L.A. Life, Daily News, Thursday, June 13, 1991
Urbanites lasso trend on hip western wear
By Valli Herman, Daily News Fashion Writer
Reprint in part:
Men and women across America are discovering how the West was worn.
Fashions styled after interpretations of the Old West and the modern cowboy are on the trail of mainstream fashion, even in urban areas such as Los Angeles.
The trend for authentic cowboy clothing started with the comeback of the cowboy boot, now a staple of the fashionable city dweller. The look has gained momentum from broad exposure on television and movie screens with “Lonesome Dove” and “Dances With Wolves.” Last week’s opening of the western comedy “City Slickers” may send western-wear fans galloping off for such real cowboy gear as Wrangler jeans, bib-front shirts, Resistall cowboy hats and ranger-style belt-buckle sets.
Western clothing hasn’t been in high demand since the early 1980s, when Joh Travolta starred in “Urban Cowboy.” His glitzy gear bore little resemblance to the current designer boutique varieties, like Guess? And Ralph Lauren. Now several companies, such as Wahoo True West Outfitters of Yuma, Ariz., and the Old Frontier Clothing Co., a Los Angeles mail-order firm, are resurrecting the vintage clothes perfect for the cover of a Louis L’Amour movel.
The western revival also may owe its life to economics: It’s classic stuff for a reasonable price.
Wrangler and Levi’s blue jeans cost $20 to $30 less than basic five-pocket jeans sold by fashion-oriented competitors.
“They get a fortune compared to what our western manufacturers charge,’ says Bobbie Nudie, owner of Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors in North Hollywood. “Western is tried and true through the years.”
Price isn’t the only difference.
“All this clothing is designed with durability in mind,” said Rancy King, owner of King’s Western Wear in Van Nuys. “And it’s made to stay in style for a long time.”
King was wearing a stone-washed, heavy-twill, fuchsia Brush Popper shirt by Wrangler. It is made to resist water and thorns, and, at $36, it’s an insurance policy on urban perils to clothing.
NMillions of Americans swear loyalty to a pant with origins in the rougn-an-tumble West. Levi’s 501 jean is virtually unchanged since Levi Strauss traded the brown canvas for indigo denim, and the saddle-scratching metal rivets on the back pockets were removed. So was a rivet at the base of the button fly – seams that cowboys sitting too close to the campfire complained that their rivets heated up.
“I think Americans are always fascinated with things that are uniquely American,” Novack said.
A shared heritage is a hard thing to find in this country, but the cowboy hero is cloming clost to providing that link.
“Americanism is up,” said Larry Bitterman, a former lawyer who has started the Old Frontier Clothing Co., a mail-0order firm offering men’s and women’s fashions based on the Old West.
“We’re just a young country, and we are finally starting to acknowledge our own history. It wasn’t really fair to call it history until recently,” he said.
“When people think of cowboys, they think of fringe and rhinestones, which is a 1950s Hollywood interpretation.”
Bitterman, himself a weekend cowboy, hopes his clothing corrects the popular image of cowboys.