Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1880 Argentine gaucho
Subjectgaucho cowboy
Culture: Argentine mestizo
Setting: South American pampas 19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Lynch 2001 p42-43
"For the gaucho the years after 1810 were, if anything, harsher than those before.  During the colonial regime the free and nomadic gaucho traditionally had access to cimarrones (wild cattle) on the open range.  But this tradition came to an end as the estancias were implanted and endowed and began to extend private property in the pampas and appropriate all cattle to themselves.  Now the landowners, with the support of republican governments, began to prevent illicit hunting, slaughter, and trade in hides and to defend their land and cattle.  There was a prolonged struggle between the hacendado and the gaucho.  In times of turbulence and civil war the marginal people of the countryside revived the communal practices of the past and once more took cattle, but when order returned, the hacendados reaffirmed the rights of property.  This did not mean that cimarrones no longer roamed the range.  Now the peons of the enstancia, not free gauchos, caught the wild cattle and took them to their masters; otherwise such appropriation was rustling."

* Slatta 1992 p126
"Argentina suffered perpetual warfare from its struggle for independence through the federalization of Buenos Aires in 1880.  The Argentine past, noted the eminent historian Ricardo Levene, is 'one of continuous revolutions, of violent governmental crises, of the transformation of political parties with principles into personal parties.'  Civil wars, continual battles against fierce pampean Indian tribes, and conflicts with Spain, Brazil, Paraguay, France, England, and Jose Artigas in the Banda Oriental, took an immense human and economic toll.  In addition to the many battlefield deaths, the ceaseless strife left the frontier vulnerable to Indian attack, intermittently depopulated the countryside, disrupted the rural economy and work habits, precluded stable rural family life for the masses, and impeded the formulation of coherent national policies. ...
​    "[...]  The assassination of [provincial governor Manuel] Dorrego in late 1828 left a power vacuum quickly filled by [Juan Manuel de] Rosas, who assumed leadership with the support of the rancher elite and the force of his gaucho militia, the Red Rangers.  To maintain his large military force, estimated variously at 10,000 to 36,000 strong, he issued decrees in 1830, 1837, and 1842 condemning vagrants and other criminals and other unfortunates to armed service.  As an Irish visitor noted in 1838, because of the incessant interprovincial and Indian wars, the gaucho was 'always a soldier.'"

* Lynch 2001 p48-49
"The gaucho militias ... were popular forces only in the sense that they were composed of the peons of the countryside.  They were not always volunteers for a cause; nor were they politicized.  Methods of military recruitment in general were crude and often violent. ... [T]he militias ... were officered and led by the justices of the peace, by regular army commanders, and by estancieros.  The fact of belonging to a military organization did not give the peons political power or representation, for the rigid structure of the estancia was also built into the militia, where the estancieros were the commanders, their overseers the officers, and their peons the troops.  ...
​    "Even the use of the word 'gaucho' was ambiguous in rosista terminology.  It had two meanings, according to the situation. In public, it was used as a term of esteem and perpetuated the idea that the gaucho, like the estanciero, was a model of native virtues and that the interests of both were identical.  Rosas, too, helped to propagate the myth that the estanciero understood the gaucho and was concerned only with his welfare; this was one of the themes of the dictator's propaganda and was incorporated into popular songs of the times. In private, however, especially in police usage, 'gaucho' meant 'vago, mal entretenido, delinquent.'  The first usage represented political propaganda.  The pejorative meaning expressed class distinction, social prejudices, and economic attitudes; it was used by the landowner, short of labor, confronting the countryman who wished to remain free. According to William MacCann, 'The term Gaucho is one offensive to the mass of the people, being understood to mean a person who has no local habitation, but lives a nomadic life; therefore in speaking of the poorer classes I avoid that term.'"


* Slatta 1992 p74
"The dashing horseman of the pampa captured the fancy of most foreigners, many of whom left detailed descriptions of his arresting dress.  At mid-century, Xavier Marmier found 'the true soldier of South America, the son of the pampa,' to be a stirring figure, with his 'virile face, bronzed by the sun and framed by a mass of black hair,' wearing a short-brimmed straw hat, brightly colored shirt, hand-woven poncho, and red Rosista chiripa.  The predominance of red Federalist clothing in 1852, even after Rosas' fall, was recalled by C.B. Mansfield: in the port city, gauchos wore 'scarlet ponchos, scarlet jackets, scarlet leg-coverings, of the most puzzling description ... and underneath these, white trousers of immense capacity ending in a fringe, with bare feet.'"

* Nichols 1942 p13
"Gaucho clothes were ... unprepossessing.  Gauchos usually had neither shirts nor trousers, although they never lacked a poncho and the chiripá, which was a piece of coarse cloth coming down to their knees and tied at their waists by a broad sash, or tirador, adorned with its silver coins if our gaucho were wealthy.  They also wore boots, botas de potro, coming halfway up their legs, and made of the skin stripped form the legs of horses or cows.  Around their heads was a vincha, or headband, and on top of this, but pushed back, was a narrow-brimmed little hat, held in place by the barbijo, or strap, which went under the chin.  Around their necks fluttered a handkerchief, preferably of silk, for the utilitarian purpose of serving as dust screen or as water filter.  Clothing often seems to have been made of hide, possibly because, as Alvear once noted, the mosquitoes ate through everything else."

* Harrold/Legg 1978 p217-218
"The gauchos wear clothes that have evolved for horse-riding and show the ethnic love of silver and colour for decoration.  Baggy cotton trousers or bombachas were tucked into the boots or buttoned at the ankles.  Around the waist was a belt called a rastra made of silver coins.
​    "The jacket fastens with silver buttons and a shirt is also worn.  An indispensable part of the costume is the poncho, an all-purpose garment styled like a cape or cloak.  Made of sheep wool, it is dyed in various colours and used as a blanket or for protection against the weather.  On special occasions an apron is worn, called a chiripá; this can be plain or striped and consists of a wide length of coarse woollen cloth or flannel, which is draped around the body and tucked into a belt or sash.  White linen or cotton loose trousers with decorated lace hems are also worn.  A black or white wide-brimmed felt hat is worn and tight-fitting riding boots, sometimes with silver spurs.
​    "For working on the land, baggy trousers are worn with either a short boot or a type of sandal, called ushutas, made of rawhide or woven grass and not unlike a Spanish alpagarta or the Italian ciocie."

* Slatta 1990 p34
"A horse, a knife, beef, mate, and tobacco accounted for most of the gaucho's worldly needs.  The pampa provided for his simple needs.  From the legskins of a colt, he fashioned his supple boots (botas de potro).  His broad belt (tirador) and riding gear were made of leather, among the most abundant resources of the plains.
​    "William Henry Webster, a British naval surgeon, described the traditional dress and demeanor of an Uruguayan gaucho of the late 1820s: 'His complexion is a swarthy brown, his hair is generally black and long, sometimes platted and surmounted by a small-brimmed neat-looking hat.  His shoulders and body are concealed by his poncho, and by the variety and mixture of its colours, in which bright scarlet and yellow are sometimes particularly conspicuous adds much to the general effect.  It descents only low enough to leave the fringe of his white trousers conspicuous, over the feet, which frequently are uncovered.'"

* Kovboji 1995 p48 caption
"V URUGUAJSKOM STÝLE  Oblečenie gaučov sa po polovici 19. storočia výrazne zmenilo.  Vrecovitú chiripà (podobnú plienke), ktorú nosili cez priliehavé nohavice, vymelini za širloké noavice -- bombachas.  Vysoký klobúk so strieškou nahradili plochým so širokou strechou, príležitostne baretkoul  Naďalej si ponechali tradič bavlnené alebo vlnené pončo a opasok zdobený mincami."

* Slatta 1992 p73
"Early on, the gaucho had adopted the Indian chiripa (a loose, diaper-like cloth tucked between the legs) as a practical, comfortable riding garment.  Lacy leggings, calzoncillos blancos, were worn underneath.  This combination lost popularity later in the century, when bombachas, introduced by immigrants, invaded the pampa.  The baggy trousers, closed at the ankle to fit inside the boot, had replaced the traditional garments nearly completely by the 1880s.  The versatile poncho, dating from colonial times, remained popular everywhere in the country.  It served as a raincoat during howling pamperos, as a blanket during cold nights on the pampa, and as a shield in knife fights -- each combatant wrapped his poncho around one arm to fend off the opponent's blows."


* Slatta 1992 p75
"In addition to spurs, a rebenque (heavy, plaited riding whip) helped the gaucho control his horse.  The whip too became more elaborately and richly decorated as social status increased.  Armaignac noted in 1869 that by examining the 'rural uniform' -- whip, spurs, boots, knife, belt, poncho, and riding tack -- one could determine the relative wealth and prestige of the owner."

* Gobello 2003 p110
"Rebenque. Fusta (Uno busca un pellón blando, éste un lazo, otro un rebenque ...).  En DA: 'REBENQUE. s. m. Un género de látigo, hecho de quero o de cáñamo, de dos varas de largo, poco más o menos, y embreado, al cual se le pone su mango, y sirve para el castigo de los galeotes cuando están en la faena." [references omitted]


* Domenech 2010 p112-113
"El facón es, en realidad, una especie de daga, aunque de un solo filo, y en algunos casos presenta un contrafilo de escasa longitud en el primer tercio de su hoja.  La procedencia de las hojas de facón era de lo más variada, y sus constructores demonstraron una total imaginación e ingenio en la adopción de cuanto material tuviesen más a mano para fabricarlas.  Así, pues, echaron mano a hojas rotas o gastadas de bayonetas, sables e, incluso, machetes, así como a cualquier otro elemento que pudiese 'donar' su acero, como por ejemplo las limas de ese material.  [...] 
​    "La característica definitoria del facón, para clasificarlo como tal, es la existencia de guardamanos o gavilán, más o menos pequeño pero siempre existente, que podía tener la forma de un simple travesaño ('cruz') o de 'ese', o de 'U', cuyo uso en la pelea o 'esgrima criolla' ....
"La existencia de este 'gavilán' denota, desde ya, la característica definitora y básica del facón como arma de defensa o combate, aunque el gaucho también la haya utilizado eventualmente para otros menesteres ...." [...]
​    "En resumen, el facón era, antes que nada, una formidable arma de combate, que nuestros gauchos esgrimieron con habilidad para defenderse hasta de las lanza indias o de los sables militares."

* Slatta 1992 p74
"All gauchos carried a sheathed knife, or facon, ranging up to seventy centimeters (twenty-seven inches) in length, thrust through the back of the tirador.  The facon was vital for work (killing, skinning, and castrating animals and repairing equipment), eating, and defense.  The sword-like knife, repeatedly outlawed because of the many murders committed by facon-wielding gauchos, shrank to a more modest length by the end of the century.  Although firearms became common during the last quarter of the century, the facon remained the favored instrument because of its versatility."

* Gobello 2003 p65
"Facón.  Cuchillo de pelea grande y recto, con gavilán (Y entonces quiso el facón pelar de entre las caronas. ...).  Portuguéfacão."

* Nichols 1942 p13
"One of the most essential parts of gaucho dress was the 14-inch knife, or facón, worn behind, stuck in a leather sheath.
    "....  Of his three weapons, lance and bolas were used by Indians; the facón was Spanish.  The facón was the most useful of all, for with it the gaucho protected himself, he killed and ate his meant supply, he made other tools by using it in the handling of hides, and he even shaved with it.  Possibly this explains why our gaucho so seldom shaved."

* Domenech 2010 p149
"Al cuchillo, nuestro gaucho, lo empuñaba en la mano derecha, mientras que la izquierda se protegía enrollando su poncho, a guisa de escudo (artimaña heredada del español) aunque algunas veces supo utilizar su talero o rebenque con la zurda, para ayudar al facón (... el zurdo invertía el manejo, para sorpresa y mayor dificultad de su contrincante).  Ambos adversarios se enfrentaban, entonces, en posición de guardia, ofreciendo ligeramente su flanco derecho, con el pie de ese lado algo adelantado y el izquierdo más atrás, asegurando el equilibrio final."

* Ball 2004 p77-78 (quoting gaucho Armando Deferrari)
"'Typically, gauchos carried three knives, of varying length.  One is held in the back, a smaller one is kept in the groin area, and one is stored under a blanket on the horse.  When we go to the country without a knife, we feel like we are naked'[.]"

* Kovboji 1995 p49 caption
"PRÍBOR AJ ZBRAŇ  Nôž gauča zvaný facón sa použival na zabijanie zvierat, sfahovanie koži a pri príprave jedál.  Nosil sa šikmo azsunutý vzadu za opaskom.  Facóny mali často strieborné rukoväte a zdobené pošvy.  Pri riešení sporov gaučovia pohŕdali strelnými zbraňami (považovali ich za nemužne), zato súboje na nože boli bež do konca 19. storočia."


* Gobello 2003 p121
"Tirador.  Cinta de cuero, generalmente con bolsillos, usada para adjustar el chiripá ...."

* Kovboji 1995 p49 caption
"STRIEBORNÁ SPONA  O tom, že gaučovia obľubovali strieborné oxdoby, svedči aj cinturon -- Siroký kožený opasok zdobený masívnou striebornou sponou, a často aj mincami.  Niektorí gaučovia namiesto neho nosili dlhú vlnenú šerpu, zvanú faja." 

* Slatta 1992 p74
"About his waist the gaucho wore a tirador, or broad leather belt, adorned with coins and silver ornaments according to the bearer's wealth.  George Peabody, a Massachusetts gentleman on a hunting expedition, met an inkeeper in 1859 who 'had as many as 20 or 30 silver dollars attached to his belt, & an enormous knife with a highly wrought silver sheath and handle.'  The tirador served many functions, among them the provision of back and kidney support for the strenuous riding and working required of ranch laborers.  Money and vital documents, such as military enrollment certificates and passports, could be tucked safely within.  The tirador's size and style changed with the type of work performed, and shepherds, cattle herders, and foot peons all wore different varieties."


* Slatta 1992 p75
"Spurs of varying diameters, materials, and configurations dangled from the gaucho's boots or bare feet and aided him in guiding and controlling his often ill-broken mount. ... Frequently large enough to impede walking, the spurs nevertheless formed an essential part of the gaucho's riding equipment, though the sharp rowels sometimes did their work too well. ... Spurs also indicated affluence and status.  Ranch workers wore iron or steel spurs, and estancieros of means used finely tooled silver spurs."


​* Slatta 1992 p