Nice Shirt, Pardner

December 2004

Honky tonkin' tonight? We've got the shirt (and the book about the shirt) for you.

It’s hard to imagine what Nicolas Cage, Bob Dylan, and Gene Simmons might have in common. It’s harder still to fathom that it might be fashion sense. But, indeed, as Rockmount Ranch Wear’s Steve Weil chronicles in Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion (Gibbs Smith, 2004), the classic Western shirt unites cowboy culture, the mythology of the West, and a popular collectible all in one garment. ] Steve is the grandson of Jack Weil, who moved to Denver in 1927 and established Rockmount Ranch Wear in 1946. In business for more than 60 years as a wholesale Western-shirt manufacturer, Rockmount opened its doors as a retail store just two years ago. Since then, the store has become a standby for everyone from authentic ranchers to Western collectors to two-steppin’ urban cowboys. ] Steve, who has since taken over the family business and oversees the design of every Rockmount shirt, collaborated with photographer Daniel DeWeese in Western Shirts, an eye-popping and textured study that catalogs the first 50 years of the Western shirt. With a particular focus on the “Golden Age” of Western shirt design, from the 1940s to the 1960s, the book brings a rowdy, rhinestoned, and colorful look at fashion as art. And with that look, Steve aims to preserve a little piece of American Western history. ] If you’d like to amplify the experience of the book by perusing some spiffy duds in person, there are racks full of living history (as well as some serious beauty in them thar’ shirts) at the recently remodeled Rockmount Ranch Wear (1626 Wazee St., 303-629-7777).