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Gators And Jean Shorts: The Tampa Tribune Investigates
Posted Oct 27, 2006 by Aaron Knox
Updated Nov 1, 2006 at 10:25 PM
GAINESVILLE – When I originally envisioned this project more than two years ago, I saw a 12-part series that would take me from Gainesville to Athens, Ga., from the fashion houses of Milan to the far-flung sweatshop that supplies Jordache. Much to my chagrin, I learned there is no line in the Trib’s travel budget that reads “Investigate why Georgia fans chant ‘Gators wear jean shorts’: $25,000.”
So, lacking the proper resources to produce an investigation that would nail down my first Pulitzer, I settled for the next best thing. Like our Commander in Chief, I used The Google. That led me to a Web site called gatorswearjeanshorts.net. I fired off an e-mail to the site’s creator, who called me back within minutes. I asked if he had any idea who I might call to discover the origin of the chant.
“I can tell you exactly where it started,” Corey Bailey said.
Wow, that was easy.
Bailey, a 31-year-old information technology consultant from Atlanta, claims the words were first uttered outside Alltel Stadium on Nov. 1, 1997 by fellow Georgia student Kevin Davis. Bailey said he and Davis were tailgating before the game when a Florida fan – clad in a Gators jersey and denim shorts – began calling them “Gator bait” and chomping at them with his hands. Davis, possibly more offended by the man’s crime against fashion than by his taunts, could take no more. He cried out, “Gators wear jean shorts!”
Davis’ fellow nattily attired Bulldogs, knowing they couldn’t reference a recent Georgia victory against Florida, joined him. Much like a slow clap in a 1980s movie, the chant spread throughout the red and black masses that day.
“As we went into the stands,” Davis said, “hundreds of people were chanting it.”
Davis doesn’t regret pointing out the hideousness of the fan’s attire, though his outing as the chant’s creator could make life more difficult at work. Davis, who attended Stetson law school upon his graduation from Georgia, now works as an attorney in St. Petersburg. For the most part, his bosses are Florida fans.
Now that he’s lived in the Sunshine State for five years, Davis said he understands why Florida fans might wear something so heinous.
“Nothing ever goes out of style in Florida,” Davis said.
But some things should.
The top three fashion crimes a man can commit are:
3. Jean shorts.
2. White jeans with a belt that includes the wearer’s name, a rebel flag, rhinestones or any combination of the three.
1. Pleated jean shorts.
So “Gators wear jean shorts” isn’t only an effective taunt for fans whose team can’t seem to beat the Gators, it’s also a public-service announcement. Davis and Bailey pointed out that Georgia students have a fairly strict dress code for games (dresses for the ladies, khakis and polos or buttondown shirts for men). At Alabama, male students wear ties and coeds look as if they stepped off the runway in Paris.
But it’s hot in Florida, so Gators fans get something of a pass. Besides, Georgia fans don’t know everything when it comes to the clothing business. After the 1997 game – when quarterback Mike Bobo led the Dawgs to a 37-17 win and a legendary taunt was born – Bailey returned to Athens and made “Gators wear jean shorts” T-shirts for his fraternity brothers.
“What I should have done,” Bailey said, “was bring them down to Jacksonville, because I could have made a lot of money.”
There’s still time for that. Hopefully Davis will get a cut.
Davis said he’ll attend The World’s Most Gigantic Solar-Powered Libation Celebration this weekend. More than likely, he’ll overhear some Georgia fan – too embarrassed to discuss the fact that the Dawgs have lost 14 of 16 to the Gators – point out a few fashion-backward Florida fans. And Davis can smile, knowing he did humanity a favor nine years ago when he created a chant that may someday rid the world of the scourge of jean shorts.
“It’s probably the most monumental thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Davis said.