Don’t laugh, but this is a well-researched, interesting story about why women in the South, particularly in Athens, Georgia, dress as they do for football games.
“You hear that saying,” says Kerr, “‘Girls in pearls, guys in ties.’ But the ‘guys in ties’ in our data, they were not nearly as present.” Schmeichel agreed, “There were men who were maybe wearing a polo shirt, but in comparison the women were much dressier.” The researchers considered “dressy” outfits as involving any kind of dress, skirt, low-cut/spaghetti strap top, heeled shoes, or items of clothing that don’t have a “masculine” equivalent. “We heard a lot about cowboy boots,” says Schmeichel.
As to why this is more common among women rather than men, a little bit of sports history can help explain. It turns out, the practice is actually more of a preservation of tradition than a creation of one, as Kerr and Schmeichel discovered. According to local newspaper articles from the 1890s cited in The Ghosts of Herty Field, women from neighboring girls’ schools (because UGA wasn’t integrated at the time) were present at what the book claims is the very first football game in the deep south in 1892. And by 1893, women were such a fixture that at away games, their absence was notable.
“This was somewhat of a disappointment to the men… Athens is far superior in this respect, as the Lucy Cobb and Home School girls have become almost as essential to a game as the referee and umpire.” — The Red & Black, as quoted in The Ghosts of Herty Field
So, if there have always been women at UGA games, and up until the ‘60s, they were always — quite literally — dressed up, women in attendance at SEC games didn’t start dressing a certain way, they just never stopped.
Tradition! (Bonus points for the boots reference.)
Oh, and it’s not that guys are complete schlubs. It’s just that we spend our clothing budget on sneakers.