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The Thread Count: A Fashionable History of Wrestling Hillbillies

By 07.10.14


The Wyatt Family

Speaking of cults, bringing us fully into the modern era is the look that launched a thousand cosplays. Bray Wyatt’s now iconic white slacks/Hawaiian-print shirt/hat combo rates pretty high on the scale of wrestling cosplay comfort (we’ll say that scale is ROH Liger Guy to, I dunno, Nailz I guess).

The great thing about this look is that it conjures up everything we’re supposed to feel when we think of Wyatt, especially in those first promos. You know, the ones where you could practically feel the kind of inescapable southern humidity that makes everything stick to your skin, and makes you feel like you’re walking around underwater. The printed shirt that should be a a tacky souvenir tucked away in someone’s closet, or on someone’s embarrassingly corny dad, but rather feels…thrifted. Something of another’s origins; just not quite right. The Wyatts live in that vein that runs through popular culture focused on the deep, deep south – True Detective, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the opening to True Blood (which is infinitely better than the show could ever really be). It’s dark and creepy, something born in swamplands and snake oil preacher tents. It’s the Bayou’s old world magic in a new world’s body, like Bray’s demon possessing the shell of Husky Harris.

Were one to stumble upon the look without the character, they could assume that he was the most innocuous of them all. Just a schlumpy dude who’d probably tip his hat at you from the friend zone but never tip his waitress. What takes it over the top, however, is the butcher’s apron. The apron is…well, it’s creepy as f-ck, to be honest. When it debuted, he referred to it (and the accompanying mask) as the “new face of fear,” and going “back to his human roots.” You can’t hurt him, for he’s already dead. Jeez.When you swap out the shirt for the apron, it goes from Malibu Barbie to the Barbie that would definitely dismember your body in a West Virginia cabin. Obviously she never made it past the prototype stage.

Luke Harper, another modern disciple of the cutoff flannel set, keeps it simple by never changing his clothes ever. To me, the flannel (or grey camo vest) is just as effective as entrance attire as a flashy robe. The beauty of the Luke Harper lies in his simplicity, his only accessories an unkempt beard and crazy eyes. I’m pretty sure that’s the same tank top I saw him murderkill Fire Ant that one time back in Chikara in 2012. But again, it works. It’s sweaty and dirty, but in a way that makes you slightly uncomfortable moreso than scuzzed out. It makes you wonder what he did to get it so dirty, and not man, that dude needs Jesus and maybe also some Tide.

I’ve always felt that the cutoff coveralls were the least successful of the Wyatt looks, but I guess the same thing could be said for Rowan himself. While the coveralls are a vast improvement over his FCW tights that just said NORSE across his dick, what makes Rowan an integral part of the Wyatt fashion machine is the sheep mask. Cheaper versions are sold by the WWE, but his original, more detailed sheep mask is on the level of Bray’s butcher apron. There’s a really great dissonance created by what should be a fun and lighthearted children’s item placed on a grown man with a pickax. It’s old, the paint is chipping, and again, it’s something that clearly was once owned and loved by someone else but has been co-opted for a much more sinister purpose.

When Daniel Bryan joined the Wyatt Family, he too adopted the coveralls, but it didn’t look right. Sure, he had the wild beard and the long hair, but the things that make the Wyatt looks work so well never touched him. The arms on his coveralls weren’t torn and frayed, they were freshly sewn. His hair wasn’t wild and greasy, it looked downright downy soft. He didn’t have that borrowed look, or that sheen of filth and indoctrination. His coveralls were like the WWE Shop masks, just an inauthentic version of something that looks like it’s supposed to belong, but doesn’t. Just like Daniel Bryan in the Wyatt family, I suppose.

The Wyatts are proof of just how important a look can be to a gimmick. There’s a thoughtfulness about them that is more than putting #CULTBROS on their butts and expecting us to get it. It adds further nuance to characters that are already deeply layered, which is illustrated by the ideological uniformity in the three very different looks.

Wrestling fashion is important, kids.

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