The phrase Don’t Mess with Texas
is a slogan for the Texas Department
of Transportation, and was developed to reduce littering on Texas roadways used as part of a statewide advertising campaign in 1986. The slogan was created by the Austin-based advertising agency GSD&M, which handled the campaign until 1998.
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
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.
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 Vaughn, 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
Asleep at the
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Los Lonely Boys
Shamu & the Texas
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Jerry Jeff Walker
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.
The University of
Texas at Austin continues selling T-shirts and chocolate coins incorporating
the phrase after being contacted by the organization.
The department attempted to block the Texas
Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League from the sale of "Don't Mess With Texas Women" T-shirts, but was unsuccessful.