An invitation to the L.B.J. ranch is not the only reason for buying frontier clothes and high-heeled boots. A growing number of city people, remembering their Tom Mix days as kids, have rediscovered how comfortable western-style clothes really are. Recently, a group of Madison Avenue executives started wearing plain, rounded-toe cowboy boots to work, Broadway and TV showgirls showed up for rehearsals in tight-fitting frontier pants and British trainers wore custom-made western chaps over their Levi's while working with their horses.
Oddly enough, it is Miller Harness Company, at 123 East 24 Street, the traditional New York headquarters for eastern equestrian needs, that now leads the way west. Trail and cowboy gear dominate the front of the shop, while one flight up there is a new tack room that rivals any east of Denver.
For city and country dudes there is a rough-out, leather brush jacket cut like a rancher's favorite denim jacket (above). It has slash pockets, western stitching, snap buttons and a collar and lining of Acrilan fleece. It costs $30, and its burnished color is called Aztec gold.
English-style jodhpurs in denim are also available because an English-saddle rider from Arizona recently ordered her "jodhpurs made very English but in denim please—so I won't look too eastern." Miller's was so pleased with the jodhpurs that they now stock them in stretch denim ($15). Custom-tailored, they cost $80.
There are no zippers or buttons on the new two-way stretch nylon frontier pants that the Broadway dancers are wearing. They have a clear, smooth cut and there is enough give to pull them on over the hips. The pants cost $18 and come in red or black.
Western tack has also become extremely popular in Europe in the past year, and Miller's hefty catalog is well read on the Continent. As a consequence, European dudes are ordering every conceivable article associated with western horses, including bits, hackamores, Corona blankets and 10-gallon sombreros.
The British horse trainers prefer western chaps because they are able to withstand rough wear. The most popular, Miller's cream-colored, rough-out leather chaps, have heavy-duty zippers instead of the customary thongs and buttons, are custom-made and cost $44.50.
The western fad has even reached the Jet Set in Saint-Tropez where cowboy shirts are as popular as bikinis. And, surprisingly, the girls from the Covent Garden ballet troupe stocked up on ruffled, western-cut shirts with pearl snap buttons the last time they were in New York. Miller's has them in flower prints, plaids and solid colors ($11 ).
Ladies' Panama and U-roll-it straw sombreros come in a variety of color combinations as well as in solid colors and cost $5. They are made in Fort Worth, the western hat center of the world, and the most popular colors this year are silverbelly and black for men and white for ladies. The number of Xs inside a western hat denotes the quality of the beaver (a mixture of animal hair and wool)—a single X denotes a $5 hat, XX equals $10 and an XXX beaver hat is $15, all at Miller's.
The tan cowhide stovepipe-top boots with zigzag stitching (below) are like those worn by the U.S. cavalry during the Indian wars. They are popular today among American polo players and cost $59.50.
In Miller's second-floor tack room there are lightweight saddles priced at $64.50 and custom-made tooled saddles with sterling-silver mountings that sell for $400. There also are bull whips ($14), bronc spurs ($11.75) and quirts ($4.50). Trick ropes are already made up ($4), and some Madison Avenue cowboys simply carry them for effect—evidence that it is still hard to take the cowboy out of the man.