2019 Fall Fashion: A Cowboy Disruption

Nicholas Youngblood
Nick is in the Normal military canvas jacket, $115; O.N.S. village crew T-shirt in khaki, $44; and Nifty Genius J.P. five-pocket moleskin slacks, $139, all at Samson, A Men's Emporium. Ciara wears a Free People Apollo jacket, $168; Free People Love Me camisole, $58; and Free People relaxed, cotton skinny jeans, $98, all at Macy's.

You don’t have to look long to find influences from the wild west in today’s fashion trends. The cowboy look is back, and we’re not talking about just the fabric and fluff.

Cultural influences have played a large part this season. For one, the cowboy culture is more inclusive than ever before. This summer’s record-breaking success of rapper Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” proves that a cowboy song released by a rap artist can be wildly successful. There are other musical examples, too, in Solange’s “When I Get Home” and Mitski’s “Be the Cowboy.”

Clearly, the cowboy ethos is no longer solely the domain of straight, white men, if it ever was. In 2017, Smithsonian Magazine reported that about a quarter of all cowboys were black, despite their portrayal in popular cinema. On social media, fashion archivist Bri Malandro coined the term “the yeehaw agenda” to describe the marriage of country-western style and black women’s fashion.

Marginalized groups are using the western aesthetic to prove that anybody can occupy that cowboy space, according to Denison University visiting instructor Terrance Dean, a former MTV executive. Dean cites figures such as John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and even Donald Trump as embodiments of the traditional cowboy masculinity.

“I think we have not fully explored the breadth and the elasticity of masculinity,” Dean says. “What we have become very centered on is this idea that masculinity comes one way, one size fits all. And I think … women of color and the LGBT community are pushing these boundaries.”

The #MeToo movement and continuous online discussions of toxic masculinity may also be impacting the moment. “I think women … are taking back their own power, and I think the cowboy is just a personification of strength,” says Cindi Turnbull, costume designer and fashion history professor at Denison. “A cowboy hat makes you feel strong.”

Meanwhile, even straight men can relax their standards with today’s cowboy style. Floral shirts, flowing hair and graphic jackets are tools that test fashion fluidity for anyone paying attention.

For decades, denim-clad gunslingers rode horseback across silver screens all over the world, embodying independence, stoicism, tenacity, freedom and, above 

all, machismo. For better or for worse, they reflected an America that saw itself as both a dominating world power and a scrappy underdog.

Living in an age of disruption, the cowboy image is next up for reimagination. Some say fashion is a performance, so don your hat and bandanna this fall as fashion becomes an all-American celebration. 

About the Setting

This photo shoot was scheduled at the Ohio Theatre to salute the glamour of one of Downtown’s most historic buildings. This year is the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, which was created in 1969 to save the ornate Ohio Theatre from destruction.

Anne Dornan, one of the first women to graduate from the Columbia School of Architecture, chose the art and furnishings for the new Ohio Theatre, even going on a safari to find appropriate decorations for an African corner that was located in the lower lounge. It is estimated that approximately $1 million was spent on art and furnishings for the theater, including several chandeliers. The theater was designed in the Spanish-Baroque style by architect Thomas W. Lamb, a native of Scotland who lived in New York and designed early movie houses for Loews Theatres and others across the country.

The Ohio Theatre’s new addition was added to the east side of the building in 1984, providing a larger lobby space, rehearsal space and additional CAPA office spaces.