Why Are Cowgirls Suddenly Cool?
I'm not sure when exactly dressing like a Dukes of Hazzard character was recategorized as charming, but Western-inspired culture is suddenly all the rage.
The thought of women wearing leather chaps with a toy gun in one hand and flying lasso in the other is enough to make any feminist raise an eyebrow (myself included). But today's cowgirl looks nothing like the stereotypical pin-up version. Yes, she's flaunting her body, regardless of its shape and size. And yes, there's a traditional cowgirl hat and chunky boots somewhere in the mix. But more than anything, 2017 cowgirls are all about attitude—and they appear ready to kick some ass.
I first noticed a hint of the Americana trend when Lady Gaga dropped her fifth studio album, Joanne, last October. With its release, she delivered not only stripped-down, rock 'n' roll hymns that strike emotional chords her disco-pop heavy hits didn't but also: new fashion.
While promoting the album and later embarking on her Joanne World Tour, Gaga has given the often-campy Western look seen in film an updated, dare we say, elevated twist. She’s worn several iterations of the custom, pastel-pink Gladys Tamez Millinery hat she wore on her album cover, not to mention fringe-adorned jackets with, yes, tacky embellishments that scream more Nashville, less Lower East Side.
Other musicians have seemingly followed suit. For her major comeback album, Rainbow, Kesha has given us a multitude of pastel suits you'd find in the Halloween rack of a gimmicky vintage store. Her music, like Gaga's, feels raw, more authentic. Dolly Parton is featured on a track called “Old Flames,” and Kesha sings about stomping around in her rough-and-tough getup on “Boots” and “Boogie Feet.”
Have you seen her "Woman," "Learn to Let Go," "Rainbow," and "Praying" videos? Forget waking up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy. The new Kesha screams, "Do not mess with me," all while wearing beaded power suits mixed with turquoise jewelry you'd find in the Southwest. If you're thinking of taking on her look for a costume party, perhaps some Vicki Turbeville jewels could help.
Similarly, Miley Cyrus, Dolly’s goddaughter, is returning to her country roots on "Younger Now," her latest single in which she sings about previously not feeling like herself (likely during “We Can’t Stop”) and now feeling more pure. The look? It’s a little Elvis, a little Dolly. In the video, she changes in and out of ‘50s-like Susie Q A-line skirts and bedazzled, countrified matching sets with a little more glamour.
Shania Twain has now also popped back into the pop conversation, dropping singles for a new album, Now, and sharing news of her upcoming 2018 Shania Now North American tour. Thought country was dead? It certainly doesn’t seem to be.
So why are a particular set of musicians, specifically, coming together and dusting off the glitter, slathering on the grit? Our guess is that the political climate of the past 11 months has been quite hard to ignore. Since the 2016 Election, we’ve all collectively paid closer attention to the headlines, regardless of party affiliation. Sonically, who wants to listen to mindless songs encouraging you to throw your hands in the air and order another round of bottle service? Not many. These songs are about real people with real feelings living in a real world. No fake news there. In many cases, it seems like a meditation on what it means to be a patriot, a term that's constantly changing, and yearning to feel connected to your country.
In fashion, designers are crying out loud too, addressing their political views not by turning away from what’s happening, but in a sense by creating patriotic looks. The fall 2016 collections contained a tinge of Western-inspired pieces and the mood later carried on into spring. At Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommy x Gigi show in February, the design duo gave us models in American flag cardigans, fringe-adorned bandanas, and sporty pieces that served to remind you of their U.S.A heritage.
Hood By Air’s double-sided spring 2017 runway boots gave off ranger major vibes, while Selena Gomez, a Texas girl, looked like she belonged on a prairie in the front row at Coach’s fall 2017 show. She wore an army green peasant dress with a patchwork-covered leather jacket and a grungy black choker.
Raf Simons also made a very American debut at Calvin Klein for fall 2017. He designed color-blocked shirts fit for life at the ranch with sturdy, studded boots and even a skirt that literally looked like an American flag plucked off a pole.
Kylie Jenner took on cowgirl style at a party in April, and just a few weeks ago, a troop of Victoria’s Secret models wore—yes—chaps with cowgirl hats and leather vests in Aspen, where they shot the brand’s holiday 2017 campaign in lingerie. Apparently, cowgirls aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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The attention has shifted onto everything Americana. We’re seeing flags. We’re seeing denim. And we’re hearing new music you’re more likely to hear at a dive bar, not a Kardashian-cramped club. So grab your lasso, perhaps a classic denim button-down, and prepare for the ride.