El Traje de Charro

We all know what the traditional mariachi looks like: big, round hat, snug fitting pants and short jacket that are both embellished in gold or silver designs.

However, what many don’t know is how their stylish and excessively decorated suits came to be.

The charro suit has existed for years but its name actually derived from a sport that has existed for over 100 years. From there it progressed into the style we see today.

Charro is something you can be, something you can do and something you can wear. This article will explain each of these and help you discover how the style of the mariachi came to be.

Mexican cowboy

A Charro is a Mexican cowboy. He is a strong, confident, macho male that is also proud of his heritage.

Charro mexicano in a charreada.

Charro performing at a charreada.

Charro is not only a look, but an attitude. This attitude came from living off of the land.

These men are tough. And tough because of what their everyday life held.

Charros still exist today but their hardships are not as difficult as the ones of their ancestors.

Therefore being charro means you identify with your ancestors that endured the life of warriors for Mexico’s liberty and to keep the land they learned to prosper from.

A charro symbolizes the national character of Mexico.

What it takes to be a charro

We know now what it takes to be considered charro. But how do you prove it?

Mexican ranchers created a sport that demonstrated the skills of being a charro.

These skills were determined from everyday demands of ranch life. It grew into a competition in which charros from surrounding ranches came to compete against one another.

These competitions were called charreadas — or charreria. They began years ago when the conquistadors arrived in Mexico with their horses. After the revolution, it became an official sport in Mexico.

Mexican charreria | charreada

Charros at a Mexican charreada.

Charros gather at the local arenas and compete in teams. There are nine skills or suertes, as they are called, to compete in at the Charreadas.

There are competitions such as Charras that test a charro’s control of a horse. There’s also the “jineteo de toros”, which is riding a bull until it stops bucking.

Charros gain points under 3 categories: skill, time, and dress.

Importance of Charro attire

A Charro’s attire is very important and is expected to look a certain way. A charro can easily be eliminated from a competition for not following these strict rules of dress.

The clothing must be of a certain material.

In the early charreada days, the sombrero consisted of four deep dents in the crown to protect the charro’s head during a fall.

Mexican traje de charro

Traje de charro.

A traje de charro or charro suit’s style can differentiate based on class and activity. Of course, the more trinkets and ornaments one can afford puts you in a different class and will catch one’s eye better.

Charros also wear a different type of suit based on the suerte they were competing in.

During the charreada days, there was often a gala for all participants. In this special case, a charros would dress in their finest suits and planned not to ride a horse as that would be against the rules of the Mexican Federation of Charros.

Charro attire was taken very seriously by the association because it was to commemorate the strength and patriotism of their country.

Charro influence on Mariachis

Before the Mexican Revolution, mariachis wore plain white pants and shirts with straw sombreros. There was nothing extravagant about how they dressed.

However, in the 1930’s mariachis saw a way to unify their style and began to dress similar to charros. Then the mariachi suit emerged.

It took a few features from the charro.

Mariachis were satisfied with using materials not exactly the same quality as charros. Some groups of a lower class had to make do with similarities instead of the real detailed uniform.

However, this was not a smooth change that was accepted by real charros.

The Mexican Federation of Charros was not pleased and felt that mariachis were taking the traje de charro as a joke and being mocked. So mariachis made a few changes to the standardization of their attire.

Mariachi suit

Mariachi suit

For example, they added color and a slight change to the style of sombrero which didn’t need to protect them from sun or falls in an arena.

The traditional traje de charro for mariachis became a felt sombrero, white shirt, waist length jacket, and snug fitting pants.

Carefully designed embroidery and silver or gold ornaments decorated the pants, jacket, and sombrero to allow the group a unique touch.

Conclusion

One thing is certain… that traje de charro is not to be taken lightly. Its symbolism is justified by the years of conflict and honorable prestige that the country of Mexico has gained.

It began as a description of a strong dominant individual then grew into a competition for the most skillful rancher.

Charro was what everyone wanted to be associated with. And so the traje de charro emerged which carried out Mexican tradition and culture.

Mariachis still wear this symbol confidently and will continue to be enriched with its background and significance for many years to come.

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Image credits:

Ruben Balderas |Illiana Tamayo |traje de charro | banditob