my friends and sharing the experience with them,” O’Neill said. “I would pay someone because it took way too much time and was a distraction from my school work.”

Although coolers are the tradition, they are not a requirement. A number of SMU fraternity guys have never received a cooler.

The cooler tradition, although hard work and pricey at times, is a practice that both boys and girls of the SMU Greek system keep alive year after year, in both traditional and nontraditional ways.  

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