Welcome to the inaugural post of The Thread Count. Each week, we here at With Spandex will take a look at the fashionable side of wrestling; be it how wrestling legends evolved their looks over the course of their careers, the effect it’s had on their receptions, or the impact of a wrestling gimmick and how that look echoes through other promotions over the years that followed.
This week, I examine the influences of some of wrestling’s most notable Hillbillies. Now, it’s important to note that by no means is this a comprehensive list. It’s also important that we differentiate between what we’re deeming as “hillbilly” fashion, and what could be referred to as a “redneck” aesthetic or gimmick. As a Canadian girl from the east coast, my authority on these differences is minimal at best. My origins are country as heck, but while one can infer that my ancestors were a bunch of backwoods hicks (they were!), there’s a particular cultural hallmark of the American hillbilly that prevents me from truly identifying with them.
Working with our dear editor here at With Spandex, Official Southerner Brandon Stroud, we’ve categorized it as someone who is less of a stereotype that covers a swath of the United States, and moreso someone of an isolated ilk. The Wyatts and their creepy swamp cult, the farmer/bumpkin persona who never gets on the wagon and goes to town. The sort you’d find in a movie about West Virginia camping trips that get super murder-y, but not the type you’ll see on, say, a CMT reality show.
As always, like this on Facebook, tweet the link, and leave us your thoughts on who you connect with the most, who you think we missed, or how you differentiate between gimmicks that draw from the southern culture.
Haystacks Calhoun can be hailed as one of the true originators of the big man hoss types we know and love today. Standing at 6’4, but weighing over 600 pounds, Calhoun was a big ‘ol country boy. Born in Collin County, TX, legend has it that he was discovered by traveling promoters as he was spotted picking up and carrying full-grown cows across a field. That is all sorts of magical, and I wish wrestling origins stories still had that air of legend. “I got hurt playing football in college so I couldn’t go pro so wrestling’s a thing I do now” just doesn’t conjure the same kind of feeling.
Haystacks was a trendsetter in more than just inspiring the uniform of the hillbilly wrestler. Much like Hogan bodyslamming a 7,000-pound Andre the Giant [Hogan citation needed], lifting Haystacks Calhoun was seminal in establishing the strength of all-time great Bruno Sammartino.
Giant Haystacks was The Renegade to Haystacks Calhoun’s Ultimate Warrior. The European non-union equivalent of the big man dressed more like the Friendly Giant, but who knows? Maybe overalls and horseshoe necklaces just aren’t done across the Atlantic.
When Charles Caleb Colton said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, he had no idea that he would inspire generations of wrestling promoters to share and share alike in other people’s gimmicks. Haystacks Muldoon was Jack Pfiefer’s, we’ll say, interpretation of Calhoun. Muldoon interpreted the Haystacks persona in the northeast territory much more liberally than his British counterpart. He had the overalls and the horseshoe on a necklace, but also introduced a straw hat and soon to be de riguer cutoff flannel shirt.