During the American Music Awards 2019, there was a new trend that’s been bubbling its way to the surface for a while. When Post Malone and Diplo hit the red carpet in ten-gallon hats, bolo ties and pointy, heeled cowboy boots, they were just the latest – and, perhaps, sharpest – examples of a look that’s been making waves across all subcultures and styles, the Western style.
You may scoff at the idea that all the men around you are dressing like sheriff Woody, but you don’t have to go the full yee-haw to tap the trend. Precisely where it emerged from is debatable, but it was there in the double denim and cowboy boots of Raf Simons’s short-lived Calvin Klein. It’s the pearl-snap shirts of Saint Laurent and the leather-shouldered jackets at Dsquared2. It even got a streetwear remix in Palace’s collaboration with Ralph Lauren, a man – and brand – that’s been flying the western flag for half a century.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the western trend – or, considering where it came from, the most fitting – is how democratic it is. For every fringe-jacketed Lil Nas X, there’s your workwear-loving mate in a pair of yoked Levi’s 501s. Western is, arguably, 2019’s most unexpectedly wearable trend. Here how you can make it part of your own wardrobe, without the saddle rash.
Like a lot of modern trends, such as military, western can find its routes in historic, functional gear that designers stole for style purposes. From the bright embroidered shirts that cowboys wore so they could be easily spotted at rodeos, to Stetson hats that were made to endure harsh weather conditions in the Civil War, most western staples can be traced back to 19th century America, where it was worn by actual cowboys, pioneers and mountain men.
A lot of original western brands haven’t survived into the 21st century, but those that did still flourish. Filson, for example, was created in 1897, at the height of the Great Klondike Gold Rush, for workers who needed hardy, reliable clothing. Although sifting for gold nuggets in streams isn’t as popular today as it was back then, Filson remains a go-to brand for camping and hunting gear, such as weatherproof jackets and oil finish chaps. All of which looks as good in the city, too.
Not all western brands still rely on their element-battling roots. In 1873 the blue jean was invented by Levi Strauss, who added metal rivets to work pants to create a stronger uniform for hard-grafting men, like miners and cowboys. Today the brand has evolved into a cultural staple, a staple for every subculture from mods to rockers, punks and indie kids.