Western Wakening


Photo by Grace Kosten

Thanks to the revival of “cowgirl culture” in pop culture, western boots have emerged as a fashion staple among young women.

Within the last 6 months, Los Angeles has endured a kick-up in Western style dress for women, the same period in which women have continued to strive for freedom in choosing how to express themselves through clothing. Willa Fogelson, 17, said a driving force behind wearing cowboy boots is her desire to not only remain connected with her roots, but also allow her to feel empowered.

“I feel like I’m connecting back to my roots because my mom’s side is all Southern,” Fogelson said. “But I also think that there’s a level of power you hold when you wear boots like that. I think any boots that make a loud noise and go further up your leg, make you feel powerful.”

In addition, she continued by saying that the imagery and notion of a ‘cowgirl’ has often been sexualized in contemporary culture, but has now been modernized to be a symbol of power. “I think that the idea of a ‘cowgirl’ was sexualized for a long time,” Fogelson said. “I feel like cowboy boots were in and out of style for that reason, but I think they’re coming back in style now for a different reason, boots are really just empowering to the person wearing them.” Cowboy boots also carry the symbolic idea of freedom and the liberation to choose how to present oneself, according to a Wall Street Journal article examining the resurgence in popularity of Western dress. Kate Hassett, 18, began wearing cowboy boots as a continuation of her so-called ‘ironic’ fashion style which includes wearing other pieces of eclectic clothing. Yet, she continues to wear boots due to the lack of gender associated with them.

“So I started wearing cowboy boots ironically, because that’s my fashion style, but have continued to wear them,” Hassett said. “The fact that there’s no gender in fashion is empowering, and to have your own perception on fashion and not having anything constricting you is powerful. It’s empowering for a woman to wear cowboy boots because they used to be a part of men’s clothing, but
now women have adopted them.”

Hassett said she gained inspiration from cowboy boots and has implemented their imagery in her artistic painting style.

“I made a painting about cowboy boots called ‘Girl in Cowboy Boots’, where I stated that clothing is
ungendered and how we’re progressing as a society,” Hasset said. “I think women are starting to wear men’s boots because we are becoming more inclusive to different genders and sexualities. Fashion is like a statement, women, men and all people can make the statement that there’s no gender in fashion.” Lily Kinnear, 18, said that cowboy boots have been blended with femininity as a dismissal of previous gender constructs.

“I think cowboy boots can certainly be empowering for women,” Kinnear said. “Western, cowboyx things are traditionally associated with a hyper-masculine, tough Wild West culture so wearing them with a floral dress, for example, can simultaneously be a rejection of those gendered connotations and a way to sort of channel their history of endurance and grit.”

Founder of Texas-based luxury cowboy boot brand Miron Crosby, Lizzie Duplantis said that cowboy boots, although being a previous staple of Southern male culture, have grown to be a staple of modern fashion. “Boots are niche in contemporary fashion, and are going beyond to grow an industry where cowboy boot design was so male dominated and it’s interesting to see what’s being done for females in that sense.”

According to Duplantis, Miron Crosby has encountered a 20% increase in sales since last February and the company doubles their sales of cowboy boots
annually. She attributes the increase of sales to the increased popularity of the boots and their recognition as investment pieces of clothing. “It’s exciting, but it speaks to the relevance of the category; it’s not just people loving and getting them, but also wanting to invest in them,” Duplan-
tis said. “And again, like how these heirloom quality products that mark life’s occasions. ”

Duplantis also continues the female empowerment narrative caused by wearing boots, within her company. “We’ve also tried to be intentional in our business model, the factory is all female,” Duplantis said. “Like our entire book keeping team is female and we have a fully female team. It’s really, really neat to feel like you’re in a position to empower people around you. And that’s been a neat position to be in, to empower women in a previously male-dominated field.”