A couple of months ago I noticed that my artist friends residing deep in Brooklyn had switched out their French-inspired berets for something more unusual—flat-rimmed hats and bolo ties. At first, I merely took notice and stuck to my shoulder-padded leisure suits—New York fashion can be eclectic. Slowly but surely, however, an aesthetic, which is best described as Marie Kondo’s minimalism meets Debbie Winger’s Sissy in Urban Cowboy, has seeped its way into one major fashion collection after another.
Designers’ latest obsessions with western wear confused me at first. But I’ve since come to the conclusion that an unclear future has people collectively looking back at times that seemed equally untamed for guidance. (Hindsight is, after all, 20/20.) It could explain why the last major western resurgence happened during the 1980s when the wind down of the Cold War, combined with the Iran Contra Affair, Aids epidemic, and the War on Drugs left the state of our union uncertain. The biggest difference between then and now—or the actual period of the Wild West from 1865 to 1895—is that today, the women aren’t just adopting the fashions of the era, but the attitude as well.
“We’re at a moment in our history in which there’s a strong focus on women and our experiences, and you see more women taking the lead in social movements and positions of political power,” says Jennifer Francis, co-founder of Kindred Black, a company that creates beautifully minimal western-influenced clothing. “Fashion isn’t completely disconnected from what’s going on in the world and maybe the resurgence of western wear is about projecting a rebellious, powerful image.”
I really feel like the trend started with Raf Simons. When he finally got around to revamping Calvin Klein Denim, the man jumped head first into a world that’s a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Simultaneously, other designers began introducing their interpretations of cattle-hand staples. Bella Hadid starred in a very nostalgic and spaghetti western-themed campaign for D-Squared. Cowboy boots were a street style staple at fashion week (with brands from Anine Bing to Ganni to Rebecca Laurey for Flattered rolling out new iterations). And you can now buy bolo ties on Asos.
This isn’t the assless chaps and chewing tobacco image seared in your memory from watching one too many Quentin Tarantino movies—it’s more rodeo meets Rodeo Drive.
In other words, dressing like you’re headed to the O.K. Corral is totally, well, okay in myriad settings—especially those where you’re looking to convey a “new sheriff in town” attitude or channel that full bush energy through your style choices. But this isn’t the assless chaps and chewing tobacco image seared in your memory from watching one too many Quentin Tarantino movies—it’s more rodeo meets Rodeo Drive. What keeps it from going kitsch is that it’s a combination of references all rolled into one. It’s got the cool factor of Sloane Peterson’s fringe jacket from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but is grounded in the blue-collar workwear of Big Ed and James Hurley in Twin Peaks—with the color palette of Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexico desert oasis (vivid blues, dusty rose, and ruddy reds).
Denim with clean seams and stitching, plus large pockets, cowboy boots, fringe, and high collared button-ups are all fair game. It could also be a more subtle tip of the metaphorical 10-gallon hat to the trend in the form of turquoise or silver jewelry. “Western style can be very ornate but there’s also so much that’s less intricately designed—simple silver jewelry, beautifully soft leather pieces without much flair to them, classic denim, and even lace,” says Alice Wells, Kindred Black’s other co-founder.
Although the trend can seem difficult to adapt from the runway into your everyday life, Wells and Francis advise that it can be as simple as changing the way you style your existing wardrobe and doing things like “tucking a button-down shirt into some Levi’s that fit like a glove and wearing cowboy boots.” As they say, anything goes in the Wild Wild West.
13 pieces that are ready for the rodeo
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