‘Shaker Skirt Guy’ seeks successor to carry legacy

Courtesy+of+Ally+Williams

Courtesy of Ally Williams

Savannah Bullard | @savannahkt_, Editor-in-Chief

On any given weekday, Nick Ebel spends his days assisting communications students in Reese Phifer Hall’s Speaking Studio, grabbing a cup of coffee at Monarch Espresso Bar or working to change children’s lives as an executive member for UA Dance Marathon. A senior double-majoring in public relations and communications studies, Ebel lives a typical life compared to the average college student – until Saturday rolls around. 

On the weekends, Ebel is more widely recognized by his outfit. In the fall, you can normally find him roaming in and out of tailgates on the Quad and gracing the Bryant-Denny video screens in a costume that leaves little to the imagination; he dons a hula skirt of crimson and white shakers and a script A painted on his chest for every game, any temperature, rain or shine. 

SHAKERS GONNA SHAKE

When Ebel came to The University of Alabama in 2016, the then-freshman dressed for game days in an effort to fit in with the majority of the student section, whose outfits normally include some sort of sport coat, khaki pants and crimson-colored button-down. After a few games of dreading the subconscious push to fit in, Ebel got an idea. 

The idea came to me at the Kentucky game freshman year,” he said. “Whenever I wasn’t using my one shaker, I would just stick it in my belt and at one point I looked down and thought, ‘What if I made a whole hula skirt out of this? That would be funny.’”

After initially dismissing the thought, Ebel’s mind raced with options to make his imagination a reality. After deciding that a painted script A would do the trick, he scooped up any shakers he could find after the game and waited for his opportunity to debut the look. That chance came when No. 6 Texas A&M visited Tuscaloosa with ESPN’s College GameDay crew in tow. 

By 6 a.m., College GameDay had tweeted a photo of Ebel. By noon, he had an interview with Bleacher Report. Thus began the ascent from regular student to game-day celebrity. But, his newfound fame came at a cost.

I’m walking home and I looked into the window of [the Presidential Village dorms] since they’re super reflective, and I just froze,” Ebel said. “I said, ‘Nick, you look like an idiot.’ So I ran upstairs, super embarrassed, threw them all in the corner of my room, washed off the ‘A’ as fast as possible, saying ‘I’m never doing this again.’”

But there was no going back. As more students began to recognize him on campus, Ebel could not let the getup go since, in his words, “peer pressure is a beautiful thing.”

Kelsey Mullins met Ebel when he was at his humblest of beginnings as Shaker Skirt Guy: at the top of Bryant-Denny Stadium’s upper bowl. 

“It was a cupcake team and it was very, very, very cold,” she said. “He hadn’t really been discovered yet, but we had seen him around and thought it was cool. It was probably 20 degrees, and he was still out there – no jacket, no long pants, just his shaker skirt and his painted-on ‘A.’ And we actually got to sit with him and talk with him for a while and just admire his dedication.”

That conversation stuck with Mullins throughout her time at the University. Now a senior majoring in public health and a clarinetist in the Million Dollar Band, Mullins has also graduated to the lower bowl with Ebel. But despite his rise in campus fame, Mullins said Ebel has remained a sincere, down-to-earth person all these years. 

“Not only is he cool because he’s the Shaker Skirt Guy, but he’s so nice and kind, and he’ll talk to anybody, which is really awesome,” Mullins said. “It’s great to see because you want the people you admire to be cool, and he totally is.”

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

While Ebel may boast many talents, painting his own body is not one of them. 

Two friends have helped his persona grow to life over the past four years, one being UA senior Ally Williams. Williams’ former roommate was the original painter of the signature script A emblazoned on Ebel’s chest, but once she transferred to Liberty University in the spring of 2018, she passed the paint brushes to Williams for good.

“[In January 2018] Nick had a ticket to the natty and so did I, and so we went, and I painted him on the ground in like, 20 degree weather outside the national championship that year,” Williams said. “Ever since then, I’ve painted him for A-Day, game days all of our junior year and senior year, up until now.”

Williams said she has enjoyed being a part of Ebel’s eccentric college experience for the past two years, including appearing in the CBS Dr. Pepper Pride & Passion special that has reached over 123,000 views on Facebook since Nov. 6.  

“Whenever I have little cousins come to town, family friends or old teachers and their kids, it’s so fun to rally Nick and get him to get his picture with them,” Williams said.

Ebel divulged that any time the football team has lost, he replaces his skirt so no “bad juju” can plague another game. This endeavor, though rare (as Alabama has lost only four games in Ebel’s time as a student), is made possible through the students of the Ticket Exchange, a Facebook group that covers all things Crimson Tide and campus life.

“The Alabama Student Ticket Exchange has loved me so well, both inside and outside of the shaker skirt,” Ebel said. “Anytime I need new shakers, I just take to the Student Ticket Exchange, and they’ve loved me so well and supported me in that. It’s been really cool to see how the student body can come together around such a goofy thing, and I’ve really appreciated everything they’ve done to support me.”

HUNTING FOR A NEW NICK

The fun must come to an end at some point, and May is quickly approaching for the two Shaker Skirt seniors. As Williams is gearing up to graduate with a degree in marketing and move back to her hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, she warns that the next person to carry on Ebel’s legacy has a mighty skirt to fill.

You’ve got to have a heart for the Tide and a heart for other people, and I believe Nick had both,” she said. “Hopefully someone will be able to come in and show that same kind of enthusiasm and moxie to get out there and make a goof of yourself in the name of the Tide and make others smile.”

Four years of shaking in Bryant-Denny Stadium will not go to waste on Ebel’s watch. That’s why he is working to find a new person to keep the Shaker Skirt Guy persona alive once he graduates in the spring.

I would love for this to be built into a legacy that gets passed down for generations because it has brought me so much joy, and being able to make people laugh and smile is such a special thing that comes with being the Shaker Skirt Guy,” Ebel said. “Plus, you also get invited into all these tailgates on game days, which free food is always a bonus.”

To Ebel, there are a few criteria for a quintessential Shaker Skirt Guy: high energy, love for people and the ability to make it their own. 

“I want it to be someone who can take it and manicure the way that they want it and in the vision they have for it, and then within that, it can just go in so many directions,” Ebel said. “The creativity that I had with it is what made it big, so as long as they are being creative and loving people along the way, then I’m happy.”


INFO BOX:

To be considered in Nick Ebel’s search for a new Shaker Skirt Guy, here is how to reach him: 

Instagram: @im_just_nick_

Facebook: Nick Ebel

Email: shakerskirtguy@gmail.com