Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg

Email:
ruel@
ForensicFashion.com

>Costume Studies
>>1880 Argentine gaucho
Subject:gauchocowboy
Culture: Argentine
Setting: South American pampas 19thc
 
 
 
 
 
Context
 
* 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 tocimarrones(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.'"
 
 
Costume
 
* 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 'scarletponchos, 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.'"
 
* 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 orbombachaswere tucked into the boots or buttoned at the ankles.  Around the waist was a belt called arastramade 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 achiripá; 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, calledushutas, made of rawhide or woven grass and not unlike a Spanishalpagartaor the Italianciocie."
 
* 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 road belt (tirador) and riding gear were made of leather, aong 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 fring of his white trousers conspicuous, over the feet, which frequently are uncovered.'"
 
* Slatta 1992 p73
"Early on, the gaucho had adopted the Indianchiripa(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, whenbombachas, introoduced by immigrants, invanded 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."
 
 
Crop
 
* Slatta 1992 p75
"In addition to spurs, arebenque(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."
 
 
Knife
 
* Domenech 2010 p112-113
"El facón es, en realidad, una especie de daga, aunquede 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 perosiempreexistente, 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 comoarma 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, orfacon, 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."
 
* 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'[.]"
 
 
Belt
 
* Slatta 1992 p74
"About his waist the gaucho wore atirador, 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."
 
 
Spurs
 
* 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."