Hindsight is 2020 when it comes to this year’s fashion choices.
Fall 2018 and 2019 fashion headlines were dominated by a slightly mystified tone and writing full of question marks: Why are we all suddenly dressing like cowboys? And wait, when did this happen?
Some of us weren’t mystified at all. The Western world has seen a new mainstream curiosity for our piquant favorites, and the turquoise, animal prints, and fringe once eschewed by high fashion are finally getting their due. Twenty-four-year-old New Yorkers with man buns buy bolo ties. Urban partygoers embrace sky-high boots and sequins that would make Dolly proud. East Coast housewives swap pea coats for ponchos.
Western wear is crossing over into the general market like never before. Or is it? Yes, fall runways flaunted concho belts, and jean jackets continue to be everywhere. But Western fashion and culture have never been strangers to crossover. As Ken Burns will tell you, the history of country music is the conversation between disparate traditions, which borrow, adapt, and reinvent themselves in constant dialogue. Western fashion is no different.
What’s in vogue now in the Western world is not just in conversation with the world around it — it’s a constant readapting of its own cherished histories, visions, and roots.
For 2020, we look at Western fashion trends of the past and how trend leaders are bringing them to life today.
21st-Century | Nostalgic Americana
“Ariat is an authentic brand based on the roots and spirit of the iconic west. We leverage our heritage and infuse mainstream fashion trends to interpret them for the Western consumer. Our favorite trends right now are serape, fringe, and nods to the Americana lifestyle. Americana isn’t just a style … it’s a way of life. You may live that life or simply appreciate it and adapt the look.”
— Shane Holman, senior director of global Western consumer trends at Ariat
2000s | Techno-Era Metallics
“Ariat, Lane, Miss Macie, Corral, Allen’s Boots, and Rodeo Quincy are killing it with bold colors, metallics, and snake print! I love it all.”
— Kaci Riggs Myers, director of product development at Charlie 1 Horse
1980s | Dolly Parton-Era Rhinestones
“Right now, fashion is very twangy, very rhinestone, very Dolly Parton. For our retailers, they’re still in this mindset that they’d never, ever go there. They’ve got to get over that hump, because the end consumers want it.”
— Cheryl McMullen, creative director at Double D Ranch
1970s | Flower-Child Velvet Bell Bottoms
“I see a lot of velvet. Velvet bell bottoms definitely bring back the ’70s! So many trends we haven’t seen since the ’70s are showing up again, and it’s really fun.”
1970s | Dusky Earth Tones
“Much of my inspiration comes from nature. The Santa Fe sunset is what inspired the Charlie 1 Horse Desert collection. It’s full of pinks, purples, and blue … We went back out to Santa Fe to shoot it. I draw inspiration from everyday life.”
1960s | Midnight Cowboy Chic
“Our Midnight Cowboy collection — all cowhide print on sheer fabrics; soft, flowy, and sexy — tells the story of the movie. The cowhide print represents the suitcase he carries; when he’s in the bar he’s got a real twangy Western shirt that we’re inspired by; and there’s a greenish cast to the movie, so green is very important in the collection. There’s stuff in Midnight Cowboy that I thought I’d never do, but we do it with a fresh twist and I love it.”
1950s –’60s | Gram Parsons-Era Nudie Suits
The now-iconic psychedelic, spangled suits popularized by Elvis Presley and Gram Parsons are back against all odds, championed by such (very) distant descendants as Post Malone. The infamous Rhinestone Cowboy look, invented by Russian immigrant Nuta Kyotlyarenko, is now being adopted by couture designers such as Gucci, Dior, and Saint Laurent, as GQ pointed out in their in-depth account of the unaccountable yet irresistible return of this trend last year.
1950s | High-Fashion Leopard Print
“If we know leopard is hot again, we make sure we put it in the line. It’s basically a neutral for Western girls.”
1940s | Roy Rogers-Era Motifs
“I always love how old is new. It’s exciting to me when vintage gets hot again, because I love the old vintage Western wear, and it’s gotten really hot in the past few years. I think of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and how cool fringe, buckskin, buck-stitch, and embroidery were for them. I love how the classic remains so strong in the Western industry. Old concho belts and squash blossoms are truly timeless.”
1890s | Hand-Tooled Leather
“I still saddle a horse and ride or rope almost daily. I still have a great appreciation for great saddles, beautifully tooled leather, and carefully engraved silver on buckles and bridles. I often look at tack, bridles, and spurs for inspiration. I also love to look at leather belts with different tooling, stamping, lacing, and treatments that can be applied to hat bands. I feel like my work is always influenced by an old, classic idea; we just find a new way to apply it, and that is what creates something new and different.”
1700s | Native American Beading
“All our collections are all based around history. I’m a history buff, I love history and research and museums. We dig in deep for our Native American bead strips. Native Americans have a huge influence on us. I love their aesthetic — how they were able to take nothing and make beautiful things. This art and ingenuity from our country’s past, to me, it’s all fair game.”
Other Inspirations: “Rock music, vintage cowboy chaps, Pancho Villa.” — CM
Fav Trends: “Camo, plaid, tweed; over-the knee boots; studs, metallics, leopard, velvet; anything goes and that’s what is so fun about Western fashion!” — SH
What’s Coming Up: “I see a lot of the brands who offer competition apparel and footwear changing with time. They offer performance fabric, fit, and soles that are improved each season. In our cowboy hats, we use a moisture-wicking fabric that keeps you dry and keeps your hat on without squeezing your head. Cowboys love it!” — KRM
Photography: Images courtesy Ariat and Double D Ranchwear