KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The orange wool slacks Derek Dooley's worn in each game this season haven't always translated into victories, but they have inspired a cult-like following and fashion trend among the Tennessee faithful.
In the week leading up to Tennessee's annual meeting with rival Florida, it seemed all fans could talk about was whether or not the Volunteers' coach would wear his brightly colored orange pants at the Swamp.
He did, but Florida won 33-23, their seventh straight victory over the Volunteers.
"The pants cannot guarantee a win," Dooley quipped a couple of days after the loss.
Dooley said he was inspired to wear orange bottoms not by former basketball coach Bruce Pearl's orange sports coat as some surmised, but by watching "The Color Orange: The Condredge Holloway story," an ESPN documentary about the first black quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. Holloway started for the Vols from 1972-74 and is now an assistant athletics director at Tennessee.
Holloway's coach, Bill Battle, would occasionally wore orange pants, but his game outfit of choice was an orange shirt with a tie and slacks of a more conservative color. His successor, Johnny Majors, wore orange polyester pants, a white polo-style shirt with orange collar, a white belt and white shoes to games during the first few years of his Tennessee career, which stretched from 1977-92, but opted for a suit for games later in his career.
"There's nothing better than old footage," Dooley said. "I just remember seeing the old footage of the coaches out there and they all had orange pants on. So I asked (team equipment manager Roger Frazier) if he could get a pair of orange pants. He didn't think I'd wear them. He thought I was wasting my money.
"Everybody else wanted me to wear white shoes and a white belt. My wife intervened on that," Dooley added. "That's why you never do anything without asking your wife."
Dooley and Frazier went to Knoxville custom tailoring company John H. Daniel, which fulfilled the order with wool that was woven and dyed in England.
"They had to make three different attempts at dyeing the wool before they got the color we needed, the exact shade of orange," said Joe Taylor, director of sales for John H. Daniel. "I went over to (Dooley's) office, and we compared the fabric to all of his game gear before we even made the pant. He said it was spot on."
Dooley debuted the slacks at Tennessee's Sept. 3 season opener against Montana. A photo of him in his orange pants was shared on the team's official Twitter account during the pregame warmups and had been viewed more than 17,000 times by the end of the 42-16 Vols victory.
A "Derek Dooley's Orange Pants" Facebook group had more than 25,000 followers on Friday, and the pants inspired their own Twitter account, "Dooleys_pants," where they've been tweeting their own sartorial take on legendary Tennessee coach Robert Neyland's game maxims. The gameday pants maxims include, "Carry the fight to khaki pants and keep it there for 60 minutes," rather than carrying the fight to the opponent as Neyland would say.
Soon after the Montana game, John H. Taylor began taking orders from Tennessee fans for their own custom-made orange pants. Currently, two styles are offered: a cotton-style pant that costs $199 and a wool style that's similar to Dooley's for $399.
Because all of the pants are custom made, the turn around on them is about three weeks. That means the Tennessee fans who ordered theirs immediately after the season opener will get their first chance to wear them at Neyland Stadium on Oct. 1, when the Vols (2-1) host Buffalo.
The company has taken so many orders, Taylor can't keep up with the number. Since receiving a mention during CBS's broadcast of the Tennessee-Florida game, orders have come in from as far away as California.
"I didn't know what to expect," Taylor said. "On game day when he first wore them, my phone was blowing up."
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