mess with

Don't Mess with Texas

The phrase Don’t Mess with Texas is a trademark of the Texas Department of Transportation, and is part of a statewide advertising campaign, started in 1986, to reduce littering on Texas roadways. The slogan was created by the Austin-based advertising agency GSD&M, which handled the campaign until 1998. Since this date, the campaign has been managed by Austin based EnviroMedia Social Marketing It has since garnered national attention.

The phrase was prominently shown on road signs on major highways, as well as in television, radio and print advertisements. The campaign is credited with reducing litter on Texas highways 72% between 1986 and 1990.

More than its immediate success at reducing litter, however, the slogan became a Texas cultural phenomenon and the slogan has been appropriated by the citizens of Texas for general use. Though it appears on countless items of tourist paraphernalia, the phrase is actually a federally registered trademark; the department has tried at times to enforce its trademark rights, with limited success. The slogan is a frequently cited example of Texan cultural elitism.

Twenty years after its introduction, the success and popularity of "Don’t Mess with Texas" has earned it a spot among the best advertising slogans ever. "Don’t Mess with Texas" has been awarded a plaque on the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame and a place in the Advertising Hall of Fame, a distinction given to only two slogans annually.

Don’t Mess with Texas is also the official motto of the Virginia-class submarine USS Texas.


The media campaign, created in 1985, premiered its first television advertisement, featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan, at the 50th Annual Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1986. Since then, numerous musicians, athletes, celebrities and other famous Texans have appeared in "Don't Mess with Texas" radio and television public service announcements, including:

  • Tish Hinojosa
  • Los Lonely Boys
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt
  • Lyle Lovett
  • Matthew McConaughey
  • Willie Nelson
  • Andy Pettitte
  • LeAnn Rimes
  • Shamu & the Texas Tuxedos
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Jerry Jeff Walker
  • Joshua Murrell
  • Maria Rasche
  • Owen Wilson
  • Chuck Norris
  • Chamillionaire
  • Unauthorized use of the trademark

    The Department of Transportation has sent cease and desist letters to several organizations regarding their unauthorized use of the trademark phrase.

    References in popular culture

    • In The Simpsons 17th season episode The Italian Bob, Homer waves the American flag while yelling "Don't mess with Texas" at the luggage arrival in the Italian airport, contrasting Lisa's choice of hiding her citizenship.

    See also


    Further reading

    • McClure, Tim and Spence, Roy. Don’t Mess with Texas: The Story Behind the Legend. Idea City Press, 2006.

    External links

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