Confusing Fashion: Runway Cowboys Versus Real Life Cowboys

  • Started off with a really tricky one here. Too hard. Pass.

    (Answer: Céline Spring/Summer '16)
  • Definitely a real cowboy. That belt has won some rodeos for sure.

    (Answer: Ralph Lauren Spring/Summer '11)
  • Almost said fashion cowboy because of that runway stare but then I noticed two things: 1) those chaps are authentic if not a bit on the short side and 2) only real cowboys lean that far back in chairs without tipping over, like I always did in math class.

    (Answer: Clint Eastwood via Getty Images)
  • Fashion cowboy. Ralph you fooled me once but not again.

    (Answer: Ralph Lauren Fall/Winter '15)
  • Fashion cowboy. The white fabric's a giveaway. Terrible color to wear around horses.

    (Answer: Céline Spring/Summer '16)
  • This one's tricky because it could also be Christopher Street, but I know a pair of rodeo spurs when I see 'em and these, my friends, are rodeo spurs. REAL COWBOY.

    (Answer: real cowboy boots, photo via Flickr)
  • Céline, I know it's you.

    (Answer: Céline Spring/Summer '16)
  • Trick question. Cinematic bandits in fashion-meets-authentic cowboy clothes. Ha ha ha I'm too good at this game.

    (Answer: Thelma and Louise from...Thelma and Louise, hi. Image via Getty Images)
  • Fashion cowboy. This here's an English/Western hybrid courtesy of Nicolas Ghesquière.

    (Answer: Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer '16)
  • Fashion cowboy. That's definitely not a real cow.

    (Answer: Clint Eastwood via Film Maker IQ, tbd re: tiny furry cow.)
  • Fashion cowboy. A real cowboy in white boots (thus implying it's rodeo time) would have added way more rhinestones.

    (Answer: Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer '16)

    (Answer: Real John Travolta cowboy via Cineplex)
  • Dolly Parton.

    (Answer: Miu Miu Resort '16)
  • Real cowboy but what a great outfit.

    (Answer: Jamie Foxx, real cowboy, via NY Daily News still of Django Unchained/)
  • Cowperson.

    (Answer: Miu Miu Resort '16)
  • Lady Mary at the rodeo.


    (Answer: Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer '16)
  • Too easy, Isabel Marant.

    (Answer: Urban Cowboy John Travolta via Highlight Hollywood)
  • Festive cowboy?

    (Answer: Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer '16)
  • Hard one but I think this is backstage at Vetements SS16.

    (Answer: Brokeback Mountain and two real cowboys via Bustle)

    (Answer: Vetements Spring/Summer '16)
  • Well that's a horse not a cow, so.

    (Answer: Rodeo cowboy via PBR)
  • A little tricky, but this is definitely a blacksmith/farrier. Part of the cowboy crew.

    (Answer: Vetements Spring/Summer '16)
  • How about don't-smoke-boy.

    (Clint Eastwood via Pinterest)
  • Cowboy whose heat got turned off in her apartment.

    (Answer: Vetements Spring/Summer '16)
  • Street style cowboy. I see those 501s.

    (Answer: Nope. Real cowboy, image via Flickr)
  • Cowboy! At the disco.

    (Answer: Vetements Spring/Summer '16)
  • A cowboy who has mastered the J.Crew sleeve roll.

    (Answer: Cowboy via
  • This is an angsty teenager, not a cowboy.

    (Answer: Vetements Spring/Summer '16)
  • Fashion cowboy I think. Fringe was really big on the runways last season.

    (Answer: Cowboy, image via PBR)
  • Fashion cowboy. Purple carpet was a giveaway.

    (Answer: Nina Ricci Fall/Winter '16)
  • Either Ralph Lauren at his ranch or the finale at Chanel Pre-Fall 2014.

    (Answer: Cowboy via American Cowboy)
  • Cowboy. That's some authentic 10-gallon-hat-hair.

    (Answer: Chanel Pre-Fall '14)
  • With that cape? Fashion cowboy. (Probably just waitingg to get street styled outside Lincoln Center.)

    (Answer: Cowboy Eastwood via Movie Fan Fare)
  • Vintage pic of a cowwoman, no question. It's all in how you hold your belt.

    (Answer: Chanel Pre-Fall '14)
  • Ariana Grande? (That's a "Bang Bang" joke.) (Aren't you so glad this is over?) (Céline is that you??)

    (Answer: Clint Eastwood, Cowman, via Lopert Picture Corp)
Amelia Diamond | March 10, 2016

Cowboy boots trended on the SS16 runway and went denim in the Rihanna x Manolo collab, plus Western’s been slow-building for a while…now what?? Help!

Fashion is a perplexing mental sport. Garments shapeshift with the individual’s interpretation; opinions change after designers’ explanation. Paradoxes fly up the wazoo. One can have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear; “The collection was hard…but also soft!” — a critic; thick knitwear is often shown for spring; swimwear is has been known to be shown for fall; color on the mouth is called “a lip,” and if we have two legs, then what the hell is a pant?

Nothing is ever as it seems.

If you abide by these rules then it makes total sense that no matter how immersed in the field you are, trends will be confusing. The less esoteric, the less they can be trusted because context only further complicates things. (Just think about the superfluous amount of information you provide when you lie.)

All of this to say that if you have no idea how to tell the difference between referential paraphernalia on the runway and its inspired equivalent in real life, you are not alone. You’re among scholars and friends alike who can’t always differentiate between Balenciaga and the bedroom slipper. Going out tops and shirts. Hotdogs and vacation legs.

Or in this case, fashion cowboys and real cowboys. How is anyone expected to know?

Maybe we’re not. “Fashion is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller almost said that.

So let’s strap on our chaps and tip our hats then click through this slideshow together. I’ll take my best guess first since I opened up this saloon, but feel free to throw your lasso into the comments section if you disagree. It’s the cowboy in me — I love a good duel.

And man, do I hate tumbleweeds.

Runway photographs via Vogue Runway and; collage by Emily Zirimis. 


  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    Susan Sarandon you are my cowboy queen!!!!!!

  • Lindsay

    Way to take the bull by the horns Ms. Diamond, determining real vs. fashion cowboys is definitely the next frontier

    • Amelia Diamond

      thanks so much it was hard but someone had to do it

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  • Madamebovary

    Someone plz tell me how to wear the cowboy boots sitting in the back of my closet.

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      I would say Clint Eastwood is solid inspiration.

    • Natty

      step 1: move them to the front of your closet
      step 2: next time you reach for a pair of “regular” boots, put them on instead
      step 3: profit.

  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    I want to be a Miu Miu cowboy when I grow up.

  • This makes me actually see cowboys in a good, somehow fashionable light now

  • Living Paula Blog

    Those cowboys are very different!


  • Sarah

    I have worked my last two summers at a western outfitter called “Cowboy Town”, and not being a “cowgirl” myself, I have definitely learned how to work a shit-ton of turquoise and cowboy boots into my own personal style. Love this post.