Fox Tails


Country music enthusiasts in parts of Europe — and particularly members of the “Trucker Scene” — often attach fox  tails (or raccoon tails) to the backs of their cowboy hats. It’s part of the scene’s ritual dress. Most people I’ve asked could not say just why they wore the tail on their hat. Some guess that it is related to putting a fox tail on the antenna of a car; others think it might be an attempt to combine the cowboy and the trapper look. Possibly it harked back to Francis Marion, or “Swamp Fox.” I think, though, like so many things, it goes back (even subconsciously) to Karl May stories — one of May’s characters is described as wearing a tail on his hat, and several characters in the Karl May movies of the 1960s have tails on their hats. But going back even further than that, in the early 17th century Franz Hals painted a portrait, on show at the Kimbell Museum in Forth Worth, Texas, of a man with a fox tail on his hat. The description of the painting on the Kimbell web site calls it  “the fool’s fox tail.” Various sources describe how the fox tail has formed part of the traditional costume of jester-like Fool figures at Carnival time (in England and in Germany, where they are called Narren) and also Morris dancers.  Here is a small sample of contemporary cowboy culture tail-wearers, from several countries.

All photos © Ruth Ellen Gruber