Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tiger Beat

More love for Los Tigres del Norte.

Some excellent photos from Friday's show by my colleague Juan Manuel Cortez, posted here with his permission. Juan is a photographer and digital artist from Colombia who freelances for Que Pasa and other local media. He's also a friend of the local music scene. Check out his professional website here.

Los Tigres by Juan

Now, a word or two must be said about my obsession with Los Tigres' sartorial splendor.

At this show, I was observing with considerable interest and admiration the fashion sense of this very youthful mexican-regional/norteño scene. I saw girls in the zip-up stiletto boots you see everywhere, but with western detailing. One young man who sticks out in my mind wore a light pinstripe suit, accessorized with a cowboy hat and belt in matching white (paging: Saturday Night Fever). Naturally cowboy hats were unisex, with girls often favoring the straw ones they wear to the beach. Men's shirts, hats and jewelry proudly proclaimed the Mexican state that they were from. These looks had spiffiness and self-confidence, dressed up to impress, with some of these items conveying caché as they are quite expensive (hats, belts and boots), yet still casual, mixed with items you can buy at the mall or la pulga.

As I was taking in the style sense of these Mexican teenagers and twenty-somethings, I was thinking, why doesn't someone rip this look for the catwalk?

Well, someone has.

Look closely at Los Tigres del Norte's bolero suits, seen in the 2008 publicity photo that leads the English portal to their website, which to my joy they wore for the show. Peacock blue, embroidered and "bedazzled" with hand-set rhinestones and floating jigsaw puzzle pieces of all the Mexican states. The back of the suits bear a Mexican flag, flowers, and "Mexico D.F." lettered across the shoulder blades.

When I received a brief audience with Don Jorge (applying his honorific prefix, as Los Tigres' elder statesman), I asked him: WHO made your suits, and how much did they cost?

The answer: Manuel of Nashville, the Mexican-born designer, now in his 70s, responsible for nearly every bedazzling piece of flamboyant Western wear to circulate in American culture since the '60s. Check out this website which has a fantastic video showing exactly how the clothes are made, and by whom. On Manuel's myspace, one modern celebrity says Manuel's clothes "feel like sex and money."

Don Jorge said he didn't know the actual cost of the suits, but with all the handiwork involved, he figured, "they must be pretty expensive, eh?" Charming man. He greeted me with an English "how are you?" and could not have been more gracious to me, not to mention to the innumerable fans who got photos and autographs that night.

Looking around for more about Manuel, the Mexican mastermind behind this bit of quintessential americana, I came across this 2005 exhibit at Nashville's Frist Center for the Visual Arts of 50 jackets designed to represent the American states. Clearly, this seems to be a prototype for the Los Tigres design, which was made to represent Mexico for their 2008 album of Mexican standards, Raices.

Do I dare go on about my obsession with Tigres bassist Hernán Hernández' distinctive, time-defying hairstyle? In the spirit of homage to Princess Sparkle Pony's photoblog of political hairdo gossip, I'm going to brave it.

the hair that roared
Photo credit: Juan Manuel Cortez

I have toyed with ways to name this 'do, and after meeting Hernán, I'm going with the Susan Sontag Mullet. It was only a handshake, but enough to confirm my suspicions that Hernán wears a nice cologne, and enjoys some special attention from female fans. Ladies Love Cool Hernán.

Although the much-scorned mullet has fallen onto ridicule and parody in (much of) U.S. culture, clearly there remains an enduring precedent and healthy respect for proud manes within the Mexican stylebook. As a calling card, it hearkens back to Mexico's indigenous subtext, as well as the anarchic genius for self-invention and self-rule demonstrated by her migratory children, epitomized in the lyrics of the Jose Alfredo Jimenez song "El Rey." Be he rich or poor, the man who wears the Susan Sontag Mullet this boldly is his own sort of king.

Links: a full frontal daylight pic of the 'do at Getty Images.

Reuters caught this intriguing glimpse of it.

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