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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.

Visuals[]

Ride-into-sunset

"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 who 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 or semi-arid 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, who may have been responsible for connecting the term "Cowboy" to mean "Outlaw." The notoriety and shenanigans of popular Wild West gangs inspired much of Western media that followed after the fall of the American Frontier.

Cowboy3

Common Visuals:

  • Muted tones and earth colors
  • Cowboy hats and boots
  • Horses
  • Cattle and bison
  • Cactuses 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 steam trains

Fashion[]

Boots-and-Spurs

Cowboy boots with spurs

Western fashion typically includes organic fabrics and warm tones. Fashion often revolved around utility and practicality for outdoor work. Leather, cowboy boots, and wide-brimmed hats mark some of the key characteristics of Western fashion. Brimmed hats were a cowboy's most important piece of clothing, as they helped keep the elements out of their eyes and face when riding or doing any other work. Cowboys often took extra care into upkeeping the quality of their hats, often owning hat brushes or taking them into town to get them reshaped or repaired. Good quality hats were often a family heirloom that could be passed down for many decades.

Modern rodeo fashion often includes bright colors, elaborate embroidery, and the usage of decorative rhinestones in order to distinguish different riders.

Tops[]

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

Bottoms[]

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

Footwear[]

  • Cowboy boots
  • Wellington boots
  • Dress shoes
AnnieOakley2

Annie Oakley in a buckskin dress

Accessories[]

  • Brimmed hats
  • Gloves
  • Spurs
  • Bandanas
  • Serapes
  • Bolo ties
  • Neckties
  • Belt buckles
  • Tassels
  • Lassos
  • Colorful, especially turquoise, jewelry

Fabrics/Textiles[]

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

Activities[]

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

Media[]

JohnWayneElDorado

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.

Books[]

  • The Dark Tower Saga by Stephen King
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 7: Steel Ball Run by Hirohiko Araki
  • The Log of a Cowboy by Andy Adams
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  • The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  • Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
The iconic standoff from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)

The iconic standoff from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)

Films[]

  • The Life of General Villa (1914)
  • El prisionero trece (1933)
  • El compadre Mendoza (1934)
  • Vámonos con Pancho Villa (1936)
  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • My Darling Clementine (1946)
  • Fort Apache (1948)
  • Red River (1948)
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
  • High Noon (1952)
  • Springfield Rifle (1952)
  • Shane (1953)
  • Bandido! (1956)
  • Giant (1956)
  • The Hidden One (1956)
  • The Searchers (1956)
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
  • Rio Bravo (1959)
  • They Came to Cordura (1959)
  • Juanito (1960)
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960)
  • Juana Gallo (1961)
  • How the West was Won (1962)
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  • A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
  • For a Few Dollars More (1965)
  • The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
  • El Dorado (1966)
  • Django (1966)
  • The Professionals (1966)
  • The War Wagon (1967)
  • 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)
  • The Gatling Gun (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)
  • Young Guns (1988)
  • Young Guns II (1990)
  • Back to the Future Part III (1990)
  • Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • Unforgiven (1992)
  • Tombstone (1993)
  • And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003)
  • Open Range (2003)
  • Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  • 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
  • The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
  • Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)
  • There Will Be Blood (2007)
  • Rango (2011)
  • The Lone Ranger (2013)
  • The Revenant (2015)
  • The Hateful Eight (2015)
  • The Magnificent Seven (2016)
  • News of the World (2020)
  • The Power of the Dog (2021)
  • Butcher's Crossing (2022)
  • Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)
  • Horizon: An American Saga (2024)
Red-dead-redemption-2

Red Dead Redemption II (2018)

Games[]

  • Mad Dog McCree (1990)
  • Sunset Riders (1991)
  • Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold (1992)
  • Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters (1994)
  • The Last Bounty Hunter (1994)
  • Fast Draw Showdown (1994)
  • 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)
  • West of Loathing (2017)
  • Red Dead Redemption II (2018)
  • Hunt: Showdown (2018)
  • Evil West (2022)
  • Weird West (2022)

TV Shows[]

  • The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)
  • Bonanza (1959-1973)
  • Lucky Luke (based on the comic series) (1984-1985)
  • Trigun (1998)
  • Cowboy Bebop (1998)
  • Deadwood (2004-2006)
  • Westworld (2016-2022)
  • Yellowstone (2018-)
  • Billy the Kid (2022-)

Notable Figures:[]

  • Annie Oakley
  • Billy the Kid
  • Buffalo Bill
  • Butch Cassidy
  • Calamity Jane
  • Doc Holliday
  • Jesse James
  • Poker Alice
  • Harry Alonzo Longabaugh aka the "Sundance Kid"
  • "Stagecoach" Mary Fields
  • Wild Bill Hickok
  • Wyatt Earp
  • Lillian Smith
DeadwoodSD

Historic downtown of Deadwood, South Dakota

Notable Places:[]

  • Alabama Hills, CA.
  • Amarillo, TX.
  • Canyon De Chelly, AZ.
  • Dodge City, KS.
  • Deadwood, SD.
  • El Paso, TX.
  • Jackson Hole, WY.
  • Monument Valley, AZ.
  • Santa Fe, NM.
  • Tombstone, AZ.
  • Valles Caldera, NM.

Music[]

  • "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" written by Stan Jones, covered by various artists.
  • "Big Iron" by Marty Robbins.
  • "Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard.
  • "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals.
  • "Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
  • "All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down" by Hank Williams Jr.
  • "Cowboy Town" by Brooks & Dunn.
  • "Amarillo" by Morning by George Strait.

Artists[]

  • Barns Courtney
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bob Seger
  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Buffalo Springfield
  • Burl Ives
  • Charley Crockett
  • Cody Jinks
  • Dolly Parton
  • Elvis Presley
  • Ennio Morricone
  • Hank Williams
  • John Denver
  • Johnny Cash
  • Jimmy Dean
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Marty Robbins
  • Neil Young
  • Waylon Jennings
  • Willie Nelson

Musical Groups[]

  • Alabama
  • The Black Keys
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • The Dead South
  • The Haunted Windchimes
  • The Heavy
  • ZZ Top

Resources[]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowboy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_frontier https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cowboys_and_cowgirls

Playlists[]

Gallery[]


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