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Cowboy style rides back into pop culture, thanks to Beyoncé, 'Barbie' and Bella Hadid

Cowboys have always been cool. Now they're about to be everywhere.

Beyoncé, in a cowboy hat, and Jay-Z attend the 66th GRAMMY Awards.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z attend the 66th GRAMMY Awards. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

From the Stetson-wearing dancers who accompanied Ryan Gosling during his Oscars performance to Beyoncé's forthcoming Cowboy Carter country era, the Wild West aesthetic is back at the center of pop culture. This isn’t the style’s first rodeo, though.

Ahead of the Grammys in February, Lana Del Rey announced that she’s going country for her next album. Days later during the Super Bowl, Beyoncé released two country singles — one of which, “Texas Hold 'Em,” immediately topped the Billboard Hot 100. Her new album, Cowboy Carter, comes out March 29.

Two major pop music acts going country had an immediate impact on trends. According to data from fashion retailer Boohoo, Google searches for “cowboy hat” increased 212.5% following Beyoncé’s Super Bowl announcement and searches for “bolo tie” exploded by 566%.

Since then, cowboy style has popped up all over, from fashion to music to wedding themes. Model and trendsetter Bella Hadid has been spotted at rodeos supporting her equestrian boyfriend Adan Banuelos in cowboy hats and on the street in boot-cut jeans. Ryan Gosling and a chorus of “Kens” donned Stetsons to perform a song from Barbie at the Oscars, a reference to the cowboy outfits Barbie and Ken wear when first venturing outside of Barbieland. As Louis Vuitton’s new creative director of menswear, Pharrell Williams released a January 2024 collection that paid tribute to Black and Indigenous cowboy fashion.

Ryan Gosling performs 'I'm Just Ken' from Barbie onstage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards.
Ryan Gosling performs "I'm Just Ken" from Barbie onstage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Chances are, you might still have some Western apparel available from 2023’s coastal cowgirl craze that saw TikTokers giving the style a feminine twist with wide-brim hats and billowy shirts. Or maybe 2019’s “yeehaw” moment resonated more with you through Balenciaga’s mega-popular cowboy boots, the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 or the mainstream popularity of country artists like Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris.

The classic hat, boots and rugged workwear elements may surge in popularity from year to year, but the style never fully goes away. 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.

From the real-life horse wranglers of the late 1800s to the characters in many John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies in the mid-20th century, blazing a trail in the American West isn’t just culturally fascinating — it’s visually compelling.

That’s evident in the fact that Taylor Sheridan’s TV show Yellowstone, which follows the owners of a massive Montana ranch, was the most-watched series of the 2022-2023 season. Its prequels like 1883 and 1923 continue to draw viewers and buzz, serving as a reminder that Americans may not agree on much, but they all seem to love watching cowboys.

Kevin Costner stars in Yellowstone.
Kevin Costner in Yellowstone. (Paramount Network/Courtesy Everett Collection)

As trends resurge in the social media era, those typically left out of the original ultra-masculine, vastly white cowboy narratives get to try their hands by wearing these timeless styles. Historians estimate that one in four cowboys in the American West was Black, and cowboy style was influenced heavily by Mexican vaqueros, but people of color rarely appeared as cowboys in pop culture depictions of the period. The impact of Black country music artists has long been ignored, too, according to experts. Beyoncé’s fans have said they hope the singer’s foray into the genre as part of her Renaissance album series puts a spotlight on the forgotten Black artists who came before her, like Charley Pride and Lesley Riddle.

Beyoncé’s mom, Tina Knowles, wrote on Instagram that 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,” she said. “In Texas there is a huge Black cowboy culture.”

She went on to write, “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.”

Even after Beyoncé’s new album is released, there are still a number of cowboy-inspired projects to look forward to over the next few months, including April’s country music festival Stagecoach and the release of the first movie in Kevin Costner’s four-part Western film Horizon in June.

Though the prevalence of real-life ranch workers and territorial tough guys may have dwindled over the years, cowboy style is so undeniably cool and quintessentially American, it’ll always come moseying back into our cultural saloon.