The Cowboy Chronicle, November 2010
The Old Frontier Clothing Company
By Jersey Kid, SASS Life/Regulator #285
The rapid rise of the sport of Cowboy Action and Mounted Shooting has spawned the emergence of a large number of period western clothing companies, allowing us to transform ourselves into our desired profession of cowboy, gunfighter, townsperson, law dog, or even “B-Western” hero. One of the problem, though, is that clothes can be average or common and quite often you attend a major shoot only to find many others looking like they shopped in your closet. This is even more pronounced on Friday and Saturday nights when most are dressed in their “Tombstone” black suit. While uniformity is acceptable, if not boring, we are extremely lucky to have a small number of specialty “upscale” companies that can provide the style, fit, fabrics, and design some of us have become used to when we return to the 21st century.
The Old Frontier Clothing Company is a great example of a high quality 19th century “design house” that markets Old West clothing centered around the 1880s – 1890s time frame. It was formed in December 1989 by Larry Bitterman, an ex attorney, who was captivated with the western lifestyle. Larry had become disillusioned with the world of practicing law and was looking for a new opportunity that would be creative, exciting and incorporate his passion for horses and the western lifestyle. As Larry became increasing less interested in law, he found himself spending more and more time at a friend’s ranch in the high desert, just outside the city of Lancaster, California. Eventually, when an adjoining 25-acre parcel became available, he bought it as his own spread. It was then he decided to do something related to western fashion, as he was disappointed that the then current offerings simply lacked the style and quality of the better fashions he was used to wearing when not dressed western.
Larry questioned why those designing western wear (if there actually were designers of western wear), were intent upon using polyester, and why western fashions had not evolved at all (as other fashions had) over the previous 60 years. Having worked in the fashion business in college, never imaging it would later play a part in a career he had not yet contemplated, he set about the task of learning the garment industry. He decided to focus on the romantic, as well as more historically accurate designs of the Victorian era (what people actually wore in the “Old West”), and since there were relatively few suppliers of such goods, it was going to be up to Old Frontier to not only design the clothing, but to manufacture it as well. During this time, I worked for a high-end fashion company in New York City, and Larry and I became fast friends, getting together on whichever coast we both happened to be at the time. Larry quickly educated himself in all aspects of developing a company, but always made sure he kept the design and fit first and foremost.
The Old Frontier Clothing Company is not only an avid supporter and vendor for SASS events, but it is a highly regarded partner to many western events including The Elko Poetry Gathering, Cheyenne Frontier Days, The Houston Livestock and Rodeo, and Cowboy Christmas to name a few. The company produces shirts, vests, frock coats, and women’s clothes as well as accessories for both. Old Frontier is not a mass production house, oft offers a number of designs with a very wide variety of fabrics. Bitterman’s stack of swatches ranges from wool blends to tweeds and cashmere in a variety of patterns and solids.
I have some very beautiful vests and a frock coat I have acquired over the years, and they are my hands down favorites. In my opinion, the frock, coats Old Frontier makes are really exceptional and are their signature product. The fit, construction, and fabric choices really make these stand out from the mass produced retailers, and it translates into those meaningful style points for which one always strives when at SASS events.
Surprisingly since Old Frontier’s goods are manufactured in the US and the quality and fabrics are of such high quality, their prices are very reasonable. The frock coats run around $285, shirts are $60, and vests are $85. It always seems to me since our sport has a rather high entry level, (did someone say horses?), a lot of people either buy generic Old West clothing or make do with what they have. Ultimately, thought, there is a desire for a better quality look, and it is great to have Old Frontier Clothing as an option. Larry said his design process is always evolving and The Old Frontier Clothing Company continues today to innovate and offer some of the highest quality fashions available, having helped reinvent what people previously thought of as “Western Wear,” over twenty years ago.
Old Frontier Clothing Company
4818 West Adams Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90016
(Finally—an article about Larry Bitterman’s Old Frontier Clothing Company! I’ve purchased my “high-end” evening costumes from him for years, and I couldn’t agree more with jersey Kid’s assessment of the quality of the products. These are the lightest weight, finest looking frock coats around!...Editor in Chief)