Feature Column
Exclusive to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

Column #13 - published August 5, 1998

!!!! It's So Cool It's Red Hot:
It's Western Wear !!!!!

"Check this cat out: tight fitting Levis with the cuffs rolled up.
(1950s advesrtisement for Levi blue jeans)"

BLUE-JEANS in all colors:
Not Just Pants, But A Way Of Life !!

It was 1958 and all the kids in my school in Como, Italy, were wearing grey flannel suits with white shirt and tie. It was during that summer that my mother bought me my first pair of blue-jeans: they were of a bargain brand, had orange stitching and I had to turn up my cuffs, because they were too long. My mother said that all the kids in America wore them like that. That's when my love affair with blue-jeans and Western Wear began. Shortly thereafter the search for Authentic American made blue-jeans began in earnest: at the flea market in Viareggio I found my first LEE RIDERS with a real leather branded label, just like the cowboys in America wore!!! They were rigid, I mean rigid, so rigid that they would stand upright on their own two legs!! And they smelled, man, they smelled, they smelled sooooo good!!!! What was it that made a new pair of blue-jeans smell so good in the 1950s?? Was it the corn-starch? I don't really know!! It was a smell more invigorating than that of a freshly brewed espresso and more captivating than an award-winning French bakery!!

"Nothing is tougher and rougher than Lee Riders!!
Too bad they aint making then anymore, only pale imitations!"

Soon thereafter came the LEE WESTERNERS, which were identical to the Lee Riders but were off-white or tan in color, and were made of a heavy semi- satin cotton twill. Elvis Presley wore the classic Lee Westerner jackets in many different colors in several of his movies!! Even his black leather jacket from the 1968 TV show is styled after the model of Lee Westerners/Lee Riders.

In the 1950s nearly all blue-jeans were "cowboy-cut", straight leg, and you wore them skin-tight and low on the hips with the cuffs rolled-up. You were looking to achieve a natural authentic fade at all points of heavy wear like the thighs, the buttocks, and... well you get the picture! None of this phony "stone-wash" or "acid wash" nonsense, none of this "relaxed" or "baggy" granpa look!! "Loose-fit" was for sissies, not cowboys!!

An ad for LEVI's 501's in the 1950s proclaims:".... And the snug, trim, low on the hips cowboy-cut means real freedom of action- no binding, no bagging...." Of course in school the priests were outraged by blue-jeans as another symbol of evil American influence subverting traditional Italian culture. After the "white" Lee Westerners, I found in Lugano, Switzerland, the powder- blue 13MWZ Wranglers: they had white stitching, silver rivets, and were made of a light blue denim. When you cuffed them the inside was even of a lighter blue!!! An incredible piece of American workmanship indeed!!

"Texas Rockabilly Legend Groovey Joe Poovey understands that Western Wear is The Best In The West And The Most In The East To Say The Least!!"

Cowboy Ben designed the 13MWZ Wranglers for Blue Bell in 1948. To this day you can buy them very similar to the 1950s model. They have been popularized by many of today's Country stars: too bad so many of these artists do not match their taste in 1950s-style blue jeans for a taste in 1950s-type music!! Pointless to say that the powder-blue Wranglers with white stitching and silver rivets are not made anymore!!

"Red Denim Wrangler Blue Jeans: it took me 40 years to find them!!"

"Be Bop A Lula, she's the girl in the Red Blue-Jeans..." sang Gene Vincent, and also "Red BlueJeans And A Pony Tail". For about 40 years I have been wondering and searching and wondering and searching: how will these RED blue jeans look like?? Who makes them?? Where are they?? Well, last March I finally found them: they are Wranglers of red denim with white stitching, basically very similar to the cowboy-cut 13MWZ's!! From my research neither Lee nor Levi were making red denim jeans, only Wrangler, so these must be the puppies Gene was singing about in his songs!!

On a final note, Italian Rock'n'Roll singer Adriano Celentano had a song titled "Blue Jeans E Rock'n'Roll" which said:"...c'e tanta gioventu con i blue jeans che balla il Rock'n'Roll..." which means: ".... there are so many young people in blue jeans who dance to the Rock'n'Roll....". INDEED!!

Is The Place Where The WEST Really Goes WILD!!

"A Stunning H-Bar-C: The West is Wild!!"

Let's make this clear first: there were no Western shirts in the Old West!! Blue-jeans, cowboy hats and cowboy boots have been around for over 100 years but the classic Western shirt started in the 1930s (although the beginnings went back further) and reached it's peak in the 1940s and 1950s. If you go into a Western shop today they'll try to stiff you with many shirts which have almost nothing "Western": they took away the pearl snaps, they took away the pointed western yokes and even the two chest pockets!! Don't ever waste your money on pathetic crap like that!!

H-Bar-C and Rockmount Ranchwear to this day manufacture shirts very similar to some of their legendary 1940s and 1950s styles. Rockmount even uses the square diamond shaped snaps, just like the ones Gene Vincent wears on his second album!! H-Bar-C (Halpern & Christenfeld) is still releasing fancy embroidered rayon models, the kind many rockabilly and Western cats wore in the 1950s!!

Few of the incredible futuristic and exotic materials found on 1950s Western shirts are used today: there were golden brocades and satins, pink & black rayons, turquoise acetates with gold threads, cotton plaids or stripes which had overlayed embroidered-like patterns (but woven into the fabric itself) of horseshoes, guns, poker cards, flowers, longhorns, what not!! Many of these very creative plaids and ombre stripes were made by Dan River. Some of these materials lasted into the 1970s, and a few (rayon) are even used to this day!!

In addition to the outrageous colors and materials, it's the Western Yokes where the Western shirt can really go wild!!! I cannot even begin to describe some of the convoluted and extreme patterns I have seen!!

The Western shirt, like your blue-jeans, must be form-fitting, sharp and crisp!! Ouchhh, those Las Vegas buffets must be kept in check!! Other superb Western shirt manufacturers were: Tem Tex, Karman, Prior, Miller, Dee Cee, Levi, Wrangler, Panhandle Slim.

"Rockmount Ranchwear still makes this beauty!! Note the deep pointed triple yoke with a pink eagle embroidered on it! Black & Turquoise are not only preferred Rockabilly colors, but are also choice Western colors!!"

When You Wear Them You Feel Ten Feet Tall!!

They have conquered the world: from the banker in Tokyo to the hep cat in Las Vegas cowboy boots are the thing!! And here is a situation where the quality and variety today is almost as good as it was in the 1950s!! The first cowboy boots using flashy colors such as red and turquoise started to appear at the end of the century and reached their peak, of course, in the 1950s!! Some of the top brands are Lucchese, Tony Lama, Justin, Nocona, Hyer, Dan Post, Paul Bond. Almost all are made in Texas. The lower priced Acme are from Tennessee. Nothing can beat the comfort of a well fit pair of cowboy boots: for the most comfort they should be leather lined.

Billions Of People Have Seen It In The Movies:
It Has Become The Second American Flag!!

Stetson, Bailey, Resistol are a few of the top brands. I prefer the 1950s style cowboy hat: it has a low crown and a high brim. Skip altogether the "urban cowboy" clown look with all the feathers and the smashed front, unless you are going to the circus!!


Just like they tried to destroy Rock'n'Roll with such sugar-coated types as Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, etc., over the years they tried to sissify blue-jeans by taking away the "Western Edge", i.e. taking away the leather label, the copper rivets, putting "designer" labels on them, making them "relaxed fit", "loose fit", etc. The same process of "Easternization" and "bourgoiseization" has happened to the Western shirt: they killed the snaps, they killed the western yokes. What crap!!

Don't fall for it!! Don't be a traitor!!! Stand up for the West!! Demand your Western Wear raw and savage and flashy and authentic!!! The Soul and Heart of America is at stake here!! These are not just "clothes"!!!! They embody and represent American history, culture, the Heart and Soul of America, A Way Of Life, an attitude, a philosophy, the Cowboy Way with its quest for Freedom and Opportunity, a dream which can become reality, the Wild Wild West. All this still lives in the hearts of millions, all this still lives in Western Wear!! Your Authentic Western Wear, with a good dose of Rockabilly Music, will help you reach a state of mind where you really CAN rope the moon with your lariat, like Pecos Bill did in the movies, if you try hard enough!! :-)

"Ray Campi, The Rockabilly Rebel, chooses a red H-Bar-C with a royal flush embroidery. After more than 40 years, this shirt is still made today!!"

And remember: It's So Cool, It's Red Hot, It's Western Wear!!

Always Rollin' The Rock,
Rockin' Ronny Weiser,
The Rockabilly Rebel Westerner from Las Vegas, Nevada,
The Wild Wild West
E-Mail Ronny at Rollin' Rock

If you dug this article, you can check out the print version or other rockabilly and American Roots music goodies in Streamline Magazine; Your Guide To Contemporary Cool. Issues are available to $2 each; please send inquiries to: Streamline Magazine, 200 Quail Run Rd., Aptos CA 95003

Always Rollin' The Rock,
Rockin' Ronny Weiser,
The Rockabilly Rebel Westerner from Las Vegas, Nevada,
The Wild Wild West
E-Mail Ronny at Rollin' Rock

ROCKIN' RONNY WEISER - See his on-site Rockabilly HOF web page