Feb 18, 2017

Davy Crockett and the Coonskin Cap Craze

During the mid-1950s, there was a craze for "coonskin caps" among the first generation of Baby Boomer boys: a faux-fur cap, round and furry, with a long tail, striped like a raccoon.

The next generation of Boomers found them ridiculous, but remember, this was the era of the crewcut.  With your hair trimmed so tightly that there's not much left, the coonskin cap serves as a nice substitute in cold weather.

And it gives you a nice phallic symbol to play with (imagine putting over your crotch instead of on your head).

Girls had big hair in the 1950s, so crewcuts were a means of gender polarization.  They were so popular that they had their own advertising icons, such as Johnny Crewcut in Boys' Life.   Here he advises kids to "practice undressing fast before bed each night."  The optimal time is under 20 seconds.

I've gotten guys out of their clothes faster than that.

The coonskin cap craze was generated by Davy Crockett, five episodes of the Disneyland  TV series in 1954-55, based on the real Jacksonian-era politician and folk hero, who died at the Alamo in 1835.

Davy was played by 30-year old Fess Parker, who had a master's degree in theater history from USC, but found himself playing coonskin-cap frontiersmen for the rest of his life.  Here's a rare shirtless photo.

I've never seen the miniseries, but they give Davy a sidekick, played by Buddy Ebsen (later Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies), so there may have been some buddy-bonding gay subtexts.

He also hung out with such folk heroes as Jim Bowie (Kenneth Tobey) and Mike Fink (Jeff York), so there may have been some beefcake,

Davy Crockett has appeared in over 50 other movies and tv series, played by a surprising number of recognizable stars: Fred Gwynne, John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Billy Bob Thornton, Brian Keith, and John Goodman (on Saturday Night Live).

Jake Wynne (seen here at the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival) played Crockett in A Man of Reputation (2012), swapping tall tales with Mike Fink in a bar.

But none of them have ever come near the fame of Fess Parker, his coonskin cap, and "The Ballad of Davy Crockett"

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, 
Greatest state in the Land of the Free. 
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree, 
Killed him a b'ar when he was only three.

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