Tigers take a pride in wearing ‘the orange britches’
The Orange Pants mean almost as much to Clemson fans as the Hill and Howard’s Rock. They are a fabric of Clemson’s rich football history. They are a tradition that started in 1980 when the Tigers charged down the Hill wearing them for the first time prior to the South Carolina game.
Clemson went on to win that game, 27-6, that afternoon over eventual Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and the 14th-ranked Gamecocks. That following year, the Tigers wore them three more times on the way to the school’s first national championship.
“My dad has told me the stories in the past about the orange britches,” Clemson linebacker J.D. Davis said.
Davis’ dad, of course, is former Clemson All-American linebacker Jeff Davis, who was on those teams in 1980 and ’81 that started the mystique tradition of the orange pants. For J.D. Davis and his brother, Judah, the orange pants and the stories their dad has shared surrounding the pants mean a lot to both.
The tradition of the orange pants is used differently these days than they wer back when Jeff Davis was a player at Clemson. In the 1980s, the pants were primarily worn at home against South Carolina or if then head coach Danny Ford felt the team deserved to wear them after the seniors’ request.
Besides the 1980 game against South Carolina, the only other time Ford broke out the orange pants without a request from the seniors came in the 1989 game at South Carolina, when he surprised his players with the orange britches hanging in their locker following warmups at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Clemson beat the Gamecocks 45-0 that night in Columbia. The Tigers were 15-2 when wearing the orange pants under Ford.
These days, the orange pants are used a little differently.
“It’s championship time,” J.D. Davis said. “I’m always a little excited to wear the orange britches because it means the season is coming to an end and that stakes are getting a lot higher. These are games you come to Clemson to play in.”
Second-ranked Clemson will wear the orange pants Saturday at No. 14 Boston College because they will have an opportunity to clinch their fourth straight ACC Atlantic Division Championship. No team since the ACC went to a conference championship game in 2005 has won its division four straight years.
“It just kind of represents where we are in our season,” quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “We’ve put a lot of work in to get to where we are. We are still in control of our own destiny. It doesn’t really mean anything. We are still going to play how we play. It does signify that we are getting towards the end of the season and these games are starting to have a different mood because these are championship type games.”
Prior to Dabo Swinney taking over the Clemson program, the Tigers got a little carried away with its color combinations. The mystique of the orange pants fell victim to it, as the Tigers seemingly wore them all the time with a different color combination every week.
When Swinney took over as head coach, he stopped the madness and following the 2010 season Clemson only wore orange jersey and white pants for home games and white jerseys and white pants on the road. The only exceptions were big games in which they wore the orange pants at home.
“Coach Swinney, the one thing that he did when he took over was, I think, he kind of wanted to get a little bit of uniformity with our uniform policy, if you will,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said, while chuckling. “I think in the past it was kind of like the seniors got to vote on what they wore. Like this, that and the other. Coach Swinney wanted there to be some consistency.”
In 2014, when Clemson played South Carolina, Swinney made the decision to only wear the orange pants when a championship of some sort, in this case the state championship, was on the line. The Tigers won that game 35-17 and has since went 14-3 when wearing the orange pants.
Clemson has won four state championships, three Atlantic Division titles, three conference championships, three bowl games and one national championship while wearing the orange pants during that span.
“I think our guys know we have an opportunity to win a division championship this week and that means we get to put those orange pants on,” Scott said. “It is something they look forward to and take a lot of pride in.”