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Feb 3, 2020

Whatever Happened to the Davy Crockett Shirt?


Friends, do you ever get Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone confused or am I the only one?

They were both famous frontiersmen.  I'm not exactly sure what a frontiersman was, but it seems to have involved manly acts like hunting grizzlies and killing Indians--not so heroic if you were an Indian.

Anyway, both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone were the subject of popular TV shows in the 1950's and 60's, and both shows starred actor Fess Parker--no wonder I'm confused.  This resulted in a minor craze for suede or suede-like shirts that laced up the front, the more authentic-looking ones embellished with fringe and worn with coonskin caps.

Even the lunchboxes look similar.





As you might have guessed, the pattern companies jumped on the bandwagon too.



Most adults who wore a version of the Davy Crockett shirt opted to forego the fringe, but the shirts kept the lace-up eyelets and (usually) the front yoke. They were offered in a wide variety of fabrics like cotton corduroy and even wool.  I had one as a kid myself though I lack photographic evidence.



Which brings me to my most recent men's shirt pattern purchase, McCalls 8475 from 1966, which  definitely shows the Davy Crockett influence.  Though issued just a few years before the explosion of hippy style, McCall's 8475 seems more firmly rooted in the Eisenhower era.  It includes not only the lace-up shirt, but also straight-leg pants you can style with tassel loafers (add Ray-Bans to complete the look).  I really hope to get to this pattern soon.

Does anybody still say slacks?

For better or for worse, by the 1970's, the Davy Crockett shirt had evolved into something less about killing grizzlies and more about Working on a Groovy Thing, Baby.





Like so many counter-cultural styles, the shirt eventually became less hippy and more "Brady Bunch," especially when sewn in double-knit polyester.


The Davy Crockett look persisted into the 1980's (below, View A) and then seems finally to have faded from view.


If you want to sew a lace-up men's shirt today you're pretty much stuck with costume patterns: pirates, Robin Hood, and Civil War reenactment.  The wild frontier ain't what it used to be.


In closing, readers, did you or someone you know ever wear a Davy Crockett shirt?

Is McCall's 8476 something you would make and/or wear?

Have a great day, everybody!



24 comments:

  1. OMG...brings back so many memories...I had a record (a 78 RPM) of the Davy Crockett theme song...wanted one of those fur hats, but my parents said no....

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  2. i see them and all i can think about is Davey Jones from the Monkees wearing one.

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  3. Woah — interesting history of this style! I never really noticed those transitions before. We do have a photo of my husband (Dave) as a child in a Davy Crockett outfit. He says he loved it. I on the other hand, swear I made simplicity 9435 for myself as a teenager, but without the laces. I’ve never been too keen on laces. But maybe that’s because I failed my shoe lace up test in kindergarten...

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  4. So fun to see this just one day after watching an amazing fringe shirt parade during the Decades cable channel's "Here Come the Brides" weekend binge. Robert Brown rocked a couple different fringe shirts throughout the series.
    --A Seattleite who loved the series.

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  5. I don't get the two real people mixed up, but then I'm from Texas. (I don't remember ever watching the TV shows, even in reruns. So I can't say I wouldn't confuse those!) Davy Crockett, to a Texan, is always associated with the Alamo. And before that, his response to critics in Tennessee: "You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas." The only people I've ever seen wear the deerskin version of the shirt or one with fringe are those doing historical reenactments. I never associated lace up shirts from the 70s with the Crockett shirt, but I see it now. Interesting.

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  6. I had one that my mom had made me. Olive green from faux suede.

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  7. I loved the fringe shirts. I remember a big crush on a boy who rocked one in jr high in 1972.

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  8. Oh my! What a trip down memory lane. Let's not forget F Troop. Yikes! I actually have an old 80s McCall's pattern that has both a pirate type shirt AND an eyelet lace-up shirt. I made the ruffly pirate shirt back then and actually wore it quite often. I support your revival. The pattern you have coming looks fresh to me. Fabric choices?

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  9. Lace up shirts tend to be very loose fitting, more like an outer garment than an indoor shirt. Yet, while they can be quite warm through the arms and torso, they also leave the neckline open to the weather. They were common before buttons became readily available at a reduced price.

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  10. Fess Parker played both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, I grew up watching those shows - we don't have Raccoons here so the hat was out.
    The closest I came to wearing (and making) that style of shirt was in the 1970s, they were known as a 'Grandpa' shirts, a pullover, with or without a collar... I made one last year but haven't worn it yet.
    I love your collection of vintage patterns, I buy them whenever I can.

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  11. Loved this exploration of Davy Crockett shirts and very much looking forward to seeing what you make with the pattern!

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  12. I sewed all my own clothes in high school, and made a lace up tan corduroy (wide wale!) jumper, mini length, and leather shoelaces to lace it up. Styled with dark brown turtleneck and tights, flat shoes, and long, straight blonde hair. The year was 1971, and the feeling was groovy. Happy sewing, and thanks for the walk down memory lane!

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  13. Oh, Fess Parker -- that chin dimple! And, in the Daniel Boone t.v. series, Ed Ames without a shirt ... excuse me, I drifted off in my head a little bit there.

    This iconic garment derives from the first sleeved garment worn by humankind, the tunic. The lacing closure predates buttons. Consider that, on the frontier (1700s in what is now the U.S.A., and starting MUCH farther east than you might think) imported items like fabric, buttons, and thread were often either too expensive or completely unavailable for the majority of colonists. You used what you had.

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  14. I love your recap of the evolution of this shirt. Folkwear currently has a pattern for this type of shirt, they posted a picture of it on instagram yesterday.

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    1. Just took a look: yes, that tunic looks very much like a Davy Crockett-type shirt.

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  15. Yep, somewhere I have a black heavy brushed cotton pullover shirt with real leather whipcord lacing up the front that my mom made for my brother and he outgrew. Lucky me! No fringe, just solid "frontier sex appeal" I guess. We didn't have TV until I was at college, so I guess I didn't see the Fess Parker confusion. But I definitely remember the song, and the you can go to hell...

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  16. Oh goodness me, in 1972 I married a man who was wearing a royal blue blue taffeta simplicity 9435.

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    1. No, but I made one in a dark green mock paisley print later that year and wore it. I don't think we ever went out in matching outfits.

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  17. I find the whole DC DB thing massively distasteful.

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  18. Can’t wait to see your version!!

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  19. I thought that style died at the Alamo.

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  20. It took me some Time to find what your post was reminding of but do you remember the Howard Hawks movie "The Big Sky" ? One of the héro (not Kirk Douglas !) Was wearing a shirt like this, with fringe and open front ! Just gorgeous with very sexy leather pants... Loved that film !

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