As Fast Fashion gets ever faster, spurred on by the Chinese buying frenzy, one figure resists the pressures of time and money: the cowboy (or cowgirl), forever linked with great American myths surrounding freedom and nature.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Spaghetti Westerns are being drawn upon by our savviest designers. Raf Simons for Calvin Klein revisits Americanness in its most primitive form, delivering a contemporary reinterpretation of the archetypical American cowboy. Men and women are parading as one on the same catwalk, bearing the distinctive uniform of Far West legends: cowboy boots, checked shirts with breast pockets, and denim. The only sign of disharmony between the sexes is the reversal of colors.
On the Versace runway, Donatella paid tribute to her departed brother Gianni with gaucho-inspired silhouettes and female Zorros in black wide-brimmed hats.
And Maria Grazia Chiuri conjured up a sumptuous setting with a Hispanic flavor for the Dior Cruise collection. She placed her heroines on the other side of the border and transformed them into Mexican Escaramuzas, parading on white horses and defying all walls and broken oaths.
So why is it that Wild West esthetic codes continue to influence current and future collections? In her article “Rodeo Fashion”, the journalist Lorène Duquesne identifies three key drivers of this renewed interest in all things ranch-related.
First of all, America still exerts a fascination, with the appeal / rejection of the American dream and its sandmen who send the conscience to sleep. And although we don't forgive politicians for their mistakes and lies, we do excuse cowboys for the errors of their ways. After all, they’re the rock on which the dream was built!
Then, there’s our love of nature. "Slipping into cowboy gear is all about reconnecting with the elements. It's expressing a desire for a natural way of life, free of concrete trappings.” Wide open spaces beckon us invitingly, and on the catwalks, everyone wants to play a part in protecting them.
Finally, there’s the search for gender neutrality. Surprisingly, the manly figure of the cowboy is making way for his female counterpart, who has borrowed from his wardrobe to create a look that combines the best of both worlds. The woman is no longer represented as a silly little saloon dancer but as the male alter ego. Not so much the story of how the Wild West was won, but rather how the gender war was put to bed.
So, cowboy boots at the ready, girls - it’s time to Wu the Wild West!