If you listen closely while watching the Florida-Georgia game Saturday, you may hear it. If the cameras pan across the Georgia side of the stadium, open your ears. It may sound faint at first, but the chant will grow stronger.
"GATORS WEAR JEAN SHORTS! GATORS WEAR JEAN SHORTS!"
Somewhere in that section, Georgia grad Kevin Davis will beam with paternal pride. For Davis is the father of college football's most random -- yet devastatingly effective -- taunt. Those who hail from up north or out west may not understand, but in the SEC, dressing nattily for gameday is almost as important as having receivers with 4.3 speed. At Georgia, the ladies wear dresses and the men don khakis, button-down oxfords and white caps that appear to have been dragged down a dirt road from the trailer hitch of a Chevy Tahoe for three days. At Alabama, frat boys wear blazers, and women wear sundresses with houndstooth caps. Gameday at Ole Miss looks like a J.Crew catalogue shoot with pimento cheese sandwiches. But Florida has no dress code, which can lead Gators fans to commit some heinous fashion crimes.
So, in 1997, when a Florida fan clad in jorts and an old-school mesh jersey kept Gator-chomping and screaming "Gator bait" at Davis and his friends outside Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Davis couldn't take it anymore. With no recent Georgia victory to reference, Davis began yelling, "Gators wear jean shorts!" The rest of the young Georgia fans -- most of whom were in elementary school the last time Georgia beat Florida -- joined him. By the time Davis entered the stadium, hundreds of Bulldogs had joined in the chorus against the abominable duds. Georgia won that day for the first and only time in the 12 seasons that Steve Spurrier coached the Gators, and GWJS was seared into the heart and mind of every Bulldog under 25.
Those under-25 Bulldogs now are under-36 Bulldogs, and they've passed GWJS to the younger generation. Meanwhile, fans at the other 11 SEC schools have picked up the chant as well, because the only fact on which all 11 fan bases can agree is that they hate Florida. This has led to GWJS montages and the publication of the first issue of Jorts Illustrated. The phenomenon even made the Urban Dictionary as definition No. 5 under the Jorts entry. This past summer, GWJS went worldwide. Writing from the opening ceremony at the Olympics earlier this year, ESPN.com's Pat Forde noticed something rotten from the state of Denmark. "Jean shorts. JEAN SHORTS?! This isn't Gainesville, Fla.; this is the Olympics," Forde wrote. Actually, the Danes' britches were worse than jorts; they were japris.
Davis has to be careful who he tells about his creation. Now an attorney in Tampa, he is surrounded by Gators. Some sign his paychecks, so he tries not to agitate them. Others are female and single, and the GWJS origin story certainly helps Davis initiate a conversation. There's only one problem.
"It's like saying you slept with Jennifer Aniston," Davis said. "Nobody believes it."
But it's true. Georgia grad Corey Bailey, the proprietor of gatorswearjeanshorts.net, has confirmed that Davis, his fraternity brother, is the man responsible for leading the fight against jorts. Unfortunately, Davis said, Florida fans have not been shamed into tossing their denim. "Now, I think they wear it with pride," he said. "It's their gimmick. It's their KISS makeup, if you will."
Davis also has softened somewhat his stance against Sunshine State fashions. He realized that while Florida fans may rock the jorts, they have the rest of the conference beat from the neck up. Davis said colleagues have taken him much more seriously since he abandoned the Official Haircut of the SEC. "I actually put product in my hair now," Davis said with a twinge of shame.
Georgia's success in recent years -- the Dawgs have won two of the past four Cocktail Parties -- begs a question. Will Davis and his fellow fans still mock the Gators for their fashion choices now that they can occasionally just say "scoreboard" again?
"I think the jean shorts chant will live on," Davis said. "Even though we've been winning some games, they have a good coach whom I despise a great deal. ... It will be a good crutch."