Introduction to “be in the swim” (Shulman).


Trends and fads produce a multitude of social influences on society. Humanity witnessed the emergence and development of various trends and fads. They come and go, changing the ways individuals perceive the surrounding reality. The words “Charleston”, “Stutz Bearcat”, and “Raccoon Coat” date back to the 1920s, when young males sought to re-establish themselves in their culture through fashionable dress codes, expensive cars, and excellent dancing skills. Nothing has changed since then: raccoon coats are no longer fashionable, but trends and fads continue to dominate the hearts and minds of people, giving them a false sense of belonging to a privileged class. In Shulman’s story, as well as in the real world, a raccoon coat used to be a symbol of style and privilege among male college students.

For Petey Bellows, the author’s roommate, a raccoon coat is a matter of life vs. death: he wants a raccoon coat above anything in the world. He knows that to have a raccoon coat means to “be in the swim” (Shulman). Petey believes that there is no way for him to outperform his peers other than to own a piece of fashionable clothes.

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He does not realize that being “in the swim” is the same as being lost in a gray crowd of people. That raccoon coats are unsanitary and weight too much means nothing to Petey (Shulman). He treats clothes as the sign of his privileged position and personal well being. In the 1920s, the revival of raccoon coats was accompanied by the returning popularity of Charleston, which rapidly grew into a social mania.

Charleston was inseparable from fashion. Those who did not follow the trend would doom themselves to social oblivion, isolation, and even rejection. At that time, a young student wearing a raccoon coat and dancing Charleston would be a secret dream for dozens of girls. Undoubtedly, a fashionable car added to the picture of personal prosperity. Stutz Bearcat was one of the most fashionable cars in the 1920s.

Shulman recalls how his father used to wear his raccoon coat “in his Stutz Bearcat in 1925”. The car carried a deep, complex social meaning. It was a symbol of prosperity, a sign of privilege, and a symptom of wealth and fashion. Shulman suggests that, back in his college years, his father used to be extremely fashionable. Simultaneously, the author is absolutely indifferent to these things.

He tries to show that clothes, cars, and dancing skills have nothing to with personal uniqueness. Unfortunately, he fails to recognize the significance of these social codes, until his girl leaves to Petey, who wears a raccoon coat. Nothing has changed since then. Raccoon coats are no longer fashionable, but trends and fads continue to dominate people’s hearts and minds. Ferraris, personal airplanes, Armani clothes and fashionable after-parties create an image of enormous material wealth. Like many years before, these items symbolize a social privilege but tell nothing about individuality and uniqueness. The media spread the message of materialism, turning money into a self-goal.

Inanimate objects replace individuality and uniqueness. They give a false sense of belonging to a privileged class but leave little room for personal development and growth.


Trends and fads come and go, but their social significance is difficult to underestimate. In the 1920s, raccoon coats, Stutz Bearcats and Charleston were the symbols of a privileged social position. Thousands of male college students would do anything to wear fashionable clothes and develop unique dancing skills; otherwise, they would doom themselves to oblivion, isolation, and social rejection.

Nothing has changed since then: raccoon coats are no longer fashionable, but trends and fads continue to dominate people’s hearts and minds. The media spread the message of materialism and turn money into a self-goal. Ferraris, Armani clothes, and fashionable after-parties create a picture of wealth and wellness. Unfortunately, they have nothing to do with individuality, uniqueness, self-development, and personal growth.

Works Cited

Shulman, Max. “Love Is A Fallacy.” Ask’n’Learn, n.d.

Web. 12 February 2011.


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