No longer reserved for tried-and-true Halloween costumes and Old Time photo shoots in sepia tones, cowboy attire has entered the high fashion stream. As we inch closer to cooler climes and thoughts turn to fall, it’s hard to ignore the prominent American West aesthetic that flooded FW 2018 collections. From ready-to-wear down to the subtlest accessory—think braided leather bolo ties around the neck—the Wild West was on many a designer’s mind. How to dip your toe in the trend without looking like an extra from Westworld? If you approach it one piece at a time, it’s pretty easy to participate—just steer clear of a full-blown head-to-toe ensemble.
For starters, Fall’s focus on the cowboy shirt was, firstly, prevalent, and secondly, appearing in many forms. Since his inaugural collection for Calvin Klein in February of last year, Raf Simons has been playing with the idea of a cowboy shirt (and hasn’t let it go yet, either). His versions are clean and sharply tailored with perfectly pointed collars; they come in colors like cherry red and cobalt blue, or white punctuated by snap-button pockets in a contrasting hue. Unafraid shades and a streamlined look make them seamlessly translate into the wardrobes of city inhabitants. Dsquared2 buttoned the rugged denim and hardy plaid styles up to the neck, exhibiting the way a cowboy would, theoretically, wear the style fully fastened. There were even yokes fashioned from pony hair for a literal, animal-centric reference to the frontier. For a decidedly 80s take, Donatella Versace gave the shirt an electric palette—a true clash of in-your-face red, yellow, purple and blue—along with a tartan print and trimmings of gold dome studs. Think cowboy on acid.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the shirt has a softer side, too. Over at Chloé, a more feminine, printed style appeared in champagne satin, mocha brown and peach; in keeping with a scene that leans less rodeo and more walking-through-fields, ditzy floral prints and breezy silhouettes allow for the grassy, rolling plains side of Americana to come out. A scattering of itty-bitty flowers, modest skirts, and puffed sleeves are also a trickle-down look from the summer’s obsession with all things prairie.
Arguably the most direct link to Wild West imagery, the cowboy boot stomped and strutted down multiple catwalks. Fendi brought them out in embossed crocodile leather, seen in petal-pink and light blue. An of-the-moment take was crafted in logo-laden, coated leather. Isabel Marant kept hem classic in caramel brown and black, studded, metal-tipped and swaying with fringe, or slouchy and creeping up to the thighs. Paired with floral dresses or denim, the boot pulls together an outfit so easily for transitioning into fall.
If the idea of a cowboy boot feels too aggressive, then reach for an equestrian-inspired carryall. Employing the label’s namesake craftsmanship, Jonathan Anderson whipped up a soon-to-be-everywhere, semi-circle-shaped bag at Loewe. In a silhouette reminiscent of the saddle atop a horse, and decorated with a fanciful knot, the “Gate” bag may just be replacing the “Puzzle.” Opt for a soft calfskin bag in fawny browns, relying on sturdy hardware for a subtler nod to ranch life, or a full strip of fringe for a true embrace.
Other Western items you’re likely to already own? Breakout the bandanas, Pendleton blanket coats, double buckle belts (like the one Kendall Jenner wore with literally every pair of high-waisted jeans) and shearling anything. Whether you decide to dabble in the pioneering look or stray from it, in either case, it’s time to take your dusty Chloé Susanna boots out from the back of the closet.