Mainstream fashion in country music these days is self-consciously uncool. Today’s country stars sing about the simple joys of wearing a white T-shirt and jeans and not giving a damn what people think about that. An analysis of the top 40 male country singer’s fashion yields a laundry list of regrettable choices. Rascal Flatts bleach blonde poofs, Florida George Line and Luke Bryan’s backwards hats, Kenny Chesney’s muscle tanks, Thomas Rhett’s faux hawk, a preponderance of regrettable facial hair across the board: very few modern country artists are free of sartorial sin.

This wasn’t always the case. There was a time when country musicians were the definition of cool, and they were setting trends that hip bohemians from San Francisco to the East Village would follow. Folks across the country saw the romance of the lonesome, open road in the style of country music’s troubadours. The impact of these style icons is still felt today, even if it isn’t represented on the country Billboard Charts. Today’s “Coachella,” “hipster” and “urban rustic” fashions are deeply influenced by musicians like Gram Parsons, Hank Williams and Willie Nelson. How did we get from the sartorial heights of the Nudie suit and the embroidered western shirt to depths of the backwards rhinestone trucker hat? Discussing the intersection between fashion and country music is complicated story, but it’s one that’s left an enduring imprint on American fashion.

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