Hats, jeans and boots are not “de rigeur” clothing in the state of Texas. You are not required to dress that way if you don’t want to. Many of the “natives” here don’t dress that way either.
But if you’re gonna do it, please do it right.
In Texas, you can’t just wear any hat and be appropriately dressed.
It is a hat, not a “cowboy” hat. Cattlemen wear them. Horsemen wear them. Texans wear them. It is part of the dress of cowboys, yes. But these hats are not the sole domain of cowboys. And those who dress the part have not necessarily earned the moniker. Real cowboys—not the drugstore variety—are a very tough breed. You can’t just put on a hat and be one.
But I’m getting off-topic.
Felt hats are not worn before Labor Day, or before the first chilly day of the year, for that matter. While the weather’s hot, only a straw will do, and not those black straw hats which apparently are all the rage with those Nashville music Rexall wranglers (Texan for “drugstore cowboy”) of the country and western music scene.
If you want to look like you are from out of state, then go on and wear that black or gray felt hat in the middle of the summer.
And we’ll all have a fine time laughing at you.
Cavalry Stetsons are exempt from this rule. They are an Army thing and outside the bounds of Texas hat etiquette. Texas civilian attire, however, is an entirely different matter. You are in my arena now. Cowboy up and deal with it.
Moving southward, one’s jeans also are important.
If you are caught in a flood, then go on and wear those denim pants that stop just shy of the tops of your ankles. Show off your boot stitching. And we’ll all know you’re from out of state.
Regardless of the brand of denim you choose, your jeans should have enough fabric to break at least three times over the tops of your boots.
If it floods, stick ‘em in your boots. But for the love of Sam Houston, please make sure your britches are the right length and not too tight. You’ll fetch some candid comments from Texans if they are.
The late Lieutenant Governor of Texas. Bob Bullock, once remarked about one of our Texas representatives’ trousers saying, “That ol' boy's britches are so tight that if he farted, he’d blow both his boots off.”
Speaking of boots, whatever your brand or model, make sure you have the right boot for the right situation.
Ropers are fine for everyday wear if you wish. But if you’re gonna ride horses, you might want to opt for something with a more pronounced heel. Ropers are designed for calf-roping. They are made to slip out of the stirrups easily. If you’re not roping calves and you do get up to a pretty good lope, your risk of landing fanny over tea-kettle in the ditch just went up about 80-percent. I own a pair of ropers, but for me, they are a fashion choice, not a riding boot.
Western boots with a sharp, pointed toe are called “cockroach killers” and I love to wear them with a long denim skirt. But, again, they are more of a fashion statement than a functional boot, unless of course you need to kill cockroaches. And then that pointy toe suddenly makes a whole lot of sense.
Frankly, they look stupid on men. Enough said.
Lace-up boots became popular about 20 years ago. “Lacers” are a throw-back to the turn of the 19th century. They remind me of the boots my great-aunt Linz used to wear. She was in her nineties when I knew her and she was a genuine East Texas hillbilly. She wore her hair piled up on top of her head for as long as I can remember and I think she used to spit tobacco, even though I never actually saw her do it. I thought she was really pretty cool.
I don’t own a pair of “lacers.” Every time I try a pair on, I get the strange urge to put a pinch of chaw in my lip, and that’s just not something a well-educated woman does. The “lacers” may have to wait. But lots of Texans swear by them as the most comfortable and functional boot they’ve ever worn.
If you are wondering about spurs, let me simplify the matter for you. Spurs are made for riding a horse and making sure the animal moves when you want it to move. Never wear spurs indoors (especially on a hardwood floor), and for crying out loud, don’t squat with them on.
I suppose I should address shirts, but that’s the one area that has become “anything goes.” I’ve seen everything from T-shirts to halter tops with hats, jeans and boots, so I guess it’s up to what makes you happy.
A word to the wise, however: leave the halter-tops to the ladies.
An original Yellow Prose blog entry, 2011.