The charro suit: Mexican tradition

During the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, the 1936 production Out on the Big Ranch set off a ranchera movie boom, with its idols Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Emilio ‘El Indio’ Fernández, Pedro Armendáriz and Luis Aguilar. One effect that craze ultimately had was a wave in the 1950s of people wanting to replicate the image of those icons.

Such individuals formed groups, and since they had no real roots in the world of ranching, haciendas, charros and well-dressed Mexican horsemen, they created a potpourri of styles, ornamentation and garments that distorted centuries of legitimacy.   

In 1960, the National Charro Federation made rulings on charro attire, based on five correct ways to dress as charros: Faena (work outfit), Media Gala (Semi-Dress), Gala (Dress), Gran Gala (Full Dress), Etiqueta (Formal).

1. Faena

The plain, unadorned apparel worn by the overseers and their cowboys on the ranches and haciendas of the time, to carry out the rough work of the Mexican countryside. Nowadays, most competitors around the charro ring wear a long-sleeved charra shirt with a military or folded collar.


Charro with faena suit. LIBRE USO MX
Charro with faena suit. LIBRE USO MX

2. Media gala

It calls for a short jacket; three to six silver buttons at the level of the pockets on each side of the pants; faux ‘bullet-cover’ with flyless bib often with a pant-leg flap, a style seen in some of the paintings by charro-painter Ernesto Icaza y Sánchez. It is donned for special events such as charro association anniversaries, state, regional and national championships.

Media Gala. LIBRE USO MX

3. Gala

Short jacket with vest. Complete set of buttons from the pocket to the flare of each pant leg, with matching sets on the sleeves of the jacket and clasp. The number of buttons depends on the size of the piece and the height of the horseman. Ornamentation on the hat, the complement of the outfit, should be beautifully embroidered with maguey fiber and/or chiseled. The charro dress outfit is worn by overseers who supervise the charreadas held at special events, parades, standing at banquets and other occasions where luxury is required.

Gala and to the right gran gala charro suit. Foto Libro Octavio Chávez _ La Charrería Tradición Mexicana

4. Gran gala

With minimal exceptions, these days the full dress charro outfit is seen exclusively in museums or great grandparents’ closets. Minutely worked with silver, gold and silk thread designs on the jacket and calzonera (open-sided pants), complete set of buttons, also in gold and/or silver. The hat complementing the suit is embroidered on the crown, crown ornamentation, brim and trim, with flowers and other designs by the artisan.


5. Etiqueta

Black woolen cloth. Complete set of buttons. Vest. White gray, or black hat. Black leather, suede or patent leather ankle boots. Worn at formal ceremonies. According to the current charro regulations, it is worn with a hanging butterfly tie and white sash.

Details: Charro suit. Hat and tie LIBRE USO MX
Details: Button, handkerchief and tie. LIBRE USO MX

Pictures from the book Octavio Chávez "La Charrería Tradición Mexicana".

More in STYLE


The Talavera X-Ray X from Cozumel, by Bucle


The X of Love and Life, by Malinalli Segura
Thoroughly Mexican Cheeses
Not to be missed in October
Little known facts about mexican aviation

Subscribe to Our Emails