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Moving in on class ring territory

Greg Muncy has been sliding class rings on and off of high-school students’ fingers for 30 years.

An employee of Jostens in Fort Wayne, he spends many days traveling to area schools showing off rings to soon-to-be graduating students.

The class ring has long been considered a necessary symbol of graduation. And while they are still popular, the ring has lost some of its luster as more high-school students are seeking other forms of school wear to mark their high-school years.

School traditions make a lot of difference in what a student chooses, Muncy says. He says sales of class rings are down somewhat this year, but students are still buying.

“Kids want them,” he says.

Recently he was at Snider High School and was “sizing rings left and right,” he says.

But Muncy also knows that there is a lot more competing for students’ money these days. The cost – prices generally range from $100 to $300, but can go as high as $1,000 – of class rings are up somewhat because of the price of gold, he says.

Minnesota-based ringmaker Jostens Inc. does not release specific sales figures, but it did issue a statement saying that “the difficult economic period has had an impact on our overall sales.” While the company believes that the rings “remain an important high-school tradition,” it also is focusing more energy on its sports-championship rings – it has produced 29 of the Super Bowl rings – and a newer line of “affiliation rings” that commemorate a specific group, such as a choir, band or theater troupe.

The company also said that sales of its college rings remain steady.

Muncy says there are rings that cater to every student, including rings that don’t look like the traditional high school class ring. But it’s those traditional styles that Muncy sells the most of, he says.

He says many students will buy rings as sophomores. Muncy’s son, a sophomore, has a class ring and wears it regularly, he says.

Some students say one of the reasons they’re eschewing a ring is because its future likely is limited. Many students quit displaying it after they become college students.

One area that seems to be making the jump from the high school hallways to college campuses is school-related wear.

T-shirts commemorating school events (such as homecoming) or class benchmarks (senior skip day) have exploded in popularity the past few years. And while wearing a high-school ring in college is frowned upon in some circles, wearing an old commemorative T-shirt apparently is considered trendy.

The popularity of letter jackets also has grown by leaps and bounds. Once the sole province of the handful of male athletes who qualified for varsity sports teams, the jackets now are available to male and female students who contribute to an array of school activities, from working on the yearbook to singing in the choir. Most schools also offer letters for academic achievement.

The letter jacket is a “billboard of achievements,” says Jim Shovlin, a sales representative with Sports Center Inc., 5511 Coventry Lane.

The store is one of the only shops in the area that does letter jackets. It makes for a busy time for the store, which does hundreds of jackets for most of the schools in northeast Indiana, Shovlin says.

Shovlin says he believes the jackets have become popular because many more people qualify for letters than they used to. It’s not just for athletes. Students can get letters for academic achievements, band and other activities.

But If you are planning to get a letter jacket, the wait could be up to six weeks depending on the amount of sewing and embroidery the jacket will require. Sports Center does all its sewing in-house, Shovlin says.

Also, Shovlin doesn’t recommend surprising a student with a jacket. He suggests the student try it on first to get a proper fit.

After all, who doesn’t want to look good whether they are wearing a ring or jacket?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune contributed to this article.

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