High Desert Sketches: Even Dust Devils Wear Prada In The Last Frontier

High Desert Sketches: Even Dust Devils Wear Prada In The Last Frontier

[George Covington is a local photographer, columnist and celebrity whom people from all walks of life treasure as an inspiration. Born legally blind, with less than ten percent of normal vision, George first achieved national attention for using photography as a seeing tool. Read more of his thoughts at the Alpine Avalanche.]

Prada Exhibit, Valentine TexasWhen I first arrived in New York City I put away my Brooks Brothers flannels and tweeds along with my Dunhill suits and blazers and my Joseph Bank tuxedo. Because the women I dated were all in the design gang I discovered that I could substitute black jeans, a black turtle neck black loafers and socks for all of the afore mentioned Washington DC attire.

When I got ready to move to Alpine I assumed I would see nothing but faded jeans and very scuffed cowboy boots. Instead, I found the average dress consisted of baseball caps, t-shirts, Levi’s for men and jeans for females that were worn so tight that it took needle-nose pliers to remove their drivers’ license from their hip pockets.

I also discovered the same range of fashion I had seen in the saloons of Manhattan. Dawn Lacy of Ivey’s Emporium sums it up “ It has been my observation that everything from Claiborne to Carthart to be acceptable in Alpine as long as it can withstand 60 mph winds.” An immigrant from Wisconsin, she added that you put on all your layers of clothing on a cold morning in West Texas and you’ve taken off at least two layers by noon.

Valerie Howard, who handles circulation and the reference desk at the Alpine Public Library, has a similar take on the clothes situation as Dawn. “In Houston the humidity made the winkles fall out, but in Alpine the wrinkles stay in because the humidity is so low. Because it can be freezing in the morning and very warm by the afternoon a lot more clothes end up in my car.”

Black is not as prevalent in West Texas as it was in New York City. I discovered only a few high school students wear black to show their teenage angst, unaware that outside of New York city and the 1950s nobody wears black to show angst any more. A very good reason for not wearing black in the last frontier is that even on a cool day standing in the West Texas sun, a black shirt feels as though it’s being pressed at your local cleaners with you in it.

There are plenty of faded jeans and dusty boots but these are generally confined to real working cowboys and cowgirls. If our local sheriffs dressed the way the sheriff did in “No Country for Old Men” he could never expect to get re-elected. Our sheriffs generally wear stylish duds and drive air-conditioned pick-ups.

MySpace, Facebook and YouTube have generally created a leveling effect on the wardrobe of most young Americans and that includes the denizens of the Big Bend. Dona Roman, head of the theatre program at Sul Ross State Universtiy, and a worldly wise woman of high fashion states, “’anything goes’. Some times very eclectic, sometimes very practical. You can see just about everything having a cup of coffee on Holland Street watching the folks walk by.”

Our “Prada Outlet” is a faux representation of a “real” Prada store. Located on a lonely stretch of highway (see Valerie Howard’s photo) between Marfa and Van Horn, somewhere around Valentine, the artistic statement is an eye-stopper in the middle of nowhere. Illuminated at night, the tiny installation has an exhibit of real Prada shoes provided by the company. Upon close observation you realize there is only one shoe per style. But of course the local rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, coyotes, turkey buzzards, and dust devils don’t notice the one shoe joke, but they do appreciate the attention.

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Generous underwriting supplied by the Rotary Club of Alpine, Texas and the Way Out West Texas Book Festival:

This year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever. Mark your calendars: It will be held July 29, 30 and 31 at the Espino Conference Center (second floor, Morgan University Center), Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.

The grand finale of this celebration of books and culture will feature The Flatlanders– Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock– performing in concert at the Pete P. Gallego Center on Saturday evening, July 31. Tickets on sale NOW!

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