Dallas Styles: Ray’s Plaid Suit

Good men wear plaid

When “Dallas” begins, J.R. isn’t the only shady character at Southfork – so is his buddy Ray. The two men try to break up Bobby and Pam and go carousing in Waco, all while Ray is secretly having trysts in the hayloft with Lucy.

Perhaps realizing two cads are two too many, “Dallas” turns Ray into a hero during the second season. The evolution doesn’t happen overnight – on his way to redemption, Ray has a one-night stand with Sue Ellen – but it’s soon clear Ray is becoming a new man.

The character grows more honest and reliable, and much more honorable. In other words, Ray becomes a lot like the cowboys who preceded him in prime time. Think Marshal Matt Dillon, but without the badge.

To underscore this change, “Dallas” tweaks Steve Kanaly’s wardrobe. The orange hunting vest and heavy jacket he wears during the first season are replaced by a more traditional cowboy uniform of plaid shirts and blue jeans.

The transformation continues in “Triangle,” when Ray falls for Garnet McGee, an ambitious country-western singer who cheats on him with J.R. It’s the first time we really root for Ray, which is pretty remarkable given all the smarmy stuff he’s done in the past.

In one of “Triangle’s” pivotal moments, Ray brings Garnet to a nighttime party at Southfork. The scene is a plot device to introduce Garnet to J.R., who is instantly smitten with her, but the show also uses the sequence as another opportunity to remind us of Ray’s cowboy bona fides.

The character comes to the party dressed in a gray plaid suit with a blue string tie, not unlike the ones Colonel Sanders used to wear in those Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials. Ray’s outfit is thoroughly western, letting us know he’s a cowboy even when’s off the clock.

It’s a little surprising Kanaly is given a gray hat to wear in this scene instead of a white one, which is the color of choice for most western heroes.

Then again, no “Dallas” character is all good or all bad – and even though Ray is becoming a better man, he’s far from perfect – so maybe a gray hat is the best choice after all.


  1. Ray’s transformation from playboy to golden boy is so complete that later, when he cheats on Donna in season 5, it’s hard to believe his character would be capable of it. But looking back, it does hearken back to his roots.

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