I'm Japanese. When I watched a show on Netflix in English, I came across an expression "a thin strip of Texas leather." As I couldn't find the meaning on any sites (online dictionaries or search engines) on the Internet, I took a sneak peek at Japanese caption (from the beginning, I should have done it!) and got it meant "a born and bred Texan."

The phrase is used in the show The Mentalist, in the episode "Copper Bullet." The context is:

Candlesticks seem a little odd, don't they? I don't understand.

I mean, for a thin strip of Texas leather like Peterson.

Doesn't strike me as a candlestick type.

Maybe he hired a designer.

Is this a peculiar expression for Texans? Or can it be used for any state residents where leather is produced?

Anyway, I felt this is a very strange expression... why "thin strip" and why "leather"? Are there any other similar expressions for other states?

  • This could depend on the context. What was the show/film?
    – dubious
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 8:58
  • 12
    No, it is not "an expression". It is just creative writing. It could refer to the fact that he is older and "leathery". His skin is leathery, He has had a rough or outdoor life. It would be like saying: That dried-up old slice of Japanese pizza (okonomiyaki), to refer to a person.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 15:20
  • 3
    "Is this a peculiar expression for Texans? Or can it be used for any state residents where leather is produced?" I think Life of Brian provides a corollary: "Ahh, what's so special about the cheesemakers?" "Well, obviously, this is not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products." Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 3:46
  • 3
    Don't feel bad about not knowing. I am English and I had to think about what it could possibly mean.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 8:44
  • For you that phrase is a tough strip of Texan jerky.
    – philipxy
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 3:11

1 Answer 1


Heh, you're not the first to be confused; a search limited by phrase turns up mostly speakers of other languages looking for an explanation—Chinese, Slovenian, Persian...

It's not an established idiom, but simply a colorful metaphor, invented on the spot. The phrase is applied to a person, who is presumably thin and Texan. By likening him to leather, the speaker also implies that he has other leather-like qualities—tough, strong, resilient. In context, saying that they didn't expect him to like candlesticks, it also implies that the sort of leather the speaker is thinking of is not the expensive or luxurious leather of kid gloves or designer clothes, but a practical, work-ready, unglamorous "strip of leather."

  • 20
    leathery skin can refer to age or life quality. It is not necessarily nice.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 15:22
  • 4
    I would add "tanned" to "thin and Texan" -- that is the image that this phrasing conveys to me.
    – Dave
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 18:18
  • 11
    I'd go beyond "simply a colorful metaphor" to emphasize it was made-up just for that conversation. The average English-speaker has never heard that expression, which is the point. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 22:52
  • 1
    @OwenReynolds Good point, edited to highlight that Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 23:01
  • 1
    ...and edited much more smoothly than I would have thought to do. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 23:04

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