America is in its youth. With just a few centuries under our belt, our fashion evolution has been minimal, but boy has it been bold. The development of the internet brought new realms of trade: expanding America’s range of fabric, color, and style. To really make a statement, get back to true American roots.
What better way to sport some Americana than by rocking some vintage fashion? With the right strategy, you can don some Americana in any setting, but you might want to learn the basics first.
1. Some Classic Blue Jeans
When adding an air of vintage Americana, start with the basics: denim. Since the late 1800s, denim has been a staple of American style. Practical and sturdy, jeans were perfect for miners and cowboys and remained a necessity for any wardrobe since their origination.
Fast forward to the 1950s – America had more time and resources to start investing in fashion. The development of the mass media gave way to the rise of nationwide “aesthetics.” From there, we saw the rise of one of the most iconic aesthetics in American culture: “cool.” Hollywood stars like James Dean would heavily promote the now-classic look of a leather jacket and jeans. Jeans were donned by everyone, regardless of race, class, or gender.
To style your look in the essence of the 1950s Americana, roll some dark wash jeans up a couple times and pair with white socks and saddle shoes. If you’re really feeling USA vibes, opt for a subtle use of red, white, and maybe blue, too. Careful not to go overboard. You can style this Americana look simply by pairing a white button down and some statement earrings.
2. The Timeless Jean Jacket
In the later twentieth century, denim would encroach on other fashion items, most notably the jean jacket. Levi Strauss is credited with the original development of the jacket, as with jean pants. By the 1960s, models, farmers, and every day folks were donning the jean jacket.
To achieve a hint of vintage Americana with your look, pair the jean jacket with a bandana. If you’re really feeling bold, pair your jean jacket with jean pants. When pairing two denims, make sure to choose two different washes to distinguish your separate pieces.
3. Era-defining footwear.
When sporting the cool aesthetic, there was (and continues to be) one shoe to rule them all: the classic saddle shoe. Since the 1920s, saddle shoes have been worn with everything by everyone. Saddle shoes’ influence on American fashion spanned coast to coast. Paired with bobby socks (maybe a comb if you’re feeling extra) and some jeans, you’re well on your way to a vintage Americana look. Worried you won’t be able to maintain the squeaky-clean saddle shoe’s white canvas? Don’t worry. In the 1940s, teenagers would make the shoes look worn and dirty.
4. The Power of the Bandana
The bandana has been a staple in American culture since Martha Washington had her husband’s face printed on one. Since then, other candidates had their campaigns print bananas. In the 1950s, the bandana became more than just a hanky for cowboys.
It entered the mainstream as a hair tie and ascot. Now, they’re an essential Americana accessory. In true American fashion, consider a red bandana for a Rosie look. Whether tied up to keep loose hairs in place or worn as a little scarf, this accessory is the quintessential Americana look. Pair with denim and white for a modern, sleek Americana look.
5. You CAN wear those overalls. Seriously.
The 1940s were a hub of definitive fashion. During World War II, style arose from how people wanted to show their support for the troops. This meant style reflected industrial support. We saw the dawn of the “Liberty Roll” hairstyle. Rosie the Riveter had her bandana tied up. Women began working in male-dominated workplaces. Because of this, we saw the rise of worker wear as street style. Overalls began to take center stage as a functional, bold denim look.
Jumpsuits were cool, but the pragmatic design of the overall was all the rage for years. Yet again, this wardrobe staple is the creative work of Levi Strauss, who popularized all things denim. How to wear this style is entirely dependent on what you wear under the overalls. Don’t wear plaid unless you’re really going full-on farm life. Make sure your overalls fit in all the right places. They can be finicky in the crotch area and can pull at the bust. Adjust the straps so there is no awkward gaping.
6. Opt for the White Tank
It may seem like a no-brainer, but playing with layers can allow for more vintage expression. When doing so, make sure to incorporate the essential white tank or shirt as the base layer. The plain white tank may not be particularly bold, but it’s a detail that lends itself to true Americana. Pair it with any vintage wear – like a jean or leather jacket – for a sure-fire Americana look.
7. The Brown Suede Jacket
Americana is nothing without solid jackets. The camel suede jacket is undeniably western. Add some fringe and you’re rocking a full-on California cowboy look from the mid-century. When paired with dark wash jeans and and a black shirt, this look can be very sexy. Opt for lighter wash jeans and some boots for a casual look. Sheepskin accents can add to the cowboy appeal.
8. The Bowling Shirt
Try working the classic bowling shirt in a unique color into your repertoire for a unique Americana look. Generally, these shirts can be loud, so this style is best downplayed with some jeans. Careful not to pair your bowling shirt with other bowling-themed vintage garb, as you’ll end up looking like you’re headed to the alley instead of sporting something fashionable.
Choose your buttons carefully, as well. Leave a couple unbuttoned for a relaxed look and be sure not to tuck these shirts in.
9. Bolo Ties
Inspired by the fashion of America’s original inhabitants, these simple neckties are great for a subtly Americana accent. Bolo ties are best paired with some current wear, otherwise you risk costume territory. Don’t over do your western wear if you’re really styling Americana.
Hats are arguably the best fashion statement one can make because they are relatively hard to pull off. This vintage item is the hardest to work, so save the best for last. Work up your confidence to don this Americana detail. To best sport the cowboy hat, pair the hat with a neutral button down, some skinny jeans, and some footwear originating outside of the western US. That way, you have a simple touch of the western look without looking costume-y.