by David Kobe
This past weekend I had visions of Peter Fonda tossing his watch into the dust and cruising past the Colorado River alongside Dennis Hopper, both of them laughing. The strangeness and majesty of America was calling them, and on their bikes they answered the call free and unencumbered by suggested quarantine periods and mask mandates. I, on the other hand, spent nearly 4 hours waiting on the tarmac on my way to Asheville, North Carolina last week. Before that, I spent a couple of days in Austin with my girlfriend’s lovely family and a crazy Australian shepherd. It was far from Easy Rider, but after a year of lockdown, meeting new people and exploring a new place felt like a psychedelic counter-cultural experience.
In Austin, I took stock of the retail landscape. Stores in Soho often traffic in dainty European designer clothes and peculiar silhouettes, but on South Congress, they stick to the staples of the American West. Stores like Allen’s Boots, a pilgrimage site for cowboys; Maufrais, a tasteful and sleek spot to buy a new ten-gallon Stenson; and menswear store STAG offer an arrangement of items I could never envision wearing in New York: Jacquard work shirts, horsehair and gold rooster hatbands, and Cowboy boots with heels equal to anything Carrie Bradshaw would wear uptown.
When I returned to the city, I was surprised to notice New Yorkers dabbling in western wear as well. I saw urban rustlers in boots and flared jeans in front of Aimé Leon Dore and bolo ties and behemoth belt buckles in Central Park. I half expected to be lassoed on my runs on the West Side Highway. Although I am baffled, I consider myself an urban anthropologist and this column a vehicle for the current vibe. For that reason, I am sharing some of my favorite western-inspired depop finds for what I am deeming “Black Hat Summer”: a season when, because of the selflessness of our medical workers and the selfish hoarding of vaccine supplies by our federal government, we are sure to indulge our most wicked desires while looking like Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
It is worth mentioning that the American west is one of the most harshed-out ideas in our nation’s history. It is built on the ideology of Manifest Destiny, a.k.a. genocide, and the garments and patterns we idealize as authentic are so because they are tangled in the twisted, nostalgic American notion of the “noble savage.” Perhaps with the Trump era behind us (for now), we can subsume Americana, which more often than not harkens back to white supremacy, into a grander and more understanding narrative.
Double RL undeniably holds the crown when it comes to cowboy couture. Named after Lauren’s ranch in Colorado, the sub-brand offers the most elevated version of western wear. Like anything Ralph, the work shirts are the platonic ideal. But there is one problem: They are all nearly $500. I assume most Laid Off readers are not Goldman execs with houses in Aspen, so I suggest searching for “”western work shirts” on depop and viewing the plethora of pieces decorated with iconic Native American patterns that populate your screen. This one will do the trick: The white will look crisp all summer, and the native design is a nice touch that allows it to stand out, but not too much. You can be the strong silent type in this shirt and still have a touch of fun here and there. It’s also a steal at 1/20 the price of a Double RL piece.
This piece from Wayne Scott, a defunct brand known for its glittery details, is a bedazzled pop celebration of indigenous ceramics. Smart, clean, and in new condition, it would be perfect to wear to your grandmother’s vacation home in Scottsdale. Imagine the envy in her friend Doreen’s eyes when you arrive at lunch in this shirt and a wrist-full of tortoise bracelets. It’s over for all you Phoenix metropolitan area retirees.
This duster coat made of sturdy denim has nice striped shoulders and deep pockets to house your wildflowers, carrots, and provisions as you make your way to the nearest town just over the ridge. The duster coat was the official uniform of the Texas Ranger and the unofficial uniform of the most stylish stagecoach robbers. It is also the official uniform of a cool desert evening.
Cue the galloping horses from the “Bound 2” video! This piece is perfect for charming the horse girl dearest to your heart. The faded woven indigo, amber, and brown colors make for a rich, earthy colorway. The jacket is well worn and the creases create a loose fit.
In my brief time in Austin, it became clear to me that the ratio of bad cowboy boots to good ones is about 2:1. There were simply too many pairs with crazy colorways, more reminiscent of Croc rubber than of genuine leather. Then again, the most minimal Cowboy boots are Tecovas, and while they are of fine quality, they tend to feel like Allbirds for ranchers. Instead, I’d point you to this pair. They’ve seen a hard day’s work, have a respectable heel that won’t hurt your feet, flaunt a flawlessly faded brown hue, and are only $30. A quick search will yield you others just like them, most under $100 (or the price of a small bounty).
I am the kind of psychotic person who has eBay alerts, email alerts, and depop notifications set for Levi 501s in my size. In the words of The Hills’ Whitney Port, “Jeans can be really addicting. There’s, like, always new ones.” The same goes for old ones. I’d say I started seriously hunting for jeans online around two years ago, and at that time I could find vintage 501s in my size under $50 with relative ease. For whatever reason, that well has run dry. Perhaps the drought-like conditions are due to the rising popularity of vintage clothing online, or over-exposure from Tik-Tok. Whatever the case may be, I feel like a prospector who got to California at the very end of the gold rush: I was there just long enough to taste glory but not long enough to end up rich. This is all to say, I have switched my notifications and now scour for Wrangler bootcut jeans. Since Wrangler’s introduction in 1947, the company’s pants have been the gold standard for professional rodeo cowboys. The jeans linked above are a great women’s pair, and should be sturdy enough for breaking horses or simply exploring your newfound freedom.
It’s a tiny cowboy hat for your frog. Pretty simple, partner.
Last summer in Indiana with my family, I made essentially the same summer salad every single day: chopped spring mix, minced garlic, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and a light pour of olive oil. It’s simple but addictive. If True Grit (1969) is to be believed, the Cowboy diet consisted basically of coffee, moonshine, strange stews, and hand-rolled cigarettes; but John Wayne could have used a kale caesar every once in a while. This monkey pod salad set is in great condition and would be perfect for hosting guests at your second home in Livingston, Montana—or, more likely, on your Ridgewood rooftop.
David Kobe co-edits Laid Off NYC's Politics section and writes our monthly "Depop Happenings" column. Get to know him better: @david_kobe
*Thumbnail image: Still from Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), with a special guest.