Wranglers and Rhinestones: Men’s Western Wear in Country Music
By Jessica Pushor
The western wear introduced by the singing cowboys in the 1930’s has changed not only the clothing of country music performers and listeners but also the very identity of American country music.
Cowboy hats and boots are a common sight at today’s country music concerts and festivals. The two seem to go hand in hand and it is hard to imagine country singers without their signature cowboy hats and regalia. But this was not always so, the singing cowboy image came about in the 1930’s, before country music stars either wore their Sunday bests to perform in or costumes that played up their “hillbilly” rural image. The influence of Hollywood and the popularity of westerns on country music in the 1930’s and 1940’s have also had a profound effect on fashions of country stars. Singer/actors such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers established the image of the singing cowboy and began the trend of country music performers wearing cowboy costumes. Designers such as Rodeo Ben, Nathan Turk, and Nudie Cohen created the cowboy look associated with the top stars of country music thru the 1970s. As times and music tastes changed western wear also evolved with influences from rock and pop music as well as from and TV shows and films. I will also look at the individual country music performers that were also influential on the development of western wear such as; Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Garth Brooks. The establishment and evolution of western wear from rhinestone cowboy, to redneck chic, to an esthetic used by fashion designers and finally as a country music uniform is truly an American men’s fashion revolution as well as a cultural phenomenon.