Evolution of cowboy style —PHOTOS

With National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas just completed, many of the boots, giant belt buckles and cowboy hats will be headed home.

But Deirdre Clemente, an associate professor of history at UNLV and an American fashion expert, says there is a history behind the look.

American culture first started paying attention to Western wear during the 1930s.

“It was a time when a lot of middle-class families would take vacations out West,” she says. “They would visit dude ranches and it was the first time men and women would wear jeans.”

Concurrently, the movie industry had grown enthralled with Western movies, which Clemente says stoked the fashion’s rise.

“We all think New York when we think ‘garment industry,’ but California was a powerhouse, and L.A. the center,” she notes.

Supply for Western wear eventually met demand, Clemente adds. People were now seeing it in catalogs.

Even if people were on the East Coast, she says the fashion was used in other ways such as themed parties.

Though Westerns aren’t the trend in movies today, their influence has left a mark.

But it has transformed to be updated.

“Now we have Western wear on acid,” Clemente says. “Today, designers from uber-American Ralph Lauren to the sunglassed Karl Lagerfeld, take inspiration in the West and distribute their interpretations on a global scale.”

She says it fits to have National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

“It is a unique art form to America,” she says. “It demonstrates how Las Vegas and the West played a role in shaping a unique fashion trend.”

Contact reporter Michael Lyle at or 702-387-5201. Follow @mjlyle on Twitter.

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