Monday, January 9, 2012

Ethnic Stereotypes of Clothes and Boots

I received an email recently where someone asked me some questions about wearing boots with certain clothing choices. In that message, he also said,
I have recently acquired yellow Tony Lama boots and a pair of orange Dan Post boots. I plan on wearing them with jeans over the boots, but do not know what type of shirt to wear and not look like a Mexican.
Really? Honestly, this caught me by surprise. Does a certain combination of jeans over colorful boots and a certain kind or color of shirt make one "look like a Mexican?"

Okay, I admit, I live in a multicultural area, the suburbs of the capital of the United States, where people from all over the world live and work. Not only in the Diplomatic corps, but also those who come from other countries who work in various companies and international organizations that work with our country.

Further, the county where I live has become much more ethnically diverse. The little neighborhood that I developed has brought me neighbors who come from 13 countries of the world. So yeah, I am very accustomed to "living diversity" (one way of saying it) ... or just recognizing that people are people from all over the place, and I enjoy being among it all.

When I look at someone, I never have given thought to the clothes (and boots) that they wear making them appear to be of a particular ethnic origin. I was stunned to think that wearing a certain color shirt with blue denim jeans and orange cowboy boots is considered by some people to be a "Mexican uniform." Yowza! Never in a million years would I have thought that.

However, in doing more searching on the topic, I found a post in response to why younger people of today laugh at guys who wear cowboy boots and hats. The post said:
It depends on the culture. Cowboy hats and boots aren't really "in style" for this generation of youth. However, in Mexican culture the men wear cowboy hats and boots all the time and even young Mexican kids do too. It's just when they reach the teenage years, peer pressure tends to make them stray from that style.
Perhaps this is where the link to wearing cowboy boots being a "Mexican uniform" came from in the original writer's inquiry.

To confirm my own thoughts that there is no such "uniform of ethnicity" (particularly of Hispanic origin) in the part of the U.S. where I live, I dropped by my local big box building supplies retailer (whose name will not be mentioned on this blog) and had a chat with a dozen day laborers. It is well known that day laborers gather at [building supplies retailer], hoping that someone will hire them to do labor. I have done that on occasion when I have needed help from very hard-working men.

During my conversation, I looked at what these guys were wearing. The UoD for Hispanic day laborers is jeans, work boots or sneakers, and various shirts. Flannel, denim, etc. Because it was chilly, the men were wearing cloth or denim jackets -- what any worker would wear. I didn't notice any particular color or style of clothing that might make someone think that if I wore it, I was Hispanic.

I dunno, perhaps it's different where the writer of that email is from. Not where I live. And I am thankful for that.

Life is short: avoid furthering stereotypes that promote ongoing xenophobia and arrogance.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Although I don't live in the southwest, when I have traveled there I have had the chance to observe men from Mexico. The men I've seen wear their boots with a confidence that I'd be honored to be associated with. There is nothing more flattering than that.


greg said...

It's sad that this sentiment still exists. Nothing could be more all-American than cowboy boots! I proudly wear my custom cowboy boots all over Manhattan and I find that people like them, compliment me on them, and even notice when I'm NOT wearing them!

Dominic M. said...

Cowboy garb came from Mexico I believe. Texas was once apart of mexico and thus spread from there. With the civil war, many moved north with their cattle to get away and through diffusion, the look became more and more american.

The Cowboy hat is american creation by the Stetson company. Before the hat, many wore things from sailor caps to bowler derbies.

Over time, We have molded the cowboy look into out own, like Japanese creation of Kana.