Styles and Styles of Texas

From Davy Crockett to Sasha Fierce, thirty people who changed the look of our state—and the world.
Styles and Styles of Texas

1) Davy Crockett

(August 17, 1786—March 6, 1836)

He preferred to go by David, but he also understood the significance of image. After losing a bid for a third congressional term, in 1831, he took note of a popular play based loosely on his life and of its protagonist, Colonel Nimrod Wildfire, who wore an animal-pelt hat with a long tail. The real backwoodsman decided to make a public display of the look and rode his budding myth back to Congress in 1833. After another defeat, two years later, he migrated in character to Texas to found a new republic; instead he died a true hero. While the fifties coonskin-cap craze grew from a Fess Parker portrayal that was more Nimrod than history, Walt Disney had found the right symbol. As Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson told a writer, “I recognized Colonel Crockett lying dead and mutilated between the church and two-story barrack building, and even remember seeing his peculiar cap lying by his side.” JOHN SPONG

2) Jack Johnson

(March 31, 1878—June 10, 1946)

Born in Galveston only one generation removed from slavery, he became the first black heavyweight champion of the world on December 26, 1908, earning him the everlasting hatred of white America, which jeered his “unforgivable blackness.” But he endured the slander with a maddening calm. A notorious bon vivant, he attended operas, played the bass viol, and indulged in pricey call girls, fine wine, and games of chance. Always the fashion plate, he hired a maid to care for his wardrobe, which included 21 expensive suits. He favored high collars, suede gloves, diamond stickpins, patent leather boots with spats, and an ivory-handled cane—the outward representation of his fierce insistence on living as he wished. GARY CARTWRIGHT

3) Stanley Marcus

(April 20, 1905—January 22, 2002)

While most of the world was willing to dismiss the state’s entire population as rubes, he knew better. Assiduously dapper, Harvard-educated, and Jewish, he was an unlikely arbiter for Texas’s new oil rich, but that is what he became, turning the family store, Neiman Marcus, into a glamorous, global vehicle for his “quest for the best.” He was status conscious but never snobby; there was something for everyone at Neiman’s, he believed (if couture was out of your league, for instance, you could always buy a scarf). Yet he knew that understatement had its limits and that Texas excess should not be ignored: He created Neiman’s His and Her Gifts for the Christmas catalog (twin Beechcrafts, two-by-two pairs of animals for a Neiman’s-stocked Noah’s ark). Without him, Dallas would have been Kansas City. Or Cincinnati. MIMI SWARTZ

4) Glenn McCarthy

(December 25, 1907—December 26, 1988)

The archetypal Texas wildcatter made more, lost more, and spent more than almost anyone you could name, and he built Houston’s mammoth Shamrock Hotel, a monument to himself so flashy that it nearly gave Frank Lloyd Wright a stroke. Dark-eyed and smooth, he favored ascots and treated himself to airplanes and Hollywood starlets. A brawler, he naturally spent a lot of time in courtrooms, once in a silk bathrobe and silk scarf while recovering from surgery. True to form, he never missed a chance to leverage everything he had, so he wound up broke and pretty near forgotten. Still, his indomitable flamboyance earned him the cover of Time, in 1950, and he was the role model for the likes of Michael Halbouty, Oscar Wyatt, and—who else?—Jett Rink. MS

5) Lyndon B. Johnson

(August 27, 1908—January 22, 1973)

One can’t help but think of his audiotaped request that Joe Haggar leave more room in the crotch of the “first slacks”—or as he put it, “down where your nuts hang.” The fact is, he dressed carefully his entire life, in part to dispel the notion that a country boy was necessarily a hick. His philosophy—“Sell for what you’re worth”—ensured that should opportunity ever knock, he would not miss out because of a poor impression. His inelegant instructions begat exquisitely tailored suits, as evidenced by photos showing him giving the Johnson treatment; when he leaned over his victim, arms folded across his chest, his coat sleeves stayed in perfect coordination with his shirt cuffs. That sense showed too in his choice of Stetson’s Open Road model, now known universally as an “LBJ hat.” He didn’t need a wide brim to imply status. In effect he was all cattle, no hat—the embodiment of buttoned-up Texas power. JS

6) Claudia Heard de Osborne

(June 1910—March 18, 1988)

For the Corpus Christi oil heiress, buying couture was more than a hobby—it was a religion. From the forties until 1968, when her close friend Cristobal Balenciaga closed his atelier, she amassed a collection of more than five hundred of his creations, at $3,000 to $8,000 a pop. She shared an apartment and villa in Madrid with her husband, Spanish sherry heir Rafael de Osborne, but during fashion’s high seasons, their apartment at the Ritz in Paris—where she had several rooms just to store her clothing—became her preferred residence. To ensure that she fit into her made-to-measure dresses, she watched her weight obsessively, requesting that the Ritz make her green pea soup every day for lunch. When she became pregnant, she didn’t stray from her runway-perfect look: Balenciaga made her a couture maternity ensemble of black silk taffeta. KRISTIE RAMIREZ

7) Lightnin’ Hopkins

(March 15, 1912—January 30, 1982)

The image was of a subtle, weary sophistication. He played a primitive, albeit electrified, blues and was ever aware of his rural East Texas roots, but he dressed to present his public with an urbane showman. By the time he’d achieved living-legend status, in the sixties, that audience would often show up on his porch, young white fans who’d driven from all over the country to slip him cash dollars in exchange for a song or two in the barbershops and bars near his home in Houston’s Third Ward. Writer Michael Point, his unofficial driver during those years, says he was ready for them: “He always

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