Gaucho Dress

The dress of gauchos reflected the influence of Spain while responding to environmental conditions found in South America. Nineteenth-century paintings show them wearing low-crowned hats, vests, and bolero jackets, all having Spanish influence. They also wore calzoncillos that bear a remarkable resemblance to petticoat breeches that were fashionable in sixteenth-century Europe. Chiripá that consisted of loose diaper-like pants were worn over the calzoncillos. The gauchos of Argentina and Chile added ponchos that originated among the native people of the region for protection from cold winds and rains generated by the Andes Mountains that rose above the pampas. During the colonial period, Argentinean gauchos wore bota de potro, boots made of the leg skins of colts. By the nineteenth century machine-made boots replaced the bota de potro since Argentineans enacted laws forbidding use of homemade boots to prevent the killing of colts. The most elaborate part of traditional gaucho's dress was a wide belt called a cinturon, trimmed with coins and fastened with a large plate buckle. By the mid-twentieth century, the calzoncillos and chiripá were replaced by wide-legged trousers called bombachas tucked into tall leather boots, but the cinturon remained a traditional part of gaucho dress. Gauchos in the twenty-first century still resemble their early-twentieth-century ancestors, since they are dressed in low-crowned, broad-brimmed hats, short jackets, bombachas tucked into tall boots, and, most important, cinturons decorated with coins and wide plate buckles. Some gauchos still use ponchos, both for decoration as well as for protection.

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