The tradition evolved over time. For example, the tradition of decorating them seems to have developed in the 1940s. The first time a decorated pair of cords appears in a photograph in the Debris is 1943. Generally, the seniors decorated their cords with symbols of the fraternity or sorority they were involved in, clubs, their major, dorm, their home state, and other aspects of their lives. As time went on the decorative elements became more numerous and more detailed. By the late 1950s the seniors added color. The cords were worn only during the fall semester.
Front and Back views taken on October 27th, 1956. Notice in the Back View the two cords complete one cartoon.