How To Dress Like Gary Cooper
Like America itself, Gary Cooper was a strange mix of elements that came together in a singular package. Ranch raised and educated in English boarding schools, Cooper combined old world style with western cool for an onscreen persona that managed to be both genteel and rugged. It’s been said that Cooper wore western clothing in a European way. While we puzzle out what the hell that means, here’s some ideas for how to cop Coopers classic style.
Often as not, Cooper favored a simple red gingham shirt. Red gingham is straight-up unabashed Americana in an adult dose. To mix it up a little and not look like you’re wearing the table cloth from an Italian restaurant, try a more complex pattern like this high-end Lyle Lovett shirt by Hamilton. For something a little less expensive and easily available, there’s this shirt from J.Crew in red, white and blue.
In the picture above, Cooper is wearing a pair of well-worn button fly jeans. I’d wager their a pair of Levis 501’s. Prior to 1947, they were the go-to jean in the west, being a product of San Francisco. Button fly jeans have a really nice retro look and another benefit. A good 20% of genital injuries to men are the result of getting their…business…caught in a zipper. With that sobering fact in mind, we’re going with some button fly jeans. In this case, the classic Levi’s 501.
My personal 501’s, after tons of wearing a handful of washes.
Levi’s 501’s are the classic blue jean. I like shrink to fits, because they mold themselves to you and eventually break in so butter smooth you don’t want to take them off. The other nice thing about these jeans is that they’re easy to find. Pretty much every boot store in America sells them. If you buy shrink to fits, make sure you try them on in the store and don’t pay attention to the size, but what fits. Buy the legs extra long, because they’er going to shrink up on you as you go.
For some investment grade denim, there’s these Tellason Ankara jeans, which are pretty much everything jeans oughta be, tough, raw, rustic and American made. Like the jeans all the old timers wore, they’re selvedge and they’ll take some breaking in.
Ideally, you’d have a basic basket weave belt to go with this. They’re another easy thing to find in any boot store and if you have access to a saddle maker, they can custom make one for you for somewhere in the neighborhood of $60. It’ll be better than any belt you could buy in a store and you’ll be supporting a home-grown, local business.
Another option are these handmade belts from Warpath Leather Goods. Matt at Warpath makes everything from rockabilly wild to cowboy rough and tumble, to order. Buckles come included and so does the patina he puts on the belts to make them look perfect with a pair of jeans. He has some standards and takes custom orders.
You’ll be wearing a very busy shirt and some very bold jeans. Keep your belt and buckle simple to avoid looking to loud. A plain old clipped corner belt buckle is a good thing to have around, and perfect for keeping your belt buckled without over-blinging you.
These Heritage Roughstock Square Toe boots from Ariat have an old fashioned toe that isn’t as broad as the modern square toe. They combine classic looks with modern technology that make them incredibly comfortable in the saddle or afoot.
I mention them a lot, but that’s because I swear by my Atwood hats, like this bound edge hat that will tie your boots and belt together. The hat is kind of plain, but the bound edge helps tie together all the big, bold colors you’re wearing together.
There you have it: classic American style that won’t let you down. Just like Gary Cooper in High Noon. This is a classic combination that doesn’t look out of place on a horse or at church. By picking three simple colors red, white and blue, with some brown thrown in, you use primary colors that look good on almost everyone to look colorful but not clownish. A bold patterned shirt with some rustic blue jeans, utilitarian belt and some rough-riding boots is an All-American look that’ll look good together as long as Apple Pie tastes good.