S&S: In the book, you take on the idea of westernwear as workwear. Despite some of the more luxurious fabrics and decorative trims, westernwear is workwear. That is not to say it doesn’t have style?
SA: Of course, it's workwear. It's always been workwear, cowboys worked in it, and that's how it was produced and manufactured, and that's who it was made for originally. Were there stylish treatments of it? Yes. I think workwear, as we think of it presently, has the inflection of industrial labor, and that's great and appropriate, but a lot of these styles were worn in the West differently. But it's absolutely a workwear style. I love that about it because it proves the point that there are styles in working people's clothes, and there always have been. Just because it's not a completely rectangular straight-line chore jacket doesn't mean it's not work clothes. We have evidence of people wearing it to work for close to a couple of centuries now. So yeah, that's one of the things I want to complicate, or at least maybe open up a little bit. Just because something could have a variation with embroidery on it doesn't mean it doesn't still come from work clothes.
S&S: Of course, I need to ask about jeans. In the book, jeans stand out as an example of something that is very much part of Westernwear while also becoming just part of American style. What is it about jeans that allowed them to escape the genre, unlike, say a pearl snap shirt? I know this is a huge question.
SA: Jeans just took on their own life for some of the stereotypical reasons that we read about in every kind of denim history you could find. They were versatile and easy to wear and comfortable and durable. But, there's got to be more to it, and I think it partially comes from the branding, and it comes from the experimentations with fits and style, specifically tighter fits. Even though there are these origin stories and these histories that heritage branding plays up, I think it was the more stylish treatment of jeans that made them popular in different contexts. I don't mean by the “fashion industry,” I just mean by these denim companies responding to things that were trendier at the time and by the way people were wearing them on their own that looked cool. Like bikers, rodeo riders, and hot rod kids wearing their jeans and styling them in different ways. All of that, I think, contributed to it in the early years and then, of course, the movies, Rock n’ roll, and all those good things.