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« New Blowhards: How Do We Find Them? | Main | Bernie Fuchs, RIP »

September 22, 2009

Regional Clothing

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Last week I was kickin' around places such as Cody and Jackson Hole in Wyoming, strolling the streets and checking out the shops as entertainment.

No surprise, a lot of the male tourist-bait in clothing stores was comprised of cowboy gear.

Some of this was actually working stuff such as leather chaps and wide-brim hats of various gallonage. But a lot of it was dress-up cowboy clothing. Examples include tooled, pointed-toe cowboy boots, leather jackets with Buffalo Bill type fringes, fancy belts with big, flashy silver buckles, shirts with two fabric patterns separated by swoopy cutlines -- you probably get the picture.

As merchants know, tourists tend to have looser pockets than when at home; souvenir stuff becomes strangely appealing. Aside from a few baseball caps, I dodged the apparel bullet.

One reason I dodged was that cowboy togs are rarely seen in the Puget Sound area -- county fairs and country-western bars and shows excepted. And I prefer to blend in rather that show off in public. That absence of cowboy clothing suggests that a lot of other people around here either feel the same way or else look down on that kind of apparel.

Regional variation in clothing is dictated to some degree by climate, of course. Here in the Seattle area, waterproofing is an important consideration. Places with severe winters require clothing that conserves body heat. And so forth.

Nevertheless, during the summer months there is no weather-related reason why cowboy clothing couldn't be worn around here. Aloha shirts are seen. (Believe it or not, the Tommy Bahama company is based in Seattle.) So is safari gear. But hardly any western stuff.

Conformity? Prejudice? What do you think?

And are there any clothing peculiarities (positive or negative) where you live?



posted by Donald at September 22, 2009


Outdoor Performance Clothes

Posted by: secret asian man on September 22, 2009 6:29 PM

Cowboys and cowboy motifs are popular here in the South. Big cowboy clothing outlets abound and there are plenty of rodeos and fairs that offer the participants a chance to show off their ensembles. Some of these are pretty darned elaborate, too. They don't call the music scene in Nashville "country and western" for nothing. In fact, you might even suggest a not-so-subtle fusion of the cultures. I've grown up with this and it seems like part of the landscape now. Many farmers I have known sported dress outfits in the western style, particularly if they raised cattle. Southern and Western cultures are pretty much joined at the hip.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on September 22, 2009 8:31 PM

I'm in cowboy country, Livingston, Montana, so I wear a gray fedora. In the summer, a Panama. I've repeatedly had women come gushing about my hats. I also have a good Brooks Brothers trench coat. I am probably the only person in Montana who wears these. If I were thirty years younger and single, I'd sure have my pick.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on September 22, 2009 9:55 PM

Plenty of cowboy gear worn where I live (just north of Sacramento, California). It's certainly a lifestyle thing, just like any conspicuous clothing style.

Posted by: JV on September 22, 2009 11:52 PM

I wear full suits, brogues and fedoras in Hawaii. I sort of stand out.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on September 23, 2009 1:51 AM

Sort of on-topic: I'm an American living in Bratislava, Slovakia, and I sometimes see 50-something-year-old entrepreneurs in cowboy hats, black jeans, and half boots (rarely full blown cowboy boots), with the occasional trench coat thrown in. I have mixed feelings about this. If that's how they want to dress, that's their business. But I think most of those who dress like this can't really pull it off, and just end up looking silly instead. Their bodies might fit the clothes, but their minds do not. But who knows? Maybe they pull tons of tail dressed that way.

Also sort of related and sort of on-topic: There’s nothing more downright hilarious than seeing a skinny, white Slovak boy dressed like a black gang banger from Chicago’s South Side: sagging pants with the crotch to the knees, gold chains, long football jersey and hooded sweatshirt, Nike cap perched jauntily askew on his head, and doing the pimp walk. I’m sure PA would laugh – then go up to the punk and punch his lights out.

Posted by: Laikastes on September 23, 2009 3:47 AM

Yes you would, Richard! I got my now ex a beautiful charcoal gray fedora for one of our first Christmases. It looked fabulous on him, but alas, he never wore it. So sad...Here in Wisconsin, Green Bay Packer wear is so ubiquitous that I've seen whole playgrounds full of kids at recess with only a handful of non-Packer coats. Grownups don't dress much different. If not Packer stuff, the look is more lumberjack than cowboy around here.

Posted by: Bradamante on September 23, 2009 6:38 AM

I'm in the heart of cowboy or Western clothing land, New Mexico. I suspect people here wear it because it is a lot easier to engage in ranch work when one is wearing ranch clothing ; ) Seriously, when you go out and about you see generally 3 types of people: the transplanted townies in their diverse or eclectic styles of clothing, the town and rural locals wearing clothing that is unremarkable other than it appears too lightweight for the actual temperature, and the ranchers who are extremely tall and thin people who dress in the classic Western attire no matter where they are. I never thought I'd indulge in any Western wear until we moved here. My husband got a classic cowboy hat, and I was given a fabulous Spanish style riding hat. Now we have to find a horse. Western wear just looks really *good* in the Southwest.

Posted by: KR on September 24, 2009 6:04 PM

I used to live in Texas and still wear a lot of redneck stuff now that I'm back home in Eastern Europe - boots from exotic skins, ranger belts, loudly patterned shirts etc. Brimmed hats are very practical for riding a bike in rain or snow, but I rarely wear them in good weather.

We have our own regional peculiarities, too. For example canvas work vests with tons of pockets seem quite popular with older guys who obviously aren't currently doing any job that might require them. Orphaned suit jackets are a lot more acceptable than in Western countries. Whenever I see anyone in a navy blazer, khaki trousers and shirt with buttondown collar, on the other hand, it's always an American. Hell, I don't think I've ever even seen a blazer with brass buttons on a native.

Posted by: Martin Regnen on September 25, 2009 3:35 AM

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