Confusing Fashion: Runway Cowboys Versus Real Life Cowboys

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. 


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  • 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

      • Joyce Garza

        When I saw the draft of 5989 dollars,,,ef I accept that my friend’s brother was like really generating cash in his free time with his PC. . His aunt’s neighbor has done this for only 11 months and by now repaid the loan on their home and bought a new Car .

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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.