The Greeks had the Dionysian mysteries. Medieval Catholics had carnival. American students have spring break, a range of weeks between March and April when everything goes Day-Glo, then blackout. Over the past half-century, it has become big business: Student Monitor LLC, a market-research firm, projects spring-break expenditures of $1.6 billion in 2014. Here, a guide to the annual bacchanalia, past and present.
The First Spring Break:
In 1935, a swimming coach at Colgate University brought his team to train in Ft. Lauderdale during spring break. An annual aquatic conference followed, as did swimmers’ less athletic friends.
The First Pop Culture Homage:
In 1958, an English professor overheard students talking about a trip to Ft. Lauderdale. The prof tagged along and wrote a book, Where the Boys Are, which became a hit movie and song. Within a year, 50,000 students flocked there.
The First Tanned Butt Cheek:
In 1974, a Louisiana PR man named Glen Tortorich introduced a version of the Brazilian “tongas,” made from cotton, denim, and crochet. After the show, Tortorich took a model on a local media tour. “I said, ‘Hit it!’ And she would drop the dress.” The exposed behind became a spring-break staple.
The First Wet T-shirt Contest:
In 1975, John McGuire, an owner of Pierre’s restaurant and bar in Metairie, Louisiana, invented the first commercial wet T-shirt contest. (Many credit Jacqueline Bisset in 1977’s The Deep with popularizing the style.) McGuire awarded prizes of $75.
“There was one woman who lost and complained that she was bigger than the others. But we were judging on quality, not quantity. Also, I think she was a stripper. This was supposed to be an amateur contest.” —Doug Christian, DJ and judge in first wet T-shirt contest
The First Televised Mayhem:
In 1986, MTV began to broadcast an annual Spring Break special from Daytona Beach. Mr. Mister and the Beastie Boys performed.
“The ’86 Spring Break was the first time the word ‘woody’ had been used on television. Also, the directors in the booth had the camera guys scope out girls taking off their shirts. Little did they know that there was a live feed going out across America.” —Alan Hunter, MTV Spring Break’s original VJ
The First Spring Break Planned City:
In 1988, after it was leveled by a hurricane, Cancún was rebuilt purposefully as a spring-break mecca. Today, Cancún hosts more than 30,000 spring breakers annually. Recent violence in the region has done little to stop the foot traffic to Señor Frog’s.
The First Flavored Condom:
Kiss of Mint was introduced in 1988 by LifeStyles. But tasty prophylactics weren’t big until 1995, when Durex introduced flavored condoms in strawberry, apple, and banana. Sales were particularly high in the South Central region, including Florida.
The Great Spring Break Migration:
In the late 1980s, Ft. Lauderdale erected a wall separating the beach from the road, made open containers illegal, and raised the drinking age. Many spring breakers—350,000 by 1985—moved 240 miles north to Daytona Beach. Briefly. By 1989, the city sickened of the madness and cracked down on bars and clubs, arresting hundreds of students, who, in turn, moved farther up to Panama City Beach, as well as to Texas’s South Padre Island; Cancún, Mexico; and Negril, Jamaica. PCB, as it is called, however, is still tops, attracting nearly 500,000 partyers annually.
The First Wild Girls:
In 1997, a 24-year-old production assistant named Joe Francis began a series of VHS videos of drunk women exposing their breasts in Ft. Lauderdale during spring break.
“Soon people started believing what we showed. Girls Gone Wild became spring break.” —Joe Francis, founder Girls Gone Wild
Spring Break 2014
(According to the staffers of website Total Frat Move)
“Doesn’t matter as long as someone else is buying them.”
“Trying not to black out before your friends do … LOL.”
“Getting ‘Iced.’ ”
“SPF over 20.”
“A laminated card with my name and local address on it for help getting home.”
*This article appeared in the March 10, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.
Most Viewed Stories
Connecticut Politician Arrested for Pinching Woman’s Genitals
The Sheer Perfection of Donald Trump’s Golden Shower
The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for the Women’s March
These Photos of Malia and Sasha Obama’s First Visit to the White House Will Make You Really Nostalgic
15 Protest Sign Ideas for the Women’s March on Washington
The Divorced Mom Who Cries After Sex
Pakistani Pop Star Stops Concert When He Spots Sexual Harassment
What Romance Really Means After 10 Years of Marriage
Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of January 16
I’m Anti-Trump, But I Refuse to March
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesA Holiday Season Weekend Through London
A good guide for avid The Crown fans.It’s About Time You Learned Tove Lo’s Name
The singer has crafted pop hits you’ve heard a thousand times by now.Marina Abramovic Has Outlasted Her Lovers and, She Hopes, Her Critics
The world's most famous performance artist at 70.The Wing: Do Women Still Need a Space of Their Own?
This exclusive social club for women, is part sorority, part start-up.In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World
A new generation of female artists is making VR the most diverse corner of the male-dominated tech space.The Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.