Lassoing Profits From Cowboy Duds


March 10, 1991|By Dave Barry

You'll be pleased to learn that I have thought up yet another way to revive our nation's sagging economy by making myself rich.

To understand my concept, you need to be aware of an important fashion trend sweeping the entire nation (defined as "parts of New York and San Francisco"). Under this trend, sophisticated urban people, seeking leisure wear, are purchasing used, beat-up, worn, ripped, raggedy cowboy garments that were previously owned by actual cowboys. People are actually paying more for damaged cowboy jeans than for new ones.

I found out about this trend through the alertness of reader Suzanne Hough, who sent me an article by Maria Recio of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The article states that used cowboy jeans are selling briskly at $50 a pair in San Francisco, and $65 a pair in New York. The ones with holes are considered most desirable. Here are two quotes about this trend from the article:

From the owner of a New York City store that sells the jeans: "It gives a bit of romance."

From an actual Texas cowboy: "It sounds pretty stupid."

Of course it is exactly this shortsighted lack of fashion-consciousness on the part of cowboys that keeps them stuck in dead-end jobs where they must become involved with actual cows. Meanwhile your fashion visionaries such as Mr. Ralph "Hombre" Lauren -- people who truly understand the spirit of the West -- have made so much money in recent years selling designer lines of Pretend Cowboy clothing that they can afford to build large, tasteful pretend ranch estates with color-coordinated sagebrush.

But now we have gone, as a nation, beyond Pretend Cowboy fashions, and into Formerly Real Cowboy fashions. I called several stores, and they told me the demand for used jeans is very strong.

"People want holes in the knees, crotch and buns," stated Murray Selkow, a Philadelphia native who now owns the Wild Wild West store in San Francisco. "What's very popular is two tears right at the bottom of the buns."

To locate the source of cowboy jeans I called Montana, a large nTC cow-intensive state located near Canada. I spoke with Judy MacFarlane, who owns a company called Montana Broke, located outside a small town called (really) Manhattan. She buys used jeans from cowboys and sells them to stores such as Wild Wild West.

"I will not accept any jeans unless they're from a bona fide cattle rancher, rodeo rider or sheriff's posseman," she told me. She said each pair of Montana Broke jeans comes with a label explaining the occupation of the cowboy who owned it, plus a "Tracking Guide," which shows the purchaser how to figure out which specific cowboy activities caused the various holes, stains and worn spots on the jeans.

I'm sure this provides hours of enjoyment for urban professionals, who, after a hard day of wrangling sales reports, can mosey back to their condominiums, rustle up a mess o' sushi and spend an old-fashioned evening analyzing their jean damage. ("Oh, look, Jennifer! This brown mark on the knee occurred when the cowboy branded a calf! Or fell into a cow pie!")

This trend is not limited to jeans. The store owners I talked to said there is also a strong demand for used cowboy jackets, shirts, boots and hats. This leads me to my money-making idea, which is going to seem so obvious when I tell you that you're going to smack yourself in the forehead for not thinking of it first. My idea is to sell used cowboy underwear by mail. Don't laugh. This is the logical next step, and I'm going to be out front on it. My brand will be called Buckaroo Briefs. Each brief will come with an authentic piece of old-looking paper with a diagram explaining how the briefs came to look the way they do ("This particular stain occurred when the cowboy got chased by a bull").

The only problem I see, looking ahead, is that with the increasing big-city demand for authentic Western garments of all kinds, and the relatively small number of actual rural Westerners, we're going to reach a point fairly soon where the entire population of Montana is running around naked. Fortunately, I've thought of a way to solve this problem via another money-making concept, namely: sell urban professionals' used business attire to cowboys. Why not? Cowboys in suits! Carrying their lassos in briefcases! It might catch on. You could probably even charge them more for the suits with really exciting histories ("This rip occurred when Thad, rushing to an important budget meeting, caught his sleeve on the fax machine").

Pretty sharp idea, huh? I don't see how it can miss. The only possible flaw is that cowboys are not nearly stupid enough to pay extra for somebody else's used and damaged clothing. I doubt that even the cows are.

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