Abundant and sturdy, leather has long been associated with the style vocabulary of cattle country: think of all those hand-tooled saddles, chaps, and gun holsters used by cowboys past. Now a new generation of Texas designers is taking the material off the range and giving it a modern spin, applying a low-tech, hands-on approach to produce sophisticated accessories that still bear a hint of rusticity. Of course, one thing will always remain the same: the more worn-in the leather gets, the better it looks.


There’s no article of clothing more American than blue jeans. Initially an inexpensive garment created for factory workers (and soon embraced by cowboys), the “waist overall” is now a universal wardrobe staple that can easily cost two or three hundred bucks.

Here Is A Whole Bunch Of Unsanctioned “Don’t Mess With Texas” Merchandise

At the top of the list of things they’re not supposed to mess with when people are cautioned with the words “Don’t Mess With Texas” is the slogan itself. As Manny Fernandez reports in the New York Times TXDOT, which holds the trademark on the phrase, has filed over 100 cease-and-desist letters since 2000 to companies making unauthorized use of “Don’t Mess With Texas.” 

The history of the phrase—which was coined in 1985 as part of an antilittering campaign—has been well-documented, but TXDOT’s determination to protect it (“to prevent ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ from losing its original antilittering message,” according to state officials cited in Fernandez’s story) is a bit surprising. The phrase has been widely used in other contexts by people from George W. Bush (who included it in his speech accepting to the Republican Presidential nomination in 2000) to Greg Abbott (who dropped it on Twitter earlier this month to congratulate two Dallas-area teenagers on helping stop a kidnapping), which presumably makes the stated goal of retaining the antilittering message a difficult task. Over at UrbanDictionary.com, a skirmish appears to have been waged surrounding that confusing context. 

Of course, “Don’t Mess With Texas” isn’t the only unofficial state slogan to receive official protection: “Remember The Alamo” has been at the heart of similar legal battles in Texas, and a New York coffee shop ran afoul of “I ♥ NY” earlier this year. Still, just because TXDOT has its finger on the “cease-and-desist” button doesn’t mean there isn’t a plethora of unsanctioned “Don’t Mess With Texas” merchandise running around out there. 

The romance novel cited in Fernandez’s report may have been required to change its name, but on Amazon, they’re still selling it as Don’t Mess With Texas

In addition to George W. Bush and Greg Abbott, no less a Texas icon than Nolan Ryan has claimed the phrase, signing memorabilia with the words “Don’t Mess With Texas” proudly beneath his signature.

On Sartorial Matters

Q: I was born and raised in Texas and have resided in New York City for the past couple of years. On a recent trip back home, I visited a friend on his ranch in West Texas and was mocked unmercifully for wearing skinny jeans. I will admit that the jeans were pretty skinny. But from the reaction  I got, you would have thought I was wearing a tutu and a pair of elf boots.

Cowboy Boots

The cowboy boot is perhaps the purest, most basic element of Texas style. Hailing from the Spanish vaquero culture of eighteenth-century Mexico, our national shoe features a tall, loose shaft that protects legs from rough terrain and a Cuban heel that provides a sturdy, no-slip grip in stirrups. Though the boots still serve a utilitarian purpose, they’ve also become an emblem of our hardscrabble heritage, and today Texans proudly sport them in just about any situation.


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