Those Singing Cowboys

roy-rogers-outfitting-the-westRemember the magic of Roy and Gene?

They made Western music an American tradition and looked good doing it, wearing some of the greatest duds ever created for film and stage. You could count on silk neck scarves knotted neatly to one side and two-tone, fringed shirts with smile pockets, piping, caballero cuffs and pearl snaps.

Western clothing in the 1940s and ’50s was created with the help of tailors-to-the-stars, such as Rodeo Ben, Nudie Cohen and Nathan Turk. Lavishly embellished and embroidered suits by these designers became the wardrobe standard for the seriously successful. Even the Sons of the Pioneers had a homespun but finished look about them, far from the image of the real range where cowboy music was born.

Today’s cowboy entertainers run the gamut and are full of individual style. But in the world of MTV and music videos where nothing is real and stars are expected to look outrageous, why do we want cowboy musicians to reflect the culture they sing about? Maybe because the West is about honesty, unpretentiousness and true grit. It’s hard to find, but well worth the effort when you do.

Western fans want the real deal, no matter what it looks like. From Willie Nelson grunge to Don Edwards’ neat, almost professional attire, anything goes. The cowboy crooner of today is usually dressed in clothing that’s down-home, vintage or rodeo-inspired. And sometimes, it’s almost preppie. But if you’re picky, maybe you should make sure your favorite Western singer is only heard and not seen.

Wouldn’t be caught dead in: Fringes and rhinestones. Flash is out. Understated is in.


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