I was planning a post about things that get on my nerves about football – including but not limited to booing other teams (which coincides with Mal’s memo) and your own team, the use of possessive pronouns in describing the football team, and (I’m, sure I’m in the vast minorty here) the moniker, Bama. Something that has come up time and time again and I feel the need to address it, once and for all.
It has become a much more popular thing that it should – I’m certain that a lot of it has to do with antagonizing Alabama fans – but I’m really tired of the insinuation that Paul Bryant did not wear houndstooth; that somewhere in the mid-eighties somebody thought he wore houndstooth hats and without really checking the facts a trend that borders on obsession began.
To begin with I believe that the pattern has been exploited a little too much in its use for Alabama themed merchandise. I poked fun of this for my piece on EDSBS earlier in the summer, but I also truly believe that while it has become associated with Alabama, it will never replace Crimson and it is truly unique to Alabama. This is in contrast to, I don’t know, let’s see, yeah the color orange. Because nobody is using that. Also, if I shared the most common mascot name in college football, even if my “battle cry” is something different, that I’m going to go and poke ant hills just to stir them up while I’m standing next to them. I’d stick to my recent streak and leave it at that. Then again, that’s just me, and I’m a gambler.
The general theory is that Bryant wore plaid hats and that they were not houndstooth and that we are all a bunch of rubes (or putzes, I believe) to follow like sheep and purchase or wear anything with the pattern on it. You really must not know anything about fashion, or clothing in general, whatsoever to put yourself out there and make that assumption. Or really be to lazy to check before you put something out there so emphatically that you’re willing to belittle others while actually shining the light back on yourself. Of course when your wardrobe consists of a slew of Tiger Rags tee-shirts and Wal-Mart camoflage and you beleive that last year’s clearance bin Tommy Hilfiger polos are the apex of men’s fashions then what do you expect (I’m just kidding guys, my vet’s scrubs look really nice whether he’s in his office or after hours).
My parents and several other successful business people that I have sought to emulate have always taught me that looking well and presenting yourself are important parts of succeeding. It is only natural that one would learn a little bit about fashion or more so what’s both appropriate and appealing to others. And while I can’t claim the expertise of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” I can safely offer a little lesson on houndstooth.
Houndstooth is a type of plaid. It is characterized by a checked pattern alternating between dark and light colors. Don’t believe me, then go here (note the Bryant reference as well). The size of the pattern is not important, thus there is a broad range in appearance.
This is houndstooth:
As is this:
The pattern is employed on anything and everything but typically the tighter the weave the more suited it is to more formal occasions. Suits, pants, shirts, and yes even fedoras have been constructed of it for a long time and are sold in places where no one has ever heard of Alabama. At a distance the smaller pattern can appear almost gray. The trend lately, especially in merchandising has been to accentuate the pattern and make it more recognizable.
So yes, the rabblerousers who so quickly accuse Alabama fans of living in the past or not letting the man die yet keep dredging up ways to talk about him are correct, to an extent. Most of the hats he wore were plaid. But they were also assuredly hounstooth. A few pictures to settle the debate:
Note the houndstooth coat or scarf under the lighter colored overcoat
The pattern is clearly visible in the photo above. Plaid? yes, but also houndstooth.
Above with former LSU coach Jerry Stovall who is wearing hounstooth slacks.
I think that should just about do it. Claiming that he didn’t wear houndstooth but plaid is the same as saying Alabama fans don’t wear crimson they wear red. They would both be incorrect statements.
Finally, the assumption that Paul Bryant didn’t wear houndstooth can be attributed to ignorance. I’m not using that word to insult anyone; you’re ignorant if you don’t know the facts. The good news is ignorance can be cured and in fact, just was. Unfortunately there is no known cure for stupid.
[Eds. Note: Will Heath brought a great comment and I wanted to include it in the post.
"the fact is Bryant didn’t start wearing the houndstooth until some time in the 1970s — and then, he wore it because it was a gift (either from his granddaughter or someone else’s, I don’t recall). Note that in all those photos of him wearing houndstooth, he’s quite old — for most of his career he wore a regular, non-houndstooth, men’s hat. It became his signature after he died because it was distinctive, but it wasn’t his modus operandi until very late in his career."
This is the great thing about the blog. Will added a great bit of knowledge that I did not know.
Also I'll give credit where it's due, Nixforsix at Drunken Tailgate, on of the conspirators, acknowledged his error. That is also commendable. I'll do the same. The last picture (the one with Stovall) is really the truest form of houndstooth and the closest one to what is being seen in today's merchandising. The others could be construed as just plain plaid. I might be completely wrong in my assumption that the tiny checks in the plaid are considered houndstooth. I'll have to check further into this. Thanks to Will and to Nix for Six (this is actually a pretty cool site I will be checking with more often).]