Last time we talked about John Wayne’s more polished look, with a rugged but structured blazer and a gingham shirt. Today we’re going to talk about his usual look: Solid colored shirt, leather vest, and what appear to be double knit slacks.
Since western wear isn’t really fancy and revolves around what were basically outdoors and workwear staples dressing like one of your western movie heroes isn’t going to be hard. Jeans, shirt, hat, boots, done.
What is hard is trying to transfer some of the feel and look of a movie costume to something that doesn’t look silly or dated in the real world.
People might have really strong feeling about leather vests. Some bikers will fight and die for their colors. For men of a certain age the leather vest was a macho thing to wear. Most of those guys are retired now. Leather vests have pretty much been left to narcos of certain vintage and the sort of neckbearded nerds that have adopted the leather trench coat as well. That isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing to wear. If you have a leather vest and can pull it off, congratulations. Most of us can’t do it.
A leather vest is also really impractical since its heavy, lets a lot of wind through and gets roughed up easily. Which is why we’re going to go with what I think is a good staple for any man to have in his closet.
The Puffer Vest.
Hear me out. If the purpose of a vest is a warm layer to keep your core warm and your arms free while throwing a few extra pockets in the bargain then it’s really hard to wrong here. These vests are light, durable (unless you ride through ocotillos all day, those things will shred almost anything) wind resistant and warm. They’re also a classic piece of western wear. Consider these two vests from Buffalo Jackson:
Both of these have the cool, classic details like the corduroy yokes and brass snap buttons that place it firmly in the western wear world. They updated cotton/poly fabric negates some of the plasticky sheen. If you’re a really skinny guy, the puffier version on the left will give you a little more heft in your appearance. The taco appreciating gentleman like myself can go with the slimmer fitting version on the left for all the warmth of a puffer vest without adding enough bulk to look like the Michelin Man. Going with a ruddy color like the red or orange is a nice call back to the warm brown of the Duke’s usual vest. Pair it with a solid blue shirt and your favorite pair of jeans and you’re there. A rugged, practical vest that is less expensive and way more useful than what John Wayne always wore. If you want to go whole hog with the double knit slacks a word of advice: wear khakis instead.