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The Old West Through New Eyes

Here’s how to do cattlemen-inspired fashion without dragging western wear though the mud.

Lisa Finnby Lisa Finn

Ralph Lauren’s western wear holiday campaign was slaughtered in the media this past December. Some people thought the ads featuring Native Americans depicted genocide fodder instead of gentlemen fashion. Um. Okay.

For the sake of this article, we’re giving rodeo Ralph the benefit of the doubt and assuming he was just doing what he does best: celebrating Native American heritage through clothing . . . not poking fun at cowboys and Indians. Besides, we can’t help but give props to a fashion powerhouse that succeeds at making a man look amazing in a red paisley scarf.

Now, for the dude willing to sport the stuff, we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt also. He probably didn’t miss the memo in 1984 about leaving his bolo ties in the dust. It’s just that he’s fashion savvy enough to know that by giving western wear more than just a lick and a promise, he’s going to come out looking sexy as hell. And, since he’s willing to try it, so should you.

Because it all comes down to this: if you wear your turquoise, denim and button-snap shirts the right way, your night of bending elbows with friends at the local saloon may just turn into a good-time gallop at the end of the night with a lucky lass. We’re talking rodeo-style.

Calm down, Cowboy. It’s not that easy.

Modern-Cowboy-Fashion

Mindlessly conforming will have you looking like a pile of horse shit. Or like you enjoy beans out of a tin can. First, you must buck all slogan-slinging tees that say things like Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy. There’s a big difference between what constitutes cool western and wagon wheel western. So, here’s the right way to giddy-up on this fashion trend:

Make a statement in your jeans

We know you’re not sporting the high-rise Wrangler variety. (You’re not, right?) Instead, take your cue from Chris Pratt and slide into a pair of Ralph Lauren Black Label jeans. Go dark resin rinse if you’re sporting heavier fabrics or darker colors on top. If you decide on a soft-hued shirt, you can drop the denim wash a shade or two. Try a pair featuring signature back-flap pockets like these from True Religion. If you want some serious rugged wear, check out the latest offerings from BLK DNM or PRPS Goods & Co. Jeans.

Dial in the shirt

The western shirt has come a long way since the inception of signature piping and floral embroideries. The key is to keep it slim and tuck most of it in. If you’re sporting brown pants, try your hand at a denim shirt like this one from Rogue Territory; dark-wash jeans go great with Diesel’s Stricheck, a yarn-dyed striped check shirt. If you want the quintessential shoulder-yoke detailing, check out Lucky Brand’s Newman Workwear Shirt. Yee Haw.

Add a jacket

If you’re going the jean variety, check out the classic 1969 Heritage Denim Jacket by Gap. The key with a denim jacket is to have it complement — not match — your pants. Or mix things up a bit by wearing a white denim jacket from BLK DNM. There’s no way Levi’s will let you down in the western department. Check out the Bedford Western Wear Jacket for something a little longer on style.

Bring on the boots

Designers ranging from True Religion to Dr. Martens make it easy to step out with confidence. Think distressed with stitching. Check out Bed Stu’s Revolution half boot or a pair of men’s Lucchese Mad Dog Goat Roper Boots in chocolate from Allens Boots.

Buckle up

Okay, here’s where you have the potential to really screw up. Contrary to what you might think, a huge brass star above your dick does not translate well. What you need is subtle western, like the Mesquite Diamond Belt from Brighton or the Western Style Leather Belt by Ralph Lauren.

Y’all got it?