As the 2013 college football season gets underway, college students across the state are gearing up, and dressing up, for game day. Players’ minds may be occupied with touchdowns, tackles and testosterone, but for the devoted following of fans known as the rest of the student body, there is a time-honored tradition to tend to before heading to the stadium ... because on game day in the South, you don't just get a football game, but a fashion show as well. And while there’s no question the players on the field make the game, those Southern girls in their pearls make college game day.
Whether decked out in orange and blue or dressed head to toe in Bear’s legendary houndstooth, there is one thing all fans agree on — Saturday was created for football. And for the college town who prefers to get down with Cocky and the Marching Southerners, tailgating on Jacksonville State University’s campus is the place to be.
“I love the atmosphere on game day,” says senior Jade Wagner, president of the JSU Panhellenic Association. “There is always an exciting, electric feel in the air.”
Wagner, a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, explained that students aren’t the only ones celebrating on Gamecocks’ game day.
"On game day, Dillon Field is full of student organizations tailgating and having fun,” she said. “Parents and other organizations tailgate near Kennamer Hall."
The art of tailgating, one of the major components of game day tradition, is a chance for like-minded college football fans to mix, mingle and boisterously brag about their team’s foreseen, upcoming victory.
“JSU has a lot to offer our students and visitors to get pumped up on game day,” says Phi Mu member Kelsey Mann. “The SGA has scheduled different types of entertainment to perform at Dillon Field during tailgating, as well as a ‘dress-up’ theme to really get the school spirit rolling.”
Theme or no theme, though, dressing up for game day is an integral part of this timeless tradition. Anniston native Kendall Hightower, an Auburn University student and member of the Tri Delta sorority, said that dressing the part on Auburn game day was part of her upbringing.
“Growing up, I came to all the Auburn games with my mom and aunt, always decked out in, of course, orange and navy,” said Hightower. Now that she’s Auburn Tiger herself, “my sorority sisters and I always wear an orange or navy dress, and our Tri Delta game day button.”
Hightower went on to say that while the fraternity pledges dress in khakis and blazers, completing the classic look with a necktie, the ones who are the most exciting and fun to see are “your die-hard Auburn fans dressed in Auburn jerseys, face paint, body paint, hair paint and whatever else you can think of.”
But don’t think this game day fashion frenzy is exclusive to the bigger universities like Auburn and Alabama, says Wagner.
“It may not be as big as other schools,” she said, “but you can tell we have a lot of proud Gamecocks on our campus.”
And taking their cues from the same traditional Southern style, Wagner said the fraternities and sororities at JSU also “tend to dress up a tad more while other students prefer wearing shorts and a JSU shirt.”
Swank, a Jacksonville boutique specializing in unique, trendy and affordable apparel, knows exactly what the sorority girls on Mountain Street are looking for when they go to their closets on a fall Saturday. Good thing since a huge chunk of the boutique's clientele are JSU students.
"Fall is our busiest time of year — as soon as school starts back and game days come back around,” says Swank owner Amy Daley.
While Swank's collection of unique tops and dresses are big sellers, Daley says game day dresses and attire are her number one sellers.
“JSU colors are going to be big this fall," she predicts. “We're seeing a lot of people are loving the printed pants, the palazzo pants in any game day color.”
And Daley, herself a JSU alum, knows a thing or two about dressing up to cheer on the home team.
"I've lived all over the country and the South by far has the strongest game day traditions," she said, "I love the ways girls make such a big deal out of it, getting all dressed up and fixed up for the game. And how everyone comes together and it's basically just a big party before and after the game. It's like the essence of the South."