The Brotherhood of the Touring Trousers will soon be back onstage.
For 64 years, the same pair of wool pants have been worn by a member of the Claude and Lorene Smith family at high school graduations, and the tradition will continue this month when Birdville High School senior Travis Smith will get the honors.
Those navy blue pants were the same worn by his father, Bedford police Lt. David Smith, when he graduated from Carroll High in May 1976.
In all, 11 Smith men have worn the trousers since 1950, with some adjustments. The pants have left Texas twice for California. And all the wearers are still alive.
“I can zip them up, but I can’t button them,” said Travis Smith, 18, who described the pants as “out of style” and “scratchy.” He’ll graduate May 25 at the Fort Worth Convention Center. “I’ll have a belt on and I’m bringing a change of pants.”
His father recalled some problems with the pinstriped pants, which he says have never been taken to the cleaners.
“I was barely 140 pounds back then so we had to take it in at the waist,” David Smith said. “And I wasn’t tall so the pants were too long.”
According to the Smith family, the tradition began this way:
James Smith, who wore nothing but Levi jeans and overalls during his senior year at Lewisville High School during the 1949-50 school year, decided he wanted to wear some nice pants to accept his diploma June 5, 1950.
“We didn’t have much more so Mom and Dad talked me into going with his dress pants,” said James Smith, 81, of Sunnyvale, Calif. He believes that his father bought the suit and pants at the Varsity Shop in Dallas. “I didn’t wear the suit, but I did wear the dress pants.”
The pants, with a 33-inch waist and 34 inches long, were a good fit for James Smith.
“I wasn’t very tall back then and I was thin, so the pants fit fine,” he said. “We didn’t have to alter them at all.”
James Smith joined the Navy, and unbeknown to him, brothers Don and Dan James used the pants at their high school graduations at Lewisville High in 1953 and 1957 respectively. The family decided to keep the pants for future graduates.
“I think because I was the last one of the brothers to use them, I got stuck with being in charge of them,” said Dan Smith, 75, of Plano. He keeps the pants in a cedar closet. “A boy has worn them, but I suppose if a girl wanted to wear them something could be worked out.”
Dan Smith acknowledged that the pants have been patched up, expanded and shortened several times since 1950.
“They just can’t be let out anymore,” David Smith said.
James Smith noted that the Smith men nowadays are bigger than in the 1950s.
“It’s astounding that they have lasted this long,” said Travis Smith, who plans to attend Texas A&M University and major in chemical engineering. “Dad had told me about the pants years ago and I never thought it would happen, but I’m happy to be part of the tradition.”
The pants don’t get a rest. Immediately after the May 25 graduation, the Smith family must ship them to Calfornia for a commencement May 29. And they might be used in a June graduation in California, but the trousers will return to Texas.
“It’s been fun,” Dan Smith of Plano said. “Not many people have traditions and it’s been good to have this one.”