EVEN COWBOYS GET THE BLUES | VINTAGE PHOTOS OF DUDES IN DENIM

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Times sure have changed.  Playing “Cowboys & Indians” outside has been replaced with playing “Halo” or “Call of Duty” in a darkened room.  Heck, it’s probably so politically incorrect to even mention “Cowboys & Indians” that someone somewhere is having a tizzy.  The American cowboy is an icon of grit, honor, independence and masculinity.  Hard work, long days, and little pay except for the open sky, a horse to ride, a hot meal and a drink or two to wet your whistle.  Maybe even a dance with a pretty girl if yer’ lucky– and don’t stink to high heaven.

The 1910s – 1930s saw the Wild West American lifestyle move largely from a way of life, to ever-increasing faded memories and mythology.  Our country was getting smaller. Technology and transportation were ushering in a new era of industrialized cities and advanced accessibility.  The real jean-wearin’ cowboy lifestyle of days past were kept alive over the decades largely through the Western fashions worn by the stars of silver screen and music.

These images are some of my favorite captures of the American cowboy at the very end of his reign– many not surprisingly taken by LIFE photography giants like Loomis Dean, and Ralph Crane to name a few. Some, unfortunately, are uncredited.  If you know the pic, give me a shout  so I can give the photographer their due, please.

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circa 1934– “Rear view of a man wearing chaps and spurs”  –Photo McCormic Co., Amarillo, Texas.

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Lubbock, TX, 1940– Matador, A Texas Ranch: Seven cowboys sitting along corral fence draped w. their chaps (which they don’t wear while not working), as they wait for brand irons to heat up during cattle roundup at Matador Ranch, the second largest in the state.  –photo by Hansel Mieth

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1960– Cowboys on long cattle-drive from South Dakota to Nebraska.  –photo by Grey Villet

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1960– Cowboys on long cattle-drive from South Dakota to Nebraska.  –photo by Grey Villet

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Cattle Drive In Montana –Photo by Ralph Crane

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1943– Father and son, owners of a 35,000 acre ranch in west Texas.  –photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt

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1960– Clarence Hailey Long, foreman on the JA spread in Texas  –Photo by Leonard McCombe

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TX, 1939–  Matador Ranch chuck wagon pulled by mules sets out across Texas plains behind unseen roundup crew during a cattle drive.  –Hansel Mieth

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I’ll see your Coca Cola– and raise you a tall whiskey.  Phil Phillips (left), longtime foreman at the Double H or HH ranch in New Mexico.

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Shaving at the bar in yer’ chaps with one of them new-fangled electric razors.  Phil Phillips, longtime foreman at the Double H ranch, or HH ranch, in New Mexico.

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My kind of office party. Love this. Phil Phillips (double-fisting), longtime foreman at the Double H ranch, or HH ranch, in New Mexico.

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HH Ranch… Would love to know the story… Phil Phillips, longtime foreman at the Double H ranch, or HH ranch, in New Mexico.

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Love this shot– as a denim nut– this simple, honest image focused on his Levi jeans gives me the chills.

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Life on the range… photo credit?

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CA, 1949– Silhouette of cowboy mounted on horse.  –photo by Allan Grant

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Gatorade?  Coffee was the Cowboy’s Gatorade, son.  Great shot, who’s the photographer?

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Takin’ a load off, chowing some grub in the back of one of them mechanical horses.  Love this shot.

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Imagine lugging a kitchen behind you every day, prepping and making the meals, cleaning, packing…

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Utah, 1947– Man sitting holding his horse’s reins  –Loomis Dean

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Cattle Drive In Montana –Photo by Ralph Crane

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Cattle Drive In Montana –Photo by Ralph Crane

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RELATED TSY POSTS:

HISTORY OF DENIM THROUGH THE AGES | WESTERN WEAR GOES HOLLYWOOD

PHOTOGRAPHY OF DOROTHEA LANGE | AN AMERICAN ARCHIVE– HARD TIMES

PHOTOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM GEDNEY | AN AMERICAN ARCHIVE, KENTUCKY


21 thoughts on “EVEN COWBOYS GET THE BLUES | VINTAGE PHOTOS OF DUDES IN DENIM

  1. Pingback: 1950 – 1959 The Santa Ana Drag Strip Days | They Did It For Love « The Selvedge Yard

  2. According to THE BEST OF LIFE, the “Marlboro man” photo depicts C.H. Long foreman on the JA spread in Texas. Photo by Leonard McCombe.

  3. Another fantastic post!

    The LOC gives limited information on your top image:
    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005686546/

    Their catalogs are addicting:
    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/related/?&pk=fsa1998001054/PP&st=gallery&sb=call_number#focus
    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/related/?&pk=93510635&st=gallery&sb=call_number#focus
    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/related/?&pk=99613921&st=gallery&sb=call_number#focus
    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=ranch&sp=2

    A cookbook is coming out later this year which chronicles the dwindling, Arizona round-up culture with recipes, stories and photography. Will make certain that you get a copy.

  4. Wonderfull shots, here in Australia the image of the Stockmen who still work the land and look like these photos come to mind. Thanks for the blog

  5. These guys are decidedly not “dudes”. You boys in New York City with your $400. pre-worn, pre-scarred designer trousers are the dudes.

  6. Tthe sixth photograph down was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, one of LIFE’s most prolific photogs. The photo was from 1943, and the original caption reads: “Father and son, owners of a 35,000 acre ranch in west Texas”.

    Doing great work, JP. Love the post.

  7. i love the photo with the guy on the tailgate. you can see the whitewall’s are on the inside of the tire on the jeep. my dad always did that. he hates whitewalls.

  8. Oh boy. Makes me nostalgic for a life I’ve never seen.

    Makes me also want to lose weight so’s I can carry off a denim look once more. Different story though.

    Thank you

  9. Dear JP,

    Can wait to see “EVEN COWBOYS GET THE BLUES | VINTAGE PHOTOS OF DUDES IN DENIM” next edition of article. Don’t have much words to express my happiness. Wish I were there. Something never get old, never get out of classy, this is what it is. The picture with title “Love this shot” I love to know which year of LEVIS, but I guess 1930’s

  10. Outstanding post, with lots of denim to die for. Should be rich inspiration for the makers of LVC, Lee archives, and those who want to emulate these classic repro makers.

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