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Rock Stars & Cowboys

July 14, 2010

Last week, I came across a clip of Mike Shinoda discussing Linkin Park’s upcoming album.

Now, Mike Shinoda’s pretty rad. But this new look caught me off guard. Last time I took a good look at him (Projekt Revolution ’07) he was rocking shorter hair, and (for lack of a better term) a less “hipster” look.


...and after!

It’s fun to see artists refashion themselves, so I am not opposed to Shinoda’s look.

Why point it out?

Because here is another case of the phenomenon known as…


Not to be confused with the Cobain-esque flannel shirt?!

Take a look, it’s all around you…

Motion City Soundtrack

Cymbals Eat Guitars

Christopher Drew

Tokyo Police Club


Alix from Scarlet Grey

The Downtown Fiction

Quite eerily, THE PLAID COWBOY SHIRT appears in most every show I attend (see earliest post). It’s getting ridiculous. When asked what kind of music acts I like, I’m gonna start saying:

“Oh you know, if there’s a PLAID COWBOY SHIRT in there, I’ll give ‘em a chance.”

Why is this a trend? It all goes back to two concepts: authenticity and irony.

Authenticity is a keyword for all those bands who abhor the “pop” label (deserved or not). That authenticity can manifest as anti-label attitudes, anti-“pop” fashion, and anti-consumerist lyrics. Sometimes artists blatantly align themselves with the working class to claim such authenticity. Or they paint themselves as earnest musicians living purely for the music. Hmm…sound familiar?

So, what does this have to do with THE PLAID COWBOY SHIRT? Well, think about it. Who wore this shirt, before rock stars? Cowboys. And who were cowboys? Rugged, persevering masculine workers. They spent long days on the range. They had leathery hands and dirt under their fingernails–pretty much the opposite of today’s fashioncore and looks-obsessed mainstream. They were honest, anti-glam Joes who were passionate about their work–And this is the very image many artists strive to convey. Plus, remember those old school TV Westerns? Cowboys were the guys fighting for what’s right (aside from the whole persecuting American Indians thing).

The irony comes from the contrast between cowboys’ rugged masculinity and musicians’ post-masculinity. Guys wearing the shirt now typically fall far from traditional masculine archetypes. The male-dominated alt music scene is filled with men expressing their emotions through heartfelt, intimate lyrics, and dramatic stage mannerisms. It’s no accident that various alt music scenes are associated with queerness. (How many times have you heard someone call emo “gay”?) Wearing the shirt is tongue-in-cheek, suggesting a level of cultural awareness/intellectual depth (always a plus!). The double-irony is that the shirt’s popularity erodes the authenticity it attempts to convey.

Now, I doubt Shinoda looked in the mirror and thought “I want to convey a sense of ironic authenticity today—ah yes, THE PLAID COWBOY SHIRT!” But at some (not-so-conscious) level, I think musicians rock the Western look because those underlying connotations strike a chord—even if it’s not a country twang.

That’s enough theorizing for today.


Girl At The Show

Photo Credits:

Christopher Drew:


Cymbals Eat Guitars:

Motion City Soundtrack:

Mike Shinoda before:

Mike Shinoda after:,_Linkin_Park_@_Sonisphere_2009.jpg


Alix of Scarlet Grey: – !/photo.php?pid=30866633&op=1&o=global&view=global&subj=369263341399&id=1166400089

The Downtown Fiction:

Tokyo Police Club:

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