The iconography of the American west falls in and out of favor with the fashion crowd. While tried and true cowboys rebuke the idea of the look as a trend, designers, stylists and photographers borrow from it at will, exploring literal and abstract interpretations. Currently cowboy imagery is experiencing a quiet renaissance, with JPG sending luxury cowgirls down the Hermes runway clad in crocodile and Riccardo Tisci creating a vision of “Western Bondage” for Givenchy. The ornate style and camp possibility of the look has taken Paris. From a design standpoint the west is ripe with potential – particularly for maximalists looking to capture the more is more ethos. Everything is bigger, better, louder and spangled when it is given the western touch.
Meanwhile, photographers are exploring a quieter version of the look, tapping into the earnest bravado that typified fictional protagonists like John Grady Cole and The Man with No Name, in a wave of editorials. Vogue Hommes International treats readers to Cedric Bruchet’s new millennium Marlboro Men whilst Man About Town transforms consummate hipster, Boyd Holbrook into the Sundance Kid. Arena Homme Plus’ male models have wide brim hats and wider eyes as they take on the role of mid century farmhands. The lure of these stories is simple – they represent a vision of the kind of nonchalant masculine style that has never been more elusive. Harking back to a time before designer obsession and the metrosexalization of the America male, they invoke nostalgia for the austerity of the cowboy legend. A legend informed (and to some extent created) by media then subsequently repackaged for fashion. Real cowboys rarely wear Dolce or Prada but taking these clothes and placing them on the backs of someone as seemingly unaffected as a vaquero creates an appealing illusion – the idea that extravagance and authenticity can coexist.
Given the cultural dominance of all things western it helps to juxtapose the inspirations with fashion’s responses to them.