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Senin, 27 Juni 2011

Western Apparel and Sundance Chic

Western apparel wasn't born on the runway, conceived of by some fashion genius or eclectic designer in his studio. No, western wear was born of the dirt and rocks of the American west, of the life in the saddle. Cowboy boots in particular tell the story of this genesis, having been commissioned by one of the early cowboys on the cattle drives of the late 1860s- when they realized that the military riding boots they were wearing was not right for the job- and there really weren't any boots available that met their specific needs.

Life in the saddle became just a little bit safer with the pointed toe, and the stacked heel that provides dramatically improved stability in the stirrups- and the added protection the high thick leather shaft. The new boots didn't make the weeks on the trail any shorter, but fording rivers yielded fewer wet feet, getting dragged by your horse because of a foot tangled in the stirrup is less likely. The ease of sliding one's boot into and out of the stirrup increased confidence, and the even made snakes less of a threat and so on. There were, and still are, distinct advantages to the western apparel that was designed in response to the dangers and conditions of the west and tried and tested on those same ranges.
Of course, anyone looking around today will have noticed that cowboy boots are much, much more popular than their beginnings could have predicted. In fact, cowboy boots are now iconic- for function and fashion. They represent a culture and history for sure, but they've become so much more than that since their creation. You don't just see them on the feet of country music stars or someone living and working in a western community. You'll see them on the feet of rock stars, movie stars, your average Joe on the street and on children- and paired with everything from dressy skirts to denim shorts of women and more. They are, in short, very popular. How they became popular is a combination of Hollywood, television, and fashion. Hollywood has had several periods wherein the western genre has been very popular. This has included a number of subtypes of the western genre as well. Television too has had long-running series that captured the period, while regularly taking a liberty or two to make it more interesting, it still helped popularize and make western wear and especially cowboy boots to many more people- and making them recognizable across the country.
Fashion's contribution to the popularity of western apparel has be varied, and is perhaps best showcased in the 1999/2000 fall/winter show in which Michael Kors, Ralph Loren, Marc Jacobs and BCBG's Max Ariza presented their southwestern-inspired lines. Michael Kors is credited with calling his fashion line "Sundance Chic." Because of the nature of fashion, this trickled down into ready-to-wear in a slightly diluted fashion, but there's no diluting cowboy boots. If anything, they became more varied because when worn for fashion, there is more room to get creative than when selling to folks whose boots will come in covered in dust and dirt and the end of every day.

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