Every man is going to be something. Be a Southern gentleman.

Types of Southern Culture

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Southern culture today has been so diluted that it is becoming harder and harder to observe. The vast majority of the people living in The South today have adopted the “Network TV Culture” – whatever they see on TV is what they imitate, and that becomes their culture. There are, however, some who still maintain a strong Southern culture, but what does that really mean? Southern culture means different things to different people because Southern culture is really made up of several different sub-cultures. The people within those sub-cultures include the good and the bad, the leaders and the followers, the upright and the reprobate.

The roots of the Southern gentleman comes primarily from only one of these sub-cultures, but there is a fair amount of “spill over” into one or two of the other sub-cultures as well.

Confederate – is most easily identified by active participation in re-enacting groups, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Military Order of the Stars and Bars, and other similar organizations. The focus is on the War for Southern Independence and the emphasis is more historical than cultural, but it is still clearly a separate culture. This has had a strong influence on shaping the Southern gentleman.

Redneck / Rebel – has long been a part of Southern culture, and like other types of Southern culture, has its Northern counterparts. It began as a reaction to the feeling of defeat – in the War for Southern Independence, Reconstruction, and being left behind during the Industrial Revolution. NASCAR racing, up until the 2015 NASCAR ban on the Confederate flag, was almost synonymous with this sub-culture. The entertainment industry built on this stereotype and some Southerners felt a kinship and adopted it as their own. Much of Country-Western music is built around this theme. Some of the bottom fringes of the Redneck / Rebel sub-culture can overlap into the White Trash / Loser group, but it is mostly a separate sub-culture.

White Trash / Loser – is scraping the bottom of the barrel of Southern culture. Think in terms of Redneck / Rebel culture, but with a “victim mentality” and no self-esteem. Where the Redneck / Rebel sub-culture stands up for their culture and takes genuine pride in their heritage, these are folks who seem to take a perverse pleasure and even pride in being low class losers. It really isn’t even a “culture” in any reasonable sense of the word, but rather a collection of the dregs found in any society who have found a kinship with other losers and have misappropriated symbols of the Confederacy.

Agrarian / Plantation / Southern Aristocracy – originated with the English manor and the Landed Gentry. This was heavily influenced by the English Cavaliers – royalists who immigrated to America during the early 1600’s and settled in Jamestown, Virginia before later spreading out into the rest of the Deep South. They developed a class-dominated society with an aristocracy and landed gentry. Another influence was English inheritance law which was such that land and title went to the eldest son, leaving younger sons somewhat out in the cold. Many younger sons took this as a challenge and left England for America to seek their fortune. If they could become more financially successful than their landed and titled elder brothers, then so much the better. They took the money they inherited and built lavish plantations which became part of a social scene with a strong class structure. While they were actually rather few in number, they had an enormous influence on the culture. They became sort of a role model; while few could match them in wealth, anyone could match them in adhering to the etiquette and social code that defined this culture more than anything else. Despite the strong sense of “place” in society that was a part of it, that sense of near-nobility extended to those men who owned far more modest farms that they worked with their own hands. It was a sense of belonging to an upper class that was defined not so much by wealth, but by who they were, who they were descended from, and adherence to a strong social code. This, along with some of the Confederate culture, is where the roots of the Southern gentleman is found.

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