Yee-Haw Haute Couture: The Rise of Cowboycore

(STYLE DNA)

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Saddle up, fashion lovers, because there’s a new sheriff in town – and it’s cowboycore.  That’s right, the rugged, practical style of the American Wild West is back in the spotlight, and it’s taking the fashion world by storm.

But before you start dusting off your spurs and practicing your lasso skills, let’s take a little trip back in time to where it all began. 

The cowboy look has its roots in the practical workwear of 19th century ranch hands and the vaquero culture of Mexican cowboys. 

It’s a style that’s been shaped by Native American influences, the “dude ranch” trend of the early 20th century, and the iconic looks of early Western film stars like Tom Mix.

Over the years, the key elements of cowboy style have evolved and adapted, but they’ve never gone out of fashion. 

From the high-crowned, wide-brimmed hats to the tall, chunky-heeled boots, every piece of the cowboy wardrobe has a story to tell. 

Denim, snap-button shirts, bandanas, fringe, and leather have all played a role in the cowboy core look, each adding their own unique flair and functionality.

Today, the cowboy core trend is back and bigger than ever, with everyone from Pharrell Williams and Beyoncé to Bella Hadid and Harry Styles getting in on the action. 

Whether it’s through vintage-inspired pieces, high-fashion takes, or streetwear interpretations, the cowboy look is once again taking center stage.

So go ahead, embrace your inner cowboy (or cowgirl). Throw on a pair of boots, a wide-brimmed hat, and some denim, and get ready to ride off into the fashion sunset. Yeehaw!

Let’s take a closer look at the origins and influences that have shaped the cowboy core trend. 

It all started with the practical workwear of 19th century American cowboys and ranch hands.

vintage photo of American cowboys with their donkeys

Image Credit: Art Archive

These hardy folks needed clothes that could stand up to long days in the saddle and tough work on the range. Think sturdy denim jeans, snap-button shirts, and those iconic high-crowned, wide-brimmed hats that kept the sun off their faces.

But the cowboy look isn’t just about American ranch life. 

It’s also been heavily influenced by the vaquero culture of Mexican cowboys. 

Five Mexican cowboys on horseback, dressed in traditional charro attire, performing at a rodeo. They are raising their wide-brimmed hats in a lively and vibrant display, with an audience in the background.
man wearing an all white western ensemble with a white cowboy hat

Image Credit: Gates Frontiers Fund Colorado Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-highsm-37156]

These skilled horsemen brought their own unique style to the mix, with intricate embroidery, silver jewelry, and those fancy-looking spurs that jingle-jangle-jingle as they walk.

And let’s not forget the Native American influences that have shaped the cowboy core trend. 

From fringe and beadwork to turquoise and silver jewelry, these elements have added a touch of bohemian flair to the traditional Western look.

As the 20th century rolled around, the “dude ranch” trend helped to popularize Western style even further. 

City slickers from back East would head out to the wild frontier for a taste of cowboy life, and they brought a newfound appreciation for Western fashion back home with them.

But it was the early Western films and stars like Tom Mix that really cemented the cowboy look in the public imagination. 

These larger-than-life characters rode across the silver screen in their trademark hats, boots, and bandanas, and suddenly every kid in America wanted to be a cowboy.

Now let’s dive deeper into the key elements that define the cowboy core trend and how they’ve evolved over time. 

First and foremost, we have the iconic cowboy hat. 

Image Credit: Francois Durand/Getty Images

This timeless accessory comes in a variety of high-crowned, wide-brimmed styles and has been crafted from materials ranging from classic felt to straw and even leather. 

It’s a symbol of the Wild West that has stood the test of time and continues to be a staple in modern Western fashion.

Next up, we have the boots. 

Cowboy boots are characterized by their tall shafts, chunky heels, and intricate stitching. 

Woman posing in store wearing black cowboy boots with white accents
runway image of models dressed in western fashion attire for the Louis Vuitton Spring 2024 fashion show

Image Credit: blog.nastygal.com

There are two main styles: the traditional cowboy boot with its pointed toe and high heel, and the roper style with a shorter shaft and squared-off toe. 

These boots are not just fashionable but also functional, designed to withstand the rigors of life on the ranch.

Denim is another essential component of the cowboy core look. 

From rugged jeans to classic jackets, this versatile fabric has evolved from its humble beginnings as workwear to become a fashion statement in its own right. 

Denim pieces are often paired with snap-button shirts featuring embroidered details, piping, and contrast yokes for a true Western vibe.

Image Credit: Louis Vuitton

Bandanas, with their paisley and traditional patterns, have evolved from practical neck wear for cowboys to a decorative accessory that adds a pop of color and pattern to any Western-inspired ensemble.

Fitted  tank tops have also become a popular choice in modern cowboy fashion, often paired with jeans or denim shorts for a more casual, laid-back look.

Man wearing a black cowboy hat and face covering, black pants with a statement belt and a pink tank top.

Image Credit: attitude.co.uk

Fringe and leather are two more elements that have been heavily influenced by Native American culture. 

From vests and chaps to jackets, these materials add texture, movement, and a bohemian flair to the cowboy core aesthetic.

Bolo ties, with their unique sliding clasps and decorative tips often adorned with turquoise or silver, have gained popularity as a Western alternative to the traditional necktie. 

Finally, we can’t forget about the importance of belts in the cowboy core trend. Not only do they serve a practical purpose, but oversized and prominent buckles have become a key decorative element, adding a touch of Western flair to any outfit.

Wait a minute, but how did cowboycore gallop its way into mainstream fashion?  

Let’s talk about it. 

As previously stated,  it can be traced back to the 1940s and 50s, when the cowboy core trend experienced a major boom thanks in large part to the influence of singing cowboys, rodeos, and square dancing. 

But it wasn’t just real-life cowboys who were spreading the gospel of Western fashion. 

Hollywood played a major role in popularizing the trend, with a slew of influential films and TV shows that showcased the rugged, rebellious style of the American West.

Take “Django Unchained,” for example. This 2012 Quentin Tarantino film is a love letter to the spaghetti Western genre, and its costume design is a masterclass in cowboy cool. 

image from the movie Django unchained showing the western style prominent in the movie

From the iconic wide-brimmed hats to the embroidered shirts and leather chaps, every detail is carefully crafted to transport viewers back to the Wild West.

Other notable examples include “Dead Man,” starring Johnny Depp as a mild-mannered accountant who becomes a wanted outlaw, and “Sukiyaki Western Django,” a Japanese take on the classic Western formula. 

Image from the movie sukiyaki western Django. showing a Japanese take on American western fashion

These films may not be traditional cowboy movies, but their costume design still pays homage to the iconic looks of the genre.

Of course, it’s not just movies that have helped to keep the cowboy core trend alive. 

Music has also played a major role, particularly in the world of country and western. Over the decades, country artists have embraced the cowboy look as a way to express their rural roots and connect with their fans.

From the rhinestone-studded suits of the 1950s and 60s to the more understated, workwear-inspired looks of today, cowboy fashion has been a constant presence in country music. 

Brands like Rockmount Ranch Wear have also been instrumental in expanding the reach of Western fashion.

Founded in 1946, Rockmount has been a go-to source for authentic cowboy shirts, hats, and accessories for generations. 

But the popularity of cowboy core isn’t just limited to those who live and breathe the Western lifestyle. The trend has also made its way into mainstream fashion, thanks in large part to the influence of designers like Ralph Lauren.

In the 1970s and 80s, Lauren’s collections heavily featured Western-inspired pieces like fringe jackets, embroidered shirts, and cowboy boots. 

runway image of models walking for the 2018 fall Ralph Lauren show which has a distinct western theme

Image Credit: Ralph Lauren

These looks helped to elevate the cowboy aesthetic from its working-class roots to the realm of high fashion, and paved the way for a new generation of designers to put their own spin on the trend.

Even Halloween gets  in on the fun, with cowboy and cowgirl costumes remaining a perennial favorite year after year. 

There’s just something about the rugged, rebellious spirit of the Wild West that captures the imagination and refuses to let go.

When it comes to cowboy fashion icons, there are a few names that stand out from the rest. 

First and foremost, we have to talk about cowboy fashion icons  John Wayne and Roy Rogers. 

These guys were the real deal – they lived and breathed the cowboy lifestyle, and their on-screen style reflected that. From their perfectly broken-in boots to their wide-brimmed hats, every element of their look was authentic and effortless.

vintage image showing John Wayne and roy rogers together on screen for the the movie Dark Command (1940)

But it wasn’t just the cowboys who were making a fashion statement. 

Fast forward a few decades, and we’ve got John Travolta in Urban Cowboy. 

This 1980 film was a major moment for Western fashion, bringing the trend back into the spotlight in a big way. Travolta’s character, Bud, was the ultimate modern cowboy, with his tight jeans, fitted shirts, and flashy belt buckles. 

The film’s costume design helped to update the cowboy look for a new generation and sparked a renewed interest in all things Western.

John Travolta in the movie Urban cowboy wearing a cowboy hat, shirt and belt standing at a bar

And then there’s Dolly Parton. The queen of country music has been a fashion icon for decades, and her love of all things sparkly and glamorous has had a major impact on the way we think about Western style. 

From her rhinestone-studded jumpsuits to her fringe-covered jackets, Parton has never been afraid to go big and bold with her look. 

She’s proof that you can be a cowgirl and still love a little bit of bling.

Dolly Parton vintage western fashion, wearing a white cowboy hat, plaid top and blue denim jeans

Image Credit: Getty Images

In recent years, we’ve seen a major resurgence of the cowboy core trend, with everyone from high-fashion designers to street-style stars putting their own spin on Western wear. 

One of the most notable examples is Pharrell Williams, who’s been spotted rocking a cowboy hat on numerous occasions, often paired with his signature streetwear style. 

And let’s not forget about Beyoncé, who channeled her inner cowgirl for her “Cowboy Carter” album cover, complete with a white cowboy hat and matching chaps.

Beyonce cowboy Carter campaign image with her wearing a white cowboy outfit, while sitting a white horse and waving the American flag

Image Credit: The artist

Of course, we can’t talk about modern cowboy style without mentioning festival fashion. 

Coachella and other music festivals have become a hotbed for Western-inspired looks, with attendees rocking everything from fringed jackets to embroidered boots. 

It’s a trend that’s been embraced by celebrities and fashion influencers alike, with everyone from Bella Hadid to Emily Ratajkowski sporting cowboy-inspired outfits at fashion week events around the world.

Emily ratajkowski wearing cowboy inspired outfit, with a shiny silver cowboy hat, and baggy denim pants

Image Credit: GC IMAGES

On the high-fashion front, designers like Dsquared2, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, and Balmain have all put their own luxe spin on cowboy style in recent collections. 

From embroidered denim jackets to studded leather boots, these labels are proving that Western wear can be just as chic as any other fashion trend

And let’s not forget about Carhartt, the workwear brand that’s been embraced by the fashion set for its rugged, authentic style.

But the cowboy core trend isn’t just about fashion – it’s also about attitude. 

The movement is all about celebrating the diversity and inclusivity of cowboy culture. 

It’s a reminder that anyone can embrace the cowboy spirit, regardless of their background or personal style.

This idea is particularly resonant when it comes to the often-overlooked history of Black cowboys and their contributions to Western culture.

In recent years, we’ve seen a growing appreciation for the style and influence of Black cowboys, with fashion brands and media outlets shining a spotlight on this important part of American history.

vintage black and white image of black cowboys on a field with their horses

Pop culture has also played a role in the revival of the cowboy core trend, with shows like Westworld and video games like Red Dead Redemption helping to renew interest in the aesthetic. 

So what’s next for the cowboy core trend? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure – this is a style that’s here to stay. 

With so many different ways to interpret and personalize the look, there’s never been a better time to embrace your inner cowboy or cowgirl. 

Whether you’re a high-fashion devotee or a streetwear enthusiast, there’s a way to make the trend your own – and have a rootin’ tootin’ good time doing it.

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