Cowboy and Western style has gained popularity in mainstream culture, courtesy of recent entertainment trends

From Beyonce to "I'm Just Ken" and "Yellowstone", Western culture and cowboy style has become increasingly popular in mainstream culture.
George Frey/GettyImages

Whether you’ve listened to Beyonce’s new country-inspired titles, including the popular “Texas Hold ‘Em”, or sang along with the “Stetson-wearing dancers who accompanied Ryan Gosling during his Oscars performance” of “I’m Just Ken” from the Barbie movie, the aesthetic of Western culture and the Wild West has once again entered mainstream culture.

On top of Beyonce’s new country singles, with “Texas Hold 'Em” topping the Billboard Hot 100, and the film, Barbie, with “I’m Just Ken” being both nominated for an Oscar and featuring a Western inspired musical number, Lana Del Rey also announced an upcoming country album. It looks as if appreciating Western culture has become trendy and popular again.  

After a boom with the silent era, Western fiction in film became popular with a huge resurgence from the 1940s to the 1970s, with countless Western television series and films being produced to high ratings and praise. Since then, Western culture and fiction has not been as prevalent but that looks to change with this recent trend in appreciation for the Western style. 

Country music has been around for decades, and while other genres such as rock, hip hop, R&B, and metal have intertwined with pop music, it looks as though country is poised to make that crossover in a more dominant way than has not been seen in recent years.

July 2023 saw country songs occupy the top three slots of the Billboard Top 100 for the first time ever. For seven years in a row, as of 2022, the growth in country music streaming has surpassed that of the “industry average for all genres,” according to a report by AARP. 

While country music has featured pop and rock elements, pop music is looking to feature more country elements. 

The cowboy style and Western aesthetic has appeared everywhere from, “from fashion to music to wedding themes

Fashion retailer Boohoo released data that Google searches for “cowboy hat” increased 212.5% following Beyoncé’s Super Bowl announcement of her release of a country album and searches for “bolo tie” increased by a dramatic 566%.

Model Bella Hadid has been at rodeos showing support for Adan Banuelos, her equestrian boyfriend, and has been seen sporting cowboy hats out and about along with boot-cut jeans. 

Barbie movie, Warner Bros. /

The “I’m Just Ken” performance from Barbie at the Oscars featured singers in cowboy outfits referencing, “the cowboy outfits Barbie and Ken [wore] when first venturing outside of Barbieland” in the hit 2023 film.

Musician Pharell Williams has also stepped into the world of the Western trend as a result of being Louis Vuitton’s, “new creative director of menswear,” releasing a January 2024 collection that pays homage to both Black and Indigenous cowboy fashion. 

In 2023,  there was a coastal cowgirl trend that was going viral on TikTok, where users added a style that included, “billowy, oversized, crisp white button-down and wide-brim hats,”  as well as, “ denim cut-offs instead of leggings and cowboy boots instead of white sneakers.” 

Other examples of the Western aesthetic making its way into the mainstream culture include the popular 2019 cowboy boots distributed through Balenciaga, the rise of the video game, Red Dead Redemption 2, as well as country artists with pop influences that have mainstream popularity such as Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves. 

The Western aesthetic is popular again in the world of television, where while it’s no longer the days of Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Maverick, and Bonanza of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, but a contemporary telling of Western life with shows such as Yellowstone, which follows the owners of a Montana ranch.

Yellowstone was, “the most watched series of the 2022-2023 season.” 1883 and 1923, prequels to Yellowstone, have drawn in both ratings and buzz, showing that audiences will always enjoy cowboys, even if the popularity has gone through various ebbs and flows through the years. 

Fans can also look forward to seeing Kevin Costner in more Western media with the release of the first of four in Costner’s, “four-part Western film Horizon in June.”

The style of wearing a cowboy hat, boots, and rugged workwear is a style that has both waning and surging popularity, but is always a classical element and style that never completely vanishes from Amercian culture. 

As cultural trends and times have changed, so has the Western style aesthetic in that it is more open to people of all backgrounds.

In the age of social media, the cowboy is no longer purely an, “ultra-masculine, vastly white cowboy narrative,” but a narrative that includes appreciation for originators of the cowboy style, such as the Mexican vaqueros that the style drew heavy influence from. 

Fans hope there will be more love and appreciation for Black country artists with Beyonce’s country singles and album bringing a new spike in interest to Black country artists such as Lesley Riddle and Charley Pride. 

Beyonce’s mother, Tina Knowles, wrote on Instagram, that she, she “always celebrated cowboy culture growing up” in Texas, "attending rodeos and sporting Western fashion…We also always understood that it was not just about it belonging to White culture only…In Texas there is a huge Black cowboy culture…"

She continued, “When people ask why is Beyonce wearing cowboy hats? It's really funny, I actually laugh because it's been there since she was a kid.”

2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards - Show / Kevin Mazur/GettyImages

On top of this, fans can look forward to seeing the popular mega country music festival, Stagecoach, which has been incredibly in demand over the years, featuring artists such as Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Morgan Wallen, Jelly Roll, Leon Bridges, and the legendary Willie Nelson.

This year, there will be performances from artists who are not primarily country singers and bands, such as Nickelback, Diplo, Wiz Khalifa, and the Beach Boys, again showing the crossover and mainstream appeal of the country and Western aesthetic. 

As Yahoo Entertainment describes, “ Cowboy culture is quintessentially American — it represents a time of freedom and self-reliance that is easy to yearn for in such a digitally connected age.”

It is true that the “territorial tough guy” and the frequency and prevalence of seeing real-life ranch workers in every day life has slowly diminished over the years, but the cowboy style is forever trendy and a quintessential aspect of America.

No matter what, the cowboy and Western aesthetic will always be present and representative of American culture. 

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