Taylor Mathis: Tailgating and Team Spirit

mathis_tailgatingExcited for the first kickoff of the year? Confused as to what your friends and family mean when they say they want to show up to the game six hours early to tailgate? You’re in luck, because today we have a breakdown of the tailgating basics courtesy of Taylor Mathis, author of The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, and the South. According to tailgating enthusiast Mathis, “You’ll understand why a game day in the South is unlike any other” when you read this cookbook. Mathis traveled across twelve states to document the favorite foods and game-day traditions embraced by thousands of fans at colleges and universities throughout the football-crazy South. Featuring 110 vibrant recipes inspired by Mathis’s tailgating tours, The Southern Tailgating Cookbook is chock-full of southern football culture, colorful photographs of irresistible dishes from simple to extravagant, and essential preparation instructions.


Tailgating is an event in which you gather with friends and family to eat, drink, and support your team. When it comes to showing your spirit, there is no wrong way to go. The most common and accessible way is to wear your team’s colors in your game-day outfit. For many tailgaters, this isn’t enough. They need to carry their team spirit through every item they bring with them on game day. The three items you will see tailgaters customize in unique ways for their game day are a custom tailgating vehicle, custom grill, and their own game-day costume!

Custom colored game-day vehicles come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They can be school buses recreated to transport dozens of fans to the tailgate, old ambulances, golf carts, RVs, and even bicycles. Here are some of my favorite custom rides that I saw throughout my tailgating tours:

A small sampling of tailgating vehicles (Photos by Taylor Mathis)


Custom tailgating grills can be simple, like a barrel welded together and powder coated in your team’s color, like this one I saw in Kentucky, or they can be complex like the recycled dairy drum cooking up War Eagle Wings that I saw in Auburn.

The Kentucky grill in action! (Photos by Taylor Mathis)
The recycled dairy drum grill from Auburn (and its delicious outcome!). (Photos by Taylor Mathis)

There are some tailgaters who express their team spirit through what they wear. For these tailgaters, not just any outfit will do. They need to dress as a game-day super hero!  Decked out in homemade costumes inspired by their team’s colors, they are ready to tailgate and cheer their team on to victory!

Tailgating characters in action! (Photos by Taylor Mathis)

When tailgating, there is no wrong way to show your team’s colors and team spirit. All you need is a little creativity!

Taylor Mathis is a food and lifestyle photographer, a blogger at Taylor Takes a Taste, and a passionate fan of all college athletics. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. His book The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, and the South is now available.