The enduring influence of the Wild West and the Midwest on men's fashion remains a compelling narrative, shaping distinctive styles that continue to leave their mark on contemporary clothing trends.
The Wild West, with its rugged frontier and iconic cowboy culture, has indelibly etched its presence onto the canvas of men's fashion. It is marked by the emergence of timeless elements like cowboy boots, wide-brimmed hats, and Western-style shirts adorned with pearl snap buttons. These quintessential pieces evoke the intrepid spirit of adventure, self-reliance, and a profound connection to the untamed land. In today's menswear, the legacy of the Wild West persists, with Western-inspired garments such as denim jackets, leather vests, and cowboy boots, often intricately detailed with embroidery reminiscent of that era's rugged charm.
Conversely, the Midwest has wielded its influence on men's fashion through an emphasis on practicality, durability, and comfort. The region's unpredictable weather patterns, oscillating between harsh winters and scorching summers, have catalyzed the development of clothing that can endure a wide spectrum of temperatures. This pragmatic influence is palpable in the popularity of workwear-inspired attire, including rugged jeans, sturdy overalls, and classic plaid shirts. Brands deeply rooted in the Midwest, such as Levi's, Carhartt, and Dickies, have become synonymous with utilitarian fashion and continue to be central players in the realm of contemporary menswear.
Recently, at Paris Men's Fashion Week, designer Pharrell Williams unveiled his highly anticipated autumn/winter 2024 collection in the presence of a star-studded audience, graced by the likes of actors Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan, rapper Lil Yachty, and K-pop sensation Riize. The unmistakable Western theme permeated the event, as 1,200 guests congregated within a pop-up, box-shaped venue, nestled adjacent to the Jardin d’Acclimatation, beneath the imposing silhouette of the LVMH Frank Gehry-designed art museum. The catwalk, winding its way amidst the audience, featured a distinctive burnt dust color palette, with a massive, Zoom-like video screen projecting a cinematic arid desert landscape.
The collection itself drew inspiration from the iconic American Western wardrobe, presenting a high-end interpretation of ranch wear. Models confidently strutted in silk yoked shirts and intricately embellished denim chaps, while standout pieces included a chore jacket adorned with a print of a cowboy surveying the land and a white double-breasted suit proudly displaying cacti motifs. The collection also paid homage to traditional stock saddles with meticulously carved leatherwork. Virtually every model sported a variation of the classic cowboy hat, ranging from sleek leather to soft suede versions. Notably, many accessories were the result of collaborative efforts with Native American artists from the Dakota and Lakota nations, featuring blankets adorned with parfleche motifs and Speedy bags adorned with hand-painted desert flowers.
In a reflective moment following the show, Pharrell Williams aptly remarked, "You never really get to see what some of the original cowboys looked like. They looked like us. They looked like me. They were black and they were Native American." This profound statement underscores the importance of acknowledging the diverse origins of Western-inspired themes in fashion. While the archetypal cowboy has often been portrayed as white in Hollywood and fashion, historical records reveal that one in four cowboys were, in fact, Black, bringing to light a rich and inclusive history that continues to shape the fashion landscape.
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Images Courtesy Guardian