By Trinity Barriere, George Castillo, Jessica Flaherty, Lee Ann Hernandez, Jenna Richmond, and Brandon Miguez
It’s no surprise that LSU fans take game day very seriously. Entering Tiger Stadium for a game in 2016 is a wildly different experience than in 1916. Game day fashions have shifted from the formal military uniform, required by all students on campus from 1863 to 1900, to the shirtless and fanatic boys of Baptist College Ministry, “Painted Posse.”
In 2017, LSU’s Tiger Stadium will be filled nearly to capacity for every game as students, faculty, and fans congregate on the parade grounds and surrounding areas decked in purple and gold to support the team. However, this was not always the usual dress code for football games. LSU did not have any official school colors at first, though some claim the colors were white and blue prior to LSU’s first official game in 1893 (Theriot). The school colors changed to purple and gold based off of the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green. The store the team went to get decorations for their uniforms from only had purple and gold items in stock at the time. Since then, the colors purple and gold have stuck as the school’s colors. November 25, 1893, the Tigers battled Tulane, the Green Wave, in their first game wearing uniforms decorated with purple and gold ribbons. This was during a time when LSU was still a military school. Fans were a lot less enthusiastic but plenty more formal than today’s fans. Male fans wore three piece suits with ties and top hats if they were not wearing their full ROTC uniforms, and women wore dresses made of heavy fabrics. Some ladies even wore hats and gloves to add additional adornment to their attire. Back then fans dressed to be appropriate according to their times as the football games had become a formal event of sorts. Whereas in contrast, today’s fans dress to be comfortable and to keep cool under the hot Louisiana sun while walking around the parade grounds and in the Tiger Stadium.
Appropriate game day wear, as defined by modern standards, has a completely different face than what was considered traditional. The definition is also very loose: fraternity pledges wear ties, slacks, and button up shirts, some ladies wear Sunday dresses, casual fans wear whatever seems best for the weather, and super fans go as far as to wear body paint, booty shorts, and anything purple and gold. Despite these loose conditions, what used to be necessary garb would get weird looks in the stadium today. This could be because comfort has become a higher priority for fans than any apparent social status. Just like the eventual fading out of the corsets, fans have decided that not suffering heat stroke would make game day much more enjoyable. The previously worn heavy dresses, gloves, suits, and hats are just not practical in the Louisiana weather. The use of such clothing shows that football games were considered more of a social event. However, those fans that wear morphsuits insinuate that the love for their team is worth suffering the heat. Even those not so committed as to subject themselves to the heat enjoy being clad in the team colors. The fashion which was once a statement of sociability has now evolved into a statement of love for the team and the game. Along with a love for the LSU Tigers having changed dress trends for for fans, a change in the United State’s acceptance of less conservative practices and attire through post-war and Hippie eras paved the way for booty shorts with boots and shirtless purple and gold body paint as outfits appropriate for gameday tailgating.
Commercial business and sports have become intricately woven together since the early 1970s. Advertisements during televised sporting events, corporate sponsorships for sports team and clothing lines, and clever marketing strategies deployed in every aspect of the game has made it quite clear that in the modern era, sports and business have become one entity. Since the 1933 creation of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), growing popularity of college football in the South has left more and more fans wanting to cheer on and represent their favorite teams.
Ultimately leading to an increase in sales of collegiate sports merchandise, the evolution of LSU fan fashion is directly related to the role that the university has played in controlling the market of these fashion items to profit the college. Having started as homemade sports paraphernalia around 1965, LSU fans have ever increasingly committed to LSU’s brand in love and support of their team quickly turned sports fan clothing into a business empire. The collegiate partners of the Collegiate Licensing Company, founded in 1981, account for more than 80% of merchandise on the market (“About CLC”, 2017). There is relatively no competition for retailers that register with the CLC. Coupling CLC partnerships with major global brands like Nike and Coca-Cola who make product lines exclusively for LSU Sports and market collegiate sports and fanwear to ridiculous new heights that help cement LSU as a brand and not just a school, LSU related merchandising has become a powerhouse in the state. Fans are advertised to and impacted more by the brand because now they can enjoy the great quality products they already buy while simultaneously yelling ‘GEAUX TIGERS’ with every article of clothing, tailgating equipment, and custom body or car paint job or RV vinyl done with the LSU Tiger’s celebratory purple and gold.
LSU fan fashion has experienced a tremendous evolution from the sharp, overdressed military uniforms and formal wear styles of LSU’s post Civil War era. Nearly 120 years later, today’s tailgate clothing and fan fashion is wildly less conservative and is an over fanaticized representation of the tribal spirit felt at college football games. As staff writer for Economy Matters, Charles Davidson states, college football is “embedded in not just the wallets but also the culture of the Southeast” (Davidson). The college football experience is one of visibility that attracts large crowds to the University setting. Merchandise, especially fan fashion, is a way for every fan, not just students, to be a part of the college football experience. SEC Universities’ commercialization of fashion in the spirit of college sports, has created an unofficial dress-code in the South; LSU is no exception. Fans that do not display diehard mentalities can certainly feel out of place if they do not proudly brandish the university’s famous purple and gold colors,
perhaps taking it as far as striped team overalls.
“About CLC.” CLC. The Collegiate Licensing Company. Jan. 2017. Web. Apr. 20, 2017.
Davidson, Charles. “College Sports Are Big Business, but Not Nearly as Big as College Itself.” Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Economy Matters. Nov. 28 2016. Web. Apr. 25, 2017.
Fig. 1. “Football Game”. 1983. Photograph. Golden Rankings. Pg. 1. Digital Image. http://goldenrankings.com/tigerden1.htm
Fig. 2. “LSU Stadium (First Night Game)”. 1931. Photograph. Golden Rankings. Pg. 2. Digital Image. http://goldenrankings.com/tigerden1.htm
Fig. 3. “LSU Offense”. 1960. Photograph. Golden Rankings. Digital Image. http://goldenrankings.com/tigerden1.htm
Fig. 4. “LSU Crowd Cheers on the Tigers.” 1981. Photograph.
Fig. 5. “Overalls.” 2012. Photograph.
Theriot, Janae. “How the Tigers Got Their Colors.” LSU Undergraduate Admissions. Louisiana State University, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
Vincent, Herb, sLSU Football Vault, The History of the Fighting Tigers. Atlanta: Whitman Publishing 2008. Page 2 – Page 50.