A charro or charra outfit or suit (traje de charro, in Spanish) is a style of dress originating in Mexico and based on the clothing of a type of horseman, the charro. The style of clothing is often associated with mariachi and ranchera music performers, Mexican history, and celebration in festivals. The charro outfit is one that is associated with Mexico around the world. It is seen as a national emblem and a way to express personal pride in Mexican heritage. Charro outfits can be worn by men or women and have various levels of formality from work-wear to very expensive formal attire. The outfits consist of tight, decorated pants or a long skirt, short jackets, silk ties and are often worn with a wide-brimmed sombrero and other accessories as appropriate.
A basic charro outfit worn by men consists of long, tight pants covered with decoration on the sides. The coat worn by both men and women is short and embroidered. These coats are also known as bolero jackets or chaquetillas. Embroidery often depicts plant life, Aztec motifs or other themes. Traditionally, the embroidery was made of metallic thread or of pitea fiber. Charro outfits also consist of a wide-brimmed hat (sombrero) and silk tie. The charra outfit for women is similar, with women wearing a long, embroidered skirt, reaching the ankles, instead of the pants. The skirt is typically full enough to allow the woman to ride sidesaddle. Other aspects of the outfit may include a dress shirt, chaps, serape and pitea belt. The outfits are often colorful. The footwear is either a high-heeled boot, or a leather shoe.
Different versions of the charro outfit are ranked based on a 1960 decision of the National Charro Federation. The least formal is known as the faena or work outfit. The next levels are media gala, gala, gran gala and etiqueta or formal. Mariachi performers wear a version of a charro outfit called the "gala version" and is most often black with silver, though modern mariachis wear more colorful outfits. The faena outfit is unadorned and typical of working charros.
An expensive charro outfit was reported in a 1942 edition of the Arizona Republic that was decorated in silver and "evaluated at 10,000 pesos."In 1985, Victor Almaraz of California made a charro outfit consisting mainly of around 2,500 interlocking aluminum can pull tabs.
The charro outfit is seen as a representative symbol of Mexican culture. The outfit and other charro imagery is often incorporated in tourist advertisements and has become one of the "most universally recognized emblem of Mexican identity around the world." The charro suit can be worn to express pride for Mexican heritage.
The origins of the charro outfit may be traced back to Salamanca of the 16th century. Spanish conquistadors brought this type of clothing with them to Mexico. When Spain colonized Mexico, the government initially made it illegal for indigenous Mexicans to ride horses without Spanish landowner permission. This was part of a system that created the casta or caste system in Mexico. When the Spanish allowed lower classes to ride, they were required to wear clothing that differentiated themselves from the Spanish, which led to a new fashion. The wide brim of the sombrero worn by charros protected them both from the sun and, due to the hard crown, from head injuries. The pants were worn tight to prevent snagging on brush, or chaparral and the coat worn short to provide better access to weaponry. Charros were considered part of the lower class in 17th century Mexico. The word charro was a derogatory term, originally meant to indicate their class status.
After the Mexican Revolution, the imagery of the charro became important to Mexican culture. Mexican president, Porfirio Díaz, influenced mariachi performers to adopt the charro costume in the early 1900s. Mariachi musicians would accompany ranchera singers starting in the 1930s and in the 1940s ranchera musicians adopted the charro suit.
Since 1934, September 14th is the national holiday known as the Día Nacional del Charro (National Day of the Charro) and is celebrated throughout Mexico to recognize the importance of horsemen and women to the culture of the country. Festivities include parades and shows of horsemanship, with riders in the iconic traditional costume. Spanish poet Manuel Benítez Carrasco, in describing the importance of the outfit stated, "Vestirse de charro es como vestirse de México" (Dressing as a charro is like dressing up as Mexico). The outfit was further popularized by actors who wore the charro suit in movies made during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.
In 2002, police officers in Mexico City began to wear charro outfits on patrol in the city's historic districts. The officers were meant to both "entertain and protect the tourists that flood the Central Alameda area."
In popular cultureEdit
Charro outfits were worn in the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema by actors such as Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Emilio Fernández, Pedro Armendáriz and Luis Aguilar. The character, Gordo, in the eponymous comic strip by Gustavo Arriola, was portrayed dressed in charro outfits. The children's story, La Fiesta y el Mariachi by Marta Arroyo, describes traditional Mexican clothing, including the charro outfit. An annual celebration known as Charro Days in Brownsville, Texas incorporates the charro outfit among many participants and attendees.
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- La sastrería más antigua de trajes de charro (2014 video in Spanish)