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Big Tex 101: Check Out The Cowboy's Duds Through The Years

Big Tex, the beloved State Fair of Texas icon, returns to Fair Park on Friday. (If you’ve been under a rock lately, the big guy burned down last October in spectacular fashion, attracting national headlines.)

Before Big Tex makes his triumphant return, we’re offering a daily online look at All Things Big Tex until Friday.

In today's edition of Big Tex 101, we take a look at Big Tex, the fashion icon.

Big Tex has had plenty of wardrobe changes through the years.

The weather wears out his clothes. Styles change, too.

And, sometimes, a fire sparks the need for a new outfit. That’s what happened last October, of course. The fire ate most of his clothing. He needed new duds.

What will he look like this year? No one’s saying. The State Fair isn’t saying a word. Fort Worth-based Dickies, which has made his clothes since 1997, is staying quiet, too.

So let’s take a look through the Big Tex scrapbook:

1952: H.D. Lee Co. donated denim jeans and a plaid shirt for his State Fair debut.

1955: Big Tex received new clothes, his first since 1952. The outfit, made in Kansas City by Lee, used 225 yards of fabric, 17,100 yards of thread, 557 inches of zippers. 

1959: Big Tex got a new plaid shirt and blue jeans by Lee. Price tag: $2,200.  It’s the third new set of clothes for Tex. 

1965: Big Tex was fitted with a giant sarape, a signal that the Danzas y Canios de Mexico had arrived in Dallas. The multi-colored sarape was about 60 feet long and weighs nearly 300 pounds.

1966: Big Tex wore a new Lyndon Johnson-style hat to welcome fairgoers.

October 1970: Big Tex’s new shirt was stolen.  “Big Tex may have to face this year’s State Fair of Texas naked from the waist up,” The Dallas Morning News reported. Jack Bridges, Big Tex’s creator, told police he had parked outside a café and had gone in to get a sandwich, leaving Big Tex’s duds in the truck. When he returned, the 150-pound shirt was gone. The shirt was worth $2,000.  “Police said they have no idea who the suspect is, but if they can find someone who wears a shirt size 97 extra-long, he may be politely asked to come in for questioning,” The News reported. The State Fair offered a $100 reward for the shirt’s return, but got no replies. H.D. Lee said it would make a new shirt as quickly as possible, but the fair patched an old shirt just in case.

1975: Big Tex reflected the fair’s bicentennial theme of “Yankeedoodle Dandy” with his red and white striped shirt and a blue cowboy hat with stars. 

1978: Big Tex got new duds made out of red-and-white striped fabric.

1982: Big Tex donned a new burnt orange Western shirt trimmed in white piping.  “Being a rabid Oklahoma fan, I had a hard time with it,” recalled Bud Poe, Lee’s vice president of sales in Dallas. “The orange was the only color we had an overabundance of at the time though.”

1994: Wrangler debuted its outfit for Big Tex.

1997: Dickies, a Fort Worth company, took over and started making Big Tex’s outfits.

2008: Big Tex is big and bright with a canary yellow outfit.

2011: After three weeks of voting on Dickies’ Facebook page, fans decided that Big Tex should wear a red, white and blue Western shirt. It featured stars on the front shoulders and a star on the back yoke.

2013: After Big Tex burned down, Dickies workers made a new outfit for Big Tex, which will be shown on Friday.

Sources: State Fair of Texas; The Dallas Morning News archives; KERA research.

Can’t get enough about Big Tex? Here are links to previous installments of Big Tex 101:

Look Back At State Fair Of Texas Icon's Early Years

Look At His New Digs, Even Though State Fair Security Said: 'No Pics'

Kerens, Birthplace Of Big Tex, Is Mighty Proud Of Local Boy Done Good

Relive His Fiery Demise And Watch These Quirky Video Tributes

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.