Ask A Texan: What’s With The Get-Up?

Dear Ask A Texan,

I am constantly perplexed by the Texas Trifecta: cowboy hat, big belt buckle, cowboy boots. I mean, on one hand I get it. Big belt buckles are shiny, almost hypnotically so. Cowboy hats can apparently hold 10 gallons of water. And, boots? Well, let’s just say “tennis-shoe scootin’ boogie” wouldn’t sound the same. Moreover, I understand that it’s fun to play dress-up, and also that if you are a farmer/rancher, this is the uniform. What I don’t get is why I see dudes (it’s almost always dudes) in compact cars wearing cowboy hats. I’m pretty sure most are either on their way to school or a white-collar office job. I also see people dressed like this at the grocery store, for no apparent reason. So, what’s up with the get-up?

– Texas Forever?

Dear Texas Forever?,

You know how when you’re at the store, and you see a guy wearing a certain kind of athletic shoes and track pants or whatever, and you know that dude probably runs marathons or at least wants people to think he does? That is what Texan men are doing when they wear the get-up to H-E-B. It’s like a mating signal that’s not just a mating signal, because it’s also for dudes, and everybody knows there are no gays in Texas, most of all Texans, who now inexplicably support gay marriage even though we’re mostly backwoods country hicks with 6th grade educations. (YSWIDT?)

The get-up says: I am a Texan, and I dare you to argue the point with this big-assed hat while you pass me going 55 mph in the right lane. It works well for picking up ladies at the honky-tonk, as you so rightly observed, but it also works for helping you maintain your connection to your Texas heritage while you are driving what you believe is your emasculating import scooter-car or participating in horribly shameful activities like buying food, really anything that isn’t roping cattle out on the range or wherever it is cattle get roped. Of course, driving a sensible sedan or buying tomatoes isn’t actually going to make your balls fall off, but here in Texas, we care less about facts and more about things that are not facts.

Fundamentally, it’s about the performance of a particular kind of Texanity, like most fashion choices associated with particular groups or cliques. But it’s also important to remember, and I think you do, that most of these kinds of fashion performances are rooted in practicality — those little cotton athletic shorts that popular teenaged girls have in fifty colors got started because they’re easy to wear when you’re cheer-leading and to mix-and-match with team colors. Another example: gobs of black eyeliner make Goth kids look like assholes, but it also serves to block out the sound of people telling you to quit bitching about shit all the time, which is why they started wearing it in the first place. Fact. And you know how us Texans like facts.

Interestingly, however, the Texas get-up is one of the few fashion endeavors learned in childhood and adolescence that Texans continue to wear throughout their lives. Eventually, most people grow, literally or figuratively, out of their wide-legged Jnco’s or neon leg-warmers. Again, this is because there’s an actual reason cowboys wear cowboy gear. (Notably different from Cowboy gear, which you wear if you want to get your ass kicked because Jesus God, Cowboys, when are you going to get it together?). In Texas–scratch that, in America, and I think France also because those people are a little weird about things–the romanticization of the cowboy begins practically at birth, and Texas is one of the few places left on earth where you might actually grow up to be a cowboy or meet one regularly. Therefore, it’s acceptable to dress like a 6-year-old in Halloween garb even if you are 60 and gunning your Geo Storm down I-35 to pick up milk. Maybe, just maybe, someone will think you’re a real cowboy and reward you with sex or beer.

(Also: good on you for correctly and enthusiastically using the phrase “get-up”! Welcome to Texas! Next, try integrating into your vocabulary another sartorial descriptor, “drawrrn,” which is what Texans wear for underpants.)

Do you have a question for a Texan? E-mail us.

About andrea grimes

Andrea is a journalist living in Austin, TX. She has a master's degree in anthropology and did her thesis work on gender and stand-up comedy. Seriously. Also, she has a bunch of cats. Three of them. Is three a bunch? Discuss.
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3 Responses to Ask A Texan: What’s With The Get-Up?

  1. Allison says:

    Even for those of us who are not actual cowboys, there is some practicality to the get-up. If you look awful in baseball hats (or hate them as a matter of principle), but you still want something to shade your head, you can wear a cowboy hat. My father is rarely seen without his cowboy hat (hats, plural, God knows how many he owns), and he’s almost never on his way to ride a tractor or rope some steer.

    You don’t need that many pairs of close-toed shoes in many parts of this state either, and cowboy boots are appropriate for both casual and more formal function, and can keep your feet warmer than tennis shoes. (One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen was the sheer number of cowboy boot prints in the snow at my old apartment last Christmas, post-unexpected snowstorm.) Also, I have been very surprised at how comfortable mine are for even long-term wear.

    I mean, it’s mostly about performance, absolutely. But there’s like 2% usefulness to it too.

  2. Luna Libre says:

    My father worked a desk job his whole life, but – having grown up on a ranch – he wore his boots and his hat every weekend. He grew up riding horses and working cattle, and those clothes were what he still felt comfortable wearing. In fact, he even had “dress boots” and wore those to work with his suits occasionally.

    I still have family members who run ranches and raise cattle and horses, so it seems perfectly normal to me to see folks wearing the hats and the boots and yes, the requisite belt buckle. The boots and the hats really are quite practical if you’re riding horses.

  3. Richard Chang says:

    My buddy wears his pajamas and cowboy boots to Vickery Park. It never did us any good.

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