They haven’t missed a game sitting above the Redskins tunnel since FedExField opened its doors in 1997, but after 30 years the Hogettes are hanging up their dresses and snouts to call it quits.
It all started in 1983 after the Redskins won their very first Super Bowl Title against the Miami Dolphins. The Diesel, John Riggins, had his fans, the Smurfs had theirs, Theismann had his, but one group who would eventually become one of the greatest to ever play the game, didn’t have theirs.
That’s when Michael Torbert came up with the idea to start a group of “cheerleaders” for the dominating offensive line called the Hogs, coached by Joe Bugel. The idea first came to mind during the Redskins run to the Super Bowl in 1982.
At the time, cheerleaders wore dresses rather than the skimpy outfits they do today, so Torbert, also known as ‘Boss Hogette,’ thought it’d be great to gather a group of 11 or so crazy guys who “had the brass” to go out in traditional cheerleader attire and support the line.
The following week after the Redskins won their first ever Super Bowl Title over the Miami Dolphins, Torbert bounced the idea around with fellow ecstatic co-workers. Needless to say they shot the idea down and Torbert put the idea on the shelf.
That however changed when he had the unfortunate job of telling his grandmother that her only son had passed away. Not only to raise her spirits, but his as well, Torbert decided to start a project with a friend, which ultimately led to the formation of the Hogettes.
After taking his grandmother home from dinner the Sunday before that Halloween, Torbert asked her if he could borrow one of her old polka dot dresses that she didn’t wear anymore for something he told her he had “planned.”
Without his wife knowing, Torbert dressed up in the polka dot dress his grandmother allowed him to borrow, red stockings, a white leather hat he had made, and boots to work as a test to see the reaction. This time around the reactions were different. Instead of being made out to be crazy, everyone got a huge kick out of it, laughing and falling out of their chairs.
Passing the co-workers test, he went to the nursing home and yelled “trick-or-treat, where’s the firewater, let’s go hunnie,” when he saw his grandmother sitting outside the party room. Though she didn’t recognize him, she recognized the dress and got the biggest kick out of it.
Not only did it brighten her day, but it also brightened the day of the others who were in the party room as well. Including a couple guys who decided to pinch him on the butt.
Before arriving home that night to take the kids out, his grandmother had already called his wife about what he had done and how he had made it the “happiest day of her life.” Of course he didn’t know about this as he had planned to hide it from everyone, but as he walked in the house, there stood his wife asking him “what in the heck were you doing?” Being caught, he decided to go out in full Hogette attire with his children who were 3, 7 and 11 at the time, to see how the others would react.
Surprisingly he found out that the neighbors got the biggest kick out of it, so much to the point that he had to go home and change so more attention would be focused on his children in their costumes.
After the positive response to his Hogette attire, he decided the idea was a success and now the only challenge would be to find members to join him, which had failed earlier that year.
Torbert then went on to find 10 guys who had agreed to wear dresses, pig snouts, and other various things to root on the Hogs, all while raising money for Children’s Hospital.
November of 1983 against the Philadelphia Eagles, in the corner end zone on the field, sat 11 men in the foldout chairs wearing dresses, pig snouts, stockings, with umbrellas, having rolls of film being shot of them by USA Today.
Since that day the Hogettes have appeared at every Redskins home game in full Hogette attire, and most recently have sat above the Redskins tunnel notoriously known as “Pig Pen.” They have also had on average 100 appearances each year at hospitals and other charity events for children raising over hundreds of millions of dollars.
While cheering for the Hogs and the Washington Redskins might appear to be their passion, it is in fact bringing a smile to the faces of children who are in very dark places not knowing whether they’ll survive or not.
Torbert went on to say, “when you walk into that situation, and that little kid lights up like a Christmas Tree, it makes all the hard work and time worthwhile.” He then went on to recall a story about Dano who after returning to Dallas from a trip the year before, spoke with parents of a child who thanked him for visiting their daughter the year before.
After recalling who the child was, he went on to ask how she was doing, only to hear the unfortunate news that she had passed away. Not only did Torbert breakdown while recollecting the story, but he also explained how it was tough for Dano as well.
Though being diehard Redskins fans, and supporters of the Hogs, the only thing that matters to these men in dresses are the children and their families whom they’ve had significant impacts on over the last 30 years.
While their reign as super fans at FedExField has come to an end, their iconic work in the communities will live on as they will still appear at Children’s Hospitals and other charity events to help raise money for families.
Not once did they ever envision themselves becoming so popular, let alone an iconic image to the Redskins and the NFL, whom inducted them into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. Instead, they had hoped to have a positive impact on people who in return would go on to help raise money for charities.
For the past 30 years the Hogettes have seen it all. The lowest of lows and the highest of highs. In a sense you could say they know the Redskins better than most historians and or coaching experts.
So what were their most memorable and known memorable moments?
Howard, known as Howiette recalls his first game in December of 1948 when he was able to shake Slingin’ Sammy Baugh’s hand. At the time he says, “you could actually get close to the players, and my dad took me to Sammy Baugh and I was able to shake his hand….and I’ve been hooked since.”
His lowest moment? When he had to work in Texas, and mostly out of Dallas for 10 years.
Winning the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills which Torbert attended in Minneapolis goes down as his favorite moment. As does attending the preseason game in London against the San Francisco 49ers which he, his son and Howard attended, but also made it on TV singing Hail to the Redskins in full gear.
His lowest moment? When the winless Dallas Cowboys came to RFK Stadium and beat the undefeated Washington Redskins in 1991.
A moment which couldn’t be left out is when Torbert recalls sneaking into Tampa Stadium after his contact never showed to give him his ticket for Super Bowl XVIII. According to him, Michael Jackson was in fact not the originator of the moonwalk, rather he was.
After noticing a bus backing out of a gate, Torbert, in full Hogette attire moon walked past the bus, and then ran the rest of the way into the stadium with four minutes remaining in the game.
The endless memories live on with the Hogettes. From the rocking stands at RFK Stadium, to the Children’s Hospitals. The Hogettes have not only helped spark super fans in their existence whom they have now passed the torch to, but they’ve also helped bring countless smiles to children who don’t have many things to smile for.
It’s important to note that nine of the active members currently serve volunteer active duty and have served in the past. As the Hogettes continue to work charity, their focus has now grown towards military organizations as well.
The two said, “it’s been an honor to be a part of the Redskins 12th man, it’s been a great run and we’ll continue to be there. Everyone go out and continue to support the team, win or loss, and enjoy the sport for what it is.”
The Hogettes will still sit in the stands at FedExField on game day, but the Pig Pen and Hogette attire will be no more. Instead, they will blend into the crowd as if they had never existed. Their legacy however, will always live on forever.
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