How to Make the Transition From Cowboy-core to Boho Revival

While western wear is still trending, fashion has already jumped on the boho-revival bandwagon being led by Chloé‘s new creative director Chemena Kamali.

Luckily, going from the cattle ranch to Woodstock isn’t that far a stretch, given the range of overlap between the two trends. Both share denim, decorative boots, big hats, bigger belts and (of course) a whole lot of leather and fringe.

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While promoting her “Cowboy Carter” persona, Beyoncé set off a media frenzy in two fringed leather looks, one by Balmain and the other by Versace. Meanwhile, Kamali’s recent collections have fueled nostalgia for all things ’70s, making fringed leather chaps, jackets and hobo bags the new pieces to covet.

Beyoncé at the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards held at the Dolby Theatre on April 1, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Billboard via Getty Images)
Beyoncé wearing Versace at the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards.
Chloé Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection at Paris Fashion Week
Chloé, fall 2024

Stetson, which saw sales of its cowboy hats surge after getting a thumbs-up from Beyoncé, is looking to its signature fringed suede jacket to see it through the boho renaissance. Tyler Thoreson, vice president of marketing for the Western heritage brand, said he’s already witnessed “significant uptick” in sales over the past year. “We’re continuing to add new colors to keep up with demand, which tells me that for many women, one is not enough,” he added.

By the Namesake founder Rosa Halpern would agree. After country music star Lainey Wilson shimmied onstage at a Billboard event last month wearing her “Petite Prince” leather jacket with removable fringe, customers have been “particularly enthusiastic,” about adding the embellishment to their own custom versions, she said.

Lainey Wilson at the Billboard Country Power Players held at Gilley's on May 14, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Gilbert Flores/Billboard via Getty Images)
Lainey Wilson wearing By the Namesake at the Billboard Country Power Players event in May.

While fringe and leather have certainly become a fashion statements, they were initially prized for function. Cowboys and frontiersmen adopted the embellishment from American Indian tribes, which cut tassels into suede buckskins or deer hides to keep warm and to camouflage them in the wild.

Flappers took to fringe during the Jazz Age, lending it an association with free-spirited youth and counterculture that continued into the ‘50s when motorcyclists used it to adorn leather biker jackets. It was during this era that cowboys and their fringe finally entered into the zeitgeist, piggybacking on the rise of Hollywood’s Western genre.

Musicians from Elvis to Stevie Nicks began incorporating fringe into their elaborate stage costumes in the late ’60s, and by the early ’70s it was commonplace among festival-going hippies who tended toward similarly groovy designs.

Leather and suede fringes resurfaced again in the mid-2000s during the original boho revival, this time with a high-fashion gloss known as “boho chic.” “It” girls of the moment showed the look could be less of a gimmick, adding minimal fringe touches to T-shirts and jean outfits or day dresses.

Actress Sienna Miller arrives for her sister Savannah's wedding at Buckland House near Okehampton, Devon, Saturday September 24, 2005. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA   (Photo by Chris Ison - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sienna Miller arrives for her sister Savannah’s wedding in 2005 in a fringe vest.

Nipping at the spurs of cowboy-core, their style could bring the trend “renewed energy,” said Linda Cui Zhang, associate fashion director at Nordstrom, by adding “softness and movement to the structured denim and leather we commonly associate with Western.”

One could imagine an Olsen twin or Sienna Miller (still the reigning queen of boho chic) sporting some of today’s luxurious-looking fringed leather pieces from Stella McCartney’s faux Falabella bag to Michael Kors’ suede miniskirt.

Noting these can be lean more Western or boho based on preference and occasion, Zhang added: “A couple of fringe pieces can result in many outfit solutions.”

Two trends, one stone.

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