Western & English Today

SUM 2015

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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4 Western & English Today SUMMER 2015 PUBLISHER'S forum Saluting the 35th Anniversary of a Cultural Phenomenon B ACK IN THE SUMMER 0F 1980, I WAS preparing to enter graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin and working as a graphic designer at a then-5- year-old upstart of a magazine called Texas Monthly. T at summer in the Texas Monthly of ces, it seemed everyone was talking about "the movie," which had been patterened af er an Esquire magazine story that had appeared a couple years before, entitled "T e Ballad of the Urban Cowboy: American's Search for True Grit." T at story, assigned by Esquire editor Clay Felker, resulted from a trip to Houston Felker made at the behest of Texas Monthly's founding editor and my then-boss, William Broyles Jr., to speak at a publishing course that Broyles had helped organize at his alma mater, Rice University. When Broyles asked Felker what he wanted as an honorarium, Felker responded that just a night out in Broyles' hometown of Houston would be f ne. So Broyles took him to Gilley's, whose 4,000-strong throng prompted Felker to slip away from Broyles to call his writer, Aaron Latham, at 3 a.m. that morning with an urgent request: get on the next f ight to Houston. Latham did, and when his story came out, he immediately started receiving hundreds of phone calls from people vying for the movie rights. A suburban Houston cineplex — of all places — premiered the f lm, with Gilley's — of course — being the site of the af er-party, attended by such luminaries as Mick Jagger's then-girlfriend and wife-to-be Jerry Hall, artist Andy Warhol and iconic designer Dianne von Furstenburg. Esquire writer Latham, donned in cowboy boots and hat, arrived hand- in-hand with svelte blonde television journalist Leslie Stahl. Even with a fortuitous start such as this, no one could have predicted the impact this movie would have on the Western-wear industry: National sales mushroomed by 30 percent in the year following the movie's release, and boot companies' prof ts soared: For example, Tony Lama's prof ts doubled in a year. T e cowboy look permeated mainstream fashion, with European designers as well as American ones feverishly releasing Western- inspired fashions, including collections from big-name designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Yves St. Laurent. And as the movie's soundtrack topped the country albums chart and rose to No. 3 on the pop chart, all along Austin's Riverside Drive as well as across the U.S., disco-dancing emporiums were converted into two-steppin' dance halls, seemingly overnight. If you get a chance, rewatch the movie, and if you haven't seen it, by all means do so and marvel — or at least, scratch your head in amazement — at the impact this 35-year-old f lm has had on the Western-wear industry. Susan L. Ebert, Associate Publisher & Editor sebert@wetoday.com

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