Aesthetics Wiki

The Western aesthetic (also known as the Wild West) is a popular genre inspired by the lives of early settlers of the American Frontier. The Western aesthetic entails themes of self-reliance, solitude, and wildness. Western folklore often includes tales of lone vigilantes travelling the American Frontier on horseback, more times than not armed with a six-shooter revolver or a rifle and prepared to dole out justice.

Visually, the Western aesthetic shares many similarities to that of Country, but places an emphasis on imagery of the historical Wild West, as well as the motifs of vigilantism and adventure commonly depicted in popular Western films. While the Country aesthetic romanticizes the life of family, farming, and living in the countryside, Western focuses more on the idea of the wilderness, specifically the desert and prairie, as well as wandering town to lawless town dotted across the American Frontier.

  • A Space Western, alternatively called Space Cowboy, is a subgenre of the Western aesthetic that applies the themes of the American Frontier to outer space, or the "Final Frontier." This theme has been explored in different media such as the anime Cowboy Bebop (1998) and film John Carter (2012).
  • Another subgenre of the Wild West is the Weird West, which mixes the Western style with horror or mystery. Quentin Tarantino's 2015 film The Hateful Eight combines the Western film genre with Murder Mystery.


"Riding off into the sunset"

The Western look emerged at the time of American expansion westward from the settlers who founded the first townships. Old West attire was commonly handmade and included warm earth tones and organic materials. The outfits and style of American cowboys were inspired by Mexican Vaqueros whom taught the cowboys many of their techniques for cow herding. Wide-brimmed hats to protect from the scorching desert sun and spurs crucial for horse riding were essential for all travelling frontiersmen and women.

Sunsets and tumbleweeds are iconic symbols of the Western setting. The Western aesthetic includes barren deserts, prairies, and mountains that are scattered across the American Frontier. The outposts and small towns that inhabited the West were marked by wooden buildings, saloons, churches, and other small developments.

Crime was extremely rife in the Old West and is a major theme of the Western aesthetic. Rogue gangs of armed outlaws ran wild in the Old West, such as Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch or the Cochise County Cowboys, whom may have been responsible for connecting the term "Cowboy" to mean "Outlaw." The notorioty and shenanigans of popular Wild West gangs inspired much of Western media that followed after the fall of the American Frontier.


Common Visuals:

  • Muted tones and earth colors
  • Cowboy hats and boots
  • Horses
  • Cattle and bison
  • Cacti and other desert flora
  • Tumbleweeds
  • Sunsets and sunset colors
  • Leather
  • Guns - notably six-shooters, rifles, and shotguns
  • Cigars and cigarillos
  • Alcohol
  • Stagecoaches and covered wagons
  • Old-fashioned trains


Western fashion typically includes organic fabrics and warm tones. Leather, cowboy boots, and wide-brimmed hats mark some of the key characteristics of Western fashion. Modern rodeo fashion often includes bright colors, elaborate embroidery, and the usage of decorative rhinestones in order to distinguish different riders.


  • Button-up shirts
  • Vests
  • Canvas jackets
  • Fringe jackets
  • Ponchos
  • Frock coats
  • Dusters
  • Prairie dresses


  • Chaps
  • Trousers
  • Overalls
  • Denim jeans
  • Prairie skirts


  • Cowboy boots
  • Wellington boots
  • Dress shoes

Cowboy boots with spurs


  • Brimmed hats
  • Gloves
  • Spurs
  • Bandanas
  • Serapes
  • Bolo ties
  • Neckties
  • Belt buckles
  • Tassels
  • Lassos

Annie Oakley in a buckskin dress


  • Wool
  • Cotton
  • Canvas
  • Leather
  • Denim
  • Flannel
  • Buckskin
  • Fur
  • Fringe


  • Horseback riding
  • Ranching
  • Shooting
  • Hiking/exploring
  • Rodeo
  • Playing guitar
  • Poker
  • Line dancing


John Wayne (left) in El Dorado

Much like its namesake, the well-worn trends, traditions, and motifs of Western have been explored in great detail in a variety of mediums, most notably the Western film genre. The Hollywood Western was first popularized in the early 20th century by John Ford's 1939 film Stagecoach. John Wayne, the main actor of Stagecoach, later went on to become one of the most notable Hollywood Western film actors.

  • The term "Gunslinger" was coined by the Hollywood film industry.

The Spaghetti Western is a subgenre of the traditional Western film produced in Europe. The subgenre emerged in mid-1960s among Italian director Sergio Leone's box-office successes that caught the attention of viewers around the globe. Clint Eastwood is one of the best known actors in the Spaghetti Western film genre. Eastwood is best known for his role as "The Man with No Name" in the Dollars Trilogy.


  • The Dark Tower Saga by Stephen King
  • Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  • The Log of a Cowboy by Andy Adams
  • The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark


  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • My Darling Clementine (1946)
  • Fort Apache (1948)
  • Red River (1948)
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
  • High Noon (1952)
  • Shane (1953)
  • The Searchers (1956)
  • Rio Bravo (1959)
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960)
  • How the West was Won (1962)
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  • Fistful of Dollars (1964)
  • For a Few Dollars More (1965)
  • The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
  • El Dorado (1966)
  • Django (1966)
  • Once Upon a Time in The West (1968)
  • True Grit (1969)
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  • Mackenna's Gold (1969)
  • The Wild Bunch (1969)
  • McCabe and Ms. Miller (1971)
  • High Plains Drifter (1973)
  • Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
  • Blazing Saddles (1974)
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
  • Heaven’s Gate (1980)
  • Back to the Future, Part III (1990)
  • Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • Unforgiven (1992)
  • Tombstone (1993)
  • Open Range (2003)
  • Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  • 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
  • The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
  • No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)
  • There Will Be Blood (2007)
  • Rango (2011)
  • Django Unchained (2012)
  • The Revenant (2015)
  • The Hateful Eight (2015)
  • The Magnificent Seven (2016)
  • Hell or High Water (2016)
  • The Rider (2017)
  • Nomadland (2020)


  • Sunset Riders (1991)
  • Dead Man's Hand (2004)
  • Red Dead Revolver (2004)
  • Gun (2005)
  • Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (2005)
  • Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
  • Red Dead Redemption (2010)
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (2013)
  • Red Dead Redemption II (2018)
  • Hunt: Showdown (2018)
  • Evil West (TBA/2021)

TV Shows

  • The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)
  • Bonanza (1959-1973)
  • Cowboy Bebop (1998)
  • Deadwood (2004-2006)
  • Westworld (2016-????)

Notable Figures:

  • Annie Oakley
  • Billy the Kid
  • Buffalo Bill
  • Butch Cassidy
  • Calamity Jane
  • Doc Holliday
  • Jesse James
  • Sundance Kid
  • Wild Bill Hickok
  • Wyatt Earp

Historic downtown of Deadwood, South Dakota

Notable Places:

  • Amarillo, TX.
  • Dodge City, KS.
  • Deadwood, SD.
  • El Paso, TX.
  • Santa Fe, NM.
  • Tombstone, AZ.



  • Barns Courtney
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Billy Ray Cyrus
  • Buffalo Springfield
  • Dolly Parton
  • Elvis Presley
  • Ennio Morricone
  • Hank Williams
  • John Denver
  • Johnny Cash
  • Jimmy Dean
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Marty Robbins
  • Neil Young
  • Willie Nelson

Musical Groups

  • Alabama
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • The Black Keys
  • The Haunted Windchimes
  • The Heavy