Fraternity formals and colorful coolers


Painting coolers for fraternity formals has been a persistent tradition in the Greek community for years now. Heading to New Orleans, painted cooler in tow, is the status quo when it comes to formal season.

Annie Garner, senior in finance, has participated about as much as anyone can in the cooler painting tradition.

Throughout her college career she’s painted a total of five coolers. She painted one for her date to a formal her freshman year and two for formals with her boyfriend in years following.


Her cooler painting expertise doesn’t stop there though. She has also painted a cooler for her dad and brother.

Garner described the process that goes into painting each individual cooler. “It depends on who it is,” Garner said. “The first formal that I went on, I asked him what he liked, what alcohol he liked, what kind of sports teams he liked and where he’s from. I kind of just went from there.”

Many cooler-painting formal goers draw inspiration from designs they find online. Popular cooler designs include alcohol graphics like the Jack Daniels one, the specific fraternity’s Greek letters or sports logos.

“I was really artistic in middle school and high school,” Garner said. “I went to private school and they required us to take art.”

She comes from an artistic family, citing her mom and brother as both being artistic as well.

Garner has let all of the formal dates she’s painted coolers for keep them but said she’s glad her dad and brother have theirs so she can admire her work occasionally.

Garner went on to joke about girls she knows that have spent weeks painting entire coolers only to have them thrown away because formal went badly.

“I really like painting and stuff, but I really haven’t done much in college except paint coolers,” Garner said. “It’s my one chance to be artistic for the year.”

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