By Eric Andrews | Echo
The Taylor community will hear the echoing "It's Friday" yell from freshman Justin Chapman after chapel each Friday for the next three years.
With senior Robbie Brandkamp set to graduate in two weeks, the famed orange and purple shirt with the familiar moniker and smiley face has been inherited by Chapman, Brandkamp's Third West Wengatz freshman of choice to carry on the tradition.
Chapman earned the honor late last night during Brandkamp's elaborate reveal meeting on Third West, besting Third West's eight other freshmen after surviving interviews and test yells with Brandkamp earlier this semester.
"Beyond belief," Chapman said, "That's all I can say right now. The next three years of my life are going to be a heck of a ride."
Despite the recent anticipation surrounding the Friday shirt with the changing of the guard, the Friday shirt has a long and established history.
Brandkamp inherited the honor at the end of his freshman year when then-Friday shirt guy Jeff Yoder ('14) chose Brandkamp to be his heir to the throne.
"When I first got the shirt on that Thursday night my freshman year at the end of the year, I was totally taken aback," Brandkamp said. "(I) did not expect to get it at all. At first, it was daunting. But it's been a lot of fun to know what I'm going to wear every single Friday. I've totally enjoyed it, and it's been such an honor to be part of such an iconic tradition."
Though a campus-wide icon today, the Friday shirt had a less-than-glorious beginning. Alan Briggs ('05) began the phenomenon in 2001. Alan was packing for his freshman year at Taylor while clearing out old belongings from his home in Virginia.
It was during this process of sorting through his belongings that Briggs stumbled upon arguably the biggest discovery of his life. What was initially headed for the trash would become one of Taylor's most popular symbols.
"Little did I know I was teetering on the edge of destiny," Briggs said. "And there I saw it: the ugliest shirt I have ever laid eyes on. My brother and Taylor frequent, J.R. Briggs ('01), had abandoned it. He left it to drift into insignificance. I had only one choice: rescue it and restore it to glory."
On the first Thursday night of the school year, in the midst of adjusting to the food at the DC and constantly socializing with women, Alan spotted the shirt hanging in his closet. Without hesitation, Alan grabbed the shirt and turned it into the legend it has become today: The Friday shirt.
Having originally gained the idea from a student at another college, albeit a Debby-downer Monday version, Alan wanted to turn the shirt into a symbol that recognized the best day of the week. Alan took a Sharpie and wrote the iconic phrase "It's Friday!" with a smiley face below it. Despite Alan's markings being slightly off-centered, the shirt has come to be a recognizable relic on Taylor's campus in the years since.
Alan passed the shirt on to Jim Baker ('08) in the spring of 2005 to continue the tradition. Baker then passed the shirt on to Paul Bachman ('11), who passed the shirt to Yoder, who passed the shirt to Brandkamp. Now, with the latest passing of the torch, it is Chapman's turn to carry on the legacy.
"The biggest criteria was, 'Are they committed to the chapel program as a whole, not just (one) day?'" Brandkamp said. "(I wanted to choose) someone who is committed to-what I would argue is-one of the most vital parts of Taylor's community. Obviously, they have to have a good yell and (be) comfortable with it. You've got to have the spirit for it; you've got to have the desire for it; you have to respect it."
Upon taking these criteria into consideration, Brandkamp set out on an expedition to find the shirt's heir. To his chagrin, Brandkamp stated that none of the freshmen tried to bribe him throughout the year, leaving him to choose strictly based on his established criteria.
Brandkamp said he decided on Chapman in February and noted that his decision had nothing to do with Chapman's older brother, Josh ('14), a Third West legend for being untouchable in Third West's Melon and Gourd tradition.
"I chose (Chapman) because (he's) dedicated to chapel-I see him there all the time," Brandkamp said. "He has his own 'Fry Day' shirt that he wears every Friday. What a committed hunk of man. He's got a terrific, powerful yell, and he's not afraid to let it out. However, he can be very calm, very relaxed, very laid back. (He has) killer hair. I gave him his first campus tour."
Brandkamp said he expects Chapman to carry on the tradition with fulfilling and satisfying Friday yells, but hopes Chapman will put his own unique flair on the tradition as he grows throughout his time at Taylor.
While expectations for Chapman are high, the Friday shirt's symbolic resonance remains a campus-wide reminder the weekend has arrived.
"The prophet, R. Kelly, famously said, 'It's the freakin' weekend, baby. I'm about to have me some fun,'" Alan said. "He missed the mark. It was an understatement. It's not just the weekend-IT'S FRIDAY!"