Cowboy boots in town? Why the western style is in fashion
WILD WEST the style is, oddly enough, on horseback again. On city streets, even in suburban backyards, you’ll spot ornate cowboy boots, snap-button shirts, colorful embroidery, and straight-cut jeans from Wrangler and Lee.
Olie Arnold, style director of online retailer Mr. Porter, described “a recent resurgence of the Western style,” noting that the site has seen an increase in searches for items like Western shirts and belts compared to the last year. And Tecovas, a Texas-based consumer-direct western boot brand that counts metropolises like New York and Chicago among its largest markets, has seen sales growth of more than 50% since the start of the year. Outdoor lifestyle retailer Huckberry has doubled sales of Western-inspired gear this season. Almost sold out in most sizes: Taylor Stitch’s Sherpa-Lined Western Shirt Jacket and Billy Reid’s Black Denim Shirts. “After a year in sweatpants and slippers,” said Ben O’Meara, vice president of marketing for Huckberry, “I think a lot of people are going back to foundations, investing in styles that are timeless and resilient.”
Western clothing has come into fashion over the past decade. In the mid-2010s as Creative Director of Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane released herds of rock’n’roll cowboy styles: pointy boots, cowhide jackets, and belts with oversized embellished buckles. . Belgian designer Raf Simons pushed metal-toe ankle boots and silk-panel snap-on shirts during his short stint at the helm of Calvin Klein which ended in 2018. Most recently, Emily Adams Bode brought some vibe dusty meadow in the streets of New York. with jackets made from old quilts.
As designers tapped into the potential of Western style, it was also bubbling up in pop culture: “Westworld,” “Yellowstone,” and the “Red Dead Redemption” video game series brought cowboys back to American living rooms. In the midst of this wave, the Studio Museum in Harlem opened “Black Cowboy,” a 2016 photography exhibition that challenged the whitewashed iconography of the American West. And in 2019, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” earworm went viral. He wore a hot pink Versace cowboy outfit to win his two Grammys.
Part of the appeal of the look might be rooted in its duality: The Western style is as authentically American and traditionally masculine as John Wayne, but it’s also a high camp, a set of symbols that have been altered and inverted to signify queerness.