Hillbilly Jim is probably the first person who jumps to mind when you think of a wrestling hillbilly. He continues the overalls trend, but rarely paired them with a shirt, opting for an occasional denim jacket instead. Spoiler alert: that dude is jacked. The real calling card that sets him apart from any other shmoe in overalls is his headsuit. The wild bushy mane shoved under a leather bucket hat is hard to imitate, but totally iconic.
An injury to Hillbilly Jim led WWF to bring in a supporting cast led by Uncle Elmer. Elmer was already an established hillbilly gimmick, previously being known as Pascagoula Plowboy, Plowboy Frazier, Farmboy Frazier, and Giant Hillbilly to name a few. While he remained in the overalls-flannel aesthetic, he also donned an Appalachian-style felt slouch, or “that thing the Scarecrow wore in the Wizard of Oz.” The hats are created by wetting a circular piece of felt and stretching it over a a large rock or broom handle or even your fist. Similarly, you could take an existing felt hat (like a men’s fedora), wet it down, and distort its shape in the same way. Red Skelton used this method in the sixties to for various tramp and redneck-type characters.
Haystacks Calhoun is from Texas, The Wyatts are swampy Bayou boys, and Jim, Elmer and their cousins in the Hillbillies stable itself adopt the affectations of the Appalachian Mountain range. Manager Uncle Cletus wore a Confederate gray kepi, speaking volumes about the kind of character he was without speaking a word.Differentiation is important to not only shaping the character, but how we react to it as well. We’re not going to look at Jay Briscoe and think oh yeah, that jerkoff grew up on Walton’s Mountain. It seems like such a simple thing, but the fashion origins and methods are important in establishing the kind of socio-economic and geographical background these wrestlers are supposed to be portraying.
The Godwinns were hog farmers, initially managed by Hillbilly Jim, then later by Uncle Cletus. They borrowed heavily from hillbilly wrestlers before them, but also became a hybrid of what we know to be both hillbilly and redneck style. The cutoff flannel and trucker hats feature heavily on guys like Scott Dawson, or the Killbillies (who we’ll see later in the article). It further brings the hillbilly look into the modern era. Of course, I’m one of those people who still thinks you mean the nineties when you say “the previous decade,” but still. Notice the Haystacks Calhoun horseshoe on a chain in the video below. It’s a clear evolution from what was to what is, but with more slop buckets than you usually see in fashion.
Also important in that video: BABY TAJIRI.
The Scufflin’ Hillbillies
Of course, none of this precedent could have been set without the 1960’s tag team, The Scufflin’ Hillbillies. The original gun-toting, moonshine jug-swilling Hillbillies contributed heavily to the look we most associate with the hillbillies of the WWF/E. These hillbillies were also popular enough that they created a secondary tag team under the same name, switching out Freebird Rules-style.