Inside a crowded Lehigh cafe sits Cooper Delemus, ‘26, at a table by himself, carefully dipping a fountain pen into vials of purple ink and practicing gothic calligraphy on a dozen heavyweight cards.
He pays no mind to the curious eyes that wander the contents of his table, void of the tokens of studying that surround him. Passersby recognize him for his unusual but persistent wardrobe. For now, he drapes himself in capes, one-eye eyeliner and a historically accurate Napoleon Bonaparte hat.
Delemus continues about his day, unbothered by judgment.
“I wear what I like to wear,” Delemus said. “I’ve always had somewhat of a look that goes on and changes throughout the years. I just adapted new things to it this year.”
In his hometown of Ankeny, Iowa, Delemus said he looked up to his middle school quiz bowl teammate for both his academic vigor and funny hat: a fur ushanka.
“That was his thing, and he killed it,” Delemus said. “When I moved to San Diego, I got one, too, and I became that guy.”
At the start of high school, Delemus said he never worried about how others would perceive him. He became known for his Russian hats and monochromatic outfits and for carrying a Rubik’s Cube wherever he went.
In spite of considering himself fairly patriotic, Delemus said he enjoys the irony and humor of how he fashions himself. This admiration is enough to resist conforming to social norms.
Undoubtedly, his Lehigh peers took notice. Delemus recalls a friend pointing out comments on YikYak — an anonymous, online comment forum.
It’s not the first time YikYak has introduced a Lehigh character on campus. Just as Avianna Reynards, ‘25, was dubbed “Pink Girl” on the platform last year, word of an “Egyptian Pirate” quickly spread among the community.
“I was like, ‘Props to them for noticing the Egyptian eyeliner,’” Delemus said.
Painted on Delemus’ right eye are thick lines of black and gold — an ode to the Eye of Horus and the Eye of Ra. Delemus said while the exact meanings of these 3,000-year-old symbols are debated, their mythological connections to the sun and protection fascinate him.
He said the minutes he invests in applying the eyeliner are worth cutting into his sleep and breakfast time. His reward is knowing he presents himself exactly how he wants to be seen.
“People probably judge me, but I just don’t care,” Delemus said. “I like the eyeliner. It’s cool.”
While Delemus didn’t initially plan to wear the now-trademark Napoleon hat and eyeliner every day, he did intend for those items to be a part of his first appearances at Lehigh.
Angela Tibudan, ‘26, was in Delemus’ Global preLUsion group. She said she remembers wondering why there was a student wearing a Napoleon hat with a sporty outfit.
Despite Tibudan initially feeling shy, the pair gradually got to know each other and have remained good friends.
“‘He’s just as cool as you think he is,’ is what I usually say when people ask what he’s like,” Tibudan said. “He lives up to his reputation. Obviously, the hat thing is a bit, but he’s still so dedicated to it.”
Delemus said his “brand” is built on balancing being a meme and reflecting his own interests. The meme-like quality comes from the over-the-top nature of the things he chooses to wear. Although Napoleon and Napoleonic France are not his only historical interests, the widely recognized hat is an iconic one — one that has made Delemus a noteworthy figure on campus.
Throughout the years, Delemus has bounced between various sports and hobbies. At Lehigh, he’s involved in a wide range of clubs centering on academics, athletics and cultural inclusivity.
He’s recently become president of the Table Tennis Club, but his other involvements include Taekwondo, the Lightsaber Club, the Korean Student Association, the Asian Cultural Society and the South Asian Student Association.
Nathan Cho, ‘26, said he believes Delemus brings positive energy wherever he goes, brightening people’s day with his presence, which is usually met with a shout of “It’s that guy!”
When he started college, Cho said he was apprehensive about pursuing his passion for dance out of fear of being judged for performing in glitter and makeup.
Cho said he thought, “If (Delemus) can do it, I can do it.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Cho said. “I feel good when people assume wrong about me because it just means that I’m confident.”
Delemus encouraged Cho to join two of Lehigh’s dance groups, JM Entertainment and Helius. He said he attended the auditions with Cho and cheered him on the whole time.
After becoming a member of both dance teams, Cho said he mentioned an upcoming performance to Delemus. He recalls Delemus telling him he would be in the front row, screaming his name out. Delemus kept his promise.
“You know when people say, ‘What if I did this?’ but it’s completely absurd?” Cho said. “(Delemus is) the kind of guy who would say that and then do it. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Delemus is on track to complete an engineering degree, with current interests in biomedical and computer engineering. He said he hopes to broaden his experiences with cultural immersion and language studies by traveling abroad to countries like France and Singapore.
Whether it be academics, interests or his dress, Delemus intends to approach all aspects of his life with unapologetic eccentricity.
“He tells me he does the hat because like, ‘Why not?’” Cho said. “That’s the best answer for him. That’s why he’s so cool.”