By Calloway Burns
Whether a Furman student is walking in the DH, along the Mall, or around North Village, they are likely to see one of three people: the “Chubbies Guy” as Matt Wessinger is better known, Southern Tide model Rivers Townes, or Alex Buchart reliably wearing a Southern Fried Cotton t-shirt. The common thread tying all of these students together is that they are all campus representatives, or “ambassadors,” for clothing companies. Across the nation, students who have connected with clothing, food, or drink companies permeate college campuses. In exchange for spreading the brand name and hopefully increasing on campus sales, the students receive free gear like Koozies, croakies, and even a cow bell.
This marketing tactic must be working because, according to Townes, Southern Tide has expanded to over four hundred schools in the company’s seven-year history. These companies rely heavily on Facebook to not only spread the brand but also to coordinate between the massive number of ambassadors. Companies have even solicited new ideas that went on to become actual products, like a slimmer Southern Tide shirt or custom Southern Fried Cotton mug.
These marketing campaigns have been quite noticeable on campus. On Saturdays in the fall, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon tent has often had its own table with free Southern Tide giveaways from Townes. Wessinger, the representative for Chubbies, has noticed a significant increase in guys wearing the brand’s characteristically short shorts. Furman’s preppy style tends to create the perfect storm for guys donning the button downs and thigh-defining shorts.
How companies such as Southern Fried Cotton, Southern Tide, and Chubbies find students like Wessinger, Buchart, and Townes is just as varied as the clothing that they offer. Townes already had clear connections with Southern Tide as a Greenville native, where Southern Tide began, and his father invested in the company early on.
Southern Fried Cotton, a company which sells t-shirts and has a location on Main Street, did not even need to approach a Furman student.
Instead, Buchart approached them. “I emailed them, gave them my resumé [and] became the first ambassador for Furman.”
Both Townes and Buchart see this kind of work as a possible career path. Buchart would like to do marketing in New York, and Townes said he sees Southern Tide as a “great company” and one at which he could see himself working. Wessinger, though, just likes the free shorts.
“They sent out an email to all of the fraternity presidents about the ambassador program,” he said. “One Saturday night I just cranked out an email.”
Wessinger mentioned his “Herculean thighs” and got the job. According to him, he has about nine pairs of shorts just waiting to be worn.
“These are awesome,” he said.
All three representatives agreed that Furman is the perfect place for these types of brands. One can already see the abundance of Southern Tide at Furman most any day, and Chubbies are bound to be brought out of the closets as the days tick down toward summer.
Southern Fried Cotton also has an opportunity to become the next big provider for Greek function shirts according to Buchart.