Emergence of Wild West trend incites confusion

The appeal of looking like a farm hand escapes me.

When I say that western fashion is presently dominating the apparel industry, I am referring to a more specific geographical influence than one might presume. Although many trends have come out of the U.S. (think athleisure, blue jeans and bling), the current cowboy fad is about as Americana as it gets. A large number of designers incorporated this gaucho look into recent collections. Saint Laurent featured wide brim hats and denim cutoff shorts among other Old West pieces for spring 2019 — Calvin Klein showed yoked button-downs last year, and Chloé’s latest resort collection offered its staple ‘70s garments coupled with a modernized prairie vibe. Some other key players in this style include the bolo tie, fringe, big-buckle belts, the layering of denim and, of course, the cowboy boot.

Even though the American frontier may seem like a better point of origin for a Halloween costume than an everyday outfit, you’re wrong if you think people aren’t dropping over $1,000 for some ranch hand Fendi boots that would’ve had Buffalo Bill quaking in his holsters. New York Fashion Week street-style photos are littered with leather, prairie dresses, pointed-toe boots or an odd combination of the preceding, and I can barely get through my Instagram feed without seeing at least one of those items.

People are clearly having fun with this trend, and I’m all for experimenting with fashion and not taking personal style too seriously. That being said, I can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous people look casually walking around posh urban cities in their honky-tonk ‘joutfits’ and fringe jackets. It’s not that I have a superiority complex — I have participated in a number of embarrassing fads and still wear clogs to this day (yes, they are hippie granny shoes, and I love them). And even if I did consider myself better than these Annie Oakley wannabes, it really wouldn’t matter because they’re living my dream life by getting to wear such high-end brands in the first place.

All I’m saying is that I don’t understand why this aesthetic has gained popularity. The look is undeniably patriotic, and the current political climate of the U.S. is undeniably grim, both at home and in relation to the rest of the world. That’s why I find it especially weird that European brands are eagerly embracing our nation’s roots. Versace integrating rodeo elements into some of its fall 2018 ensembles felt about as surreal as watching a Spaghetti Western movie. While there are some charming aspects to this era of American history, why take inspiration from that when Europe is the origin of all things couture, luxury and opulence?

I think my distaste for the rusticness of this trend comes from my Midwestern upbringing. My childhood best friend lived on a farm, and everyone in her family wore heavy leather boots and stiff Wrangler jeans out of utility, not for the sake of looking stylish. She was protected from the elements as we played around in cow pastures — meanwhile, my flip-flop-clad feet needed to be hosed off as a result of stepping in manure. These blue-collar, small-town people dressed this way in order to work long hours and complete laborious tasks, and they scoffed at outsiders who actually cared about how they looked, which is why I find it extremely ironic that social media influencers have now classified their most essential garments as “trendy.” Also, recently popular memes like this Vine and “What in tarnation?” further highlighted the silliness of cowboy culture for me.

I am by no means offended or calling cultural appropriation — if dressing like you got up at five in the morning to fertilize your crops makes you happy, do it. Additionally, it is nice to shift away from the glamorization of elitism and emphasize the value of a simpler lifestyle. Part of the reason why I love fashion, though, is because it offers an escape from the plainness and tediousness of daily life and allows me to feel more glamorous than I actually am, so forgive me if I’m not jumping on the cowboy bandwagon, or perhaps more fittingly, tractor. I just hope that if I ever get the opportunity to actually escape the Midwest and live in a big city as I have dreamed of doing my entire life, I won’t be arriving into what’s just a more expensive version of my hometown wasteland.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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