Ukranian-born Nudie Cohn and his Rodeo Tailors made American country stars embrace embellishment in the 1940s, and the love affair still burns strong in Nashville. A music of outsiders, country is about exile and emigration, frontier ballads of outlaws and open plains, heartbreak, loneliness, loss. Country stars wear their hearts on their sleeves, and their stories along their lapels. Cacti, lassos, lone horses, tumbleweed, covered wagons, dry horizons, bare crucifixes – Nudie stitched the icons of their lonely lives into their breast pockets.
So what should an Irish cowboy wear?
Finding its feet in the late 1960s, the Country–and–Irish tradition of music fuses Irish folk with American country, all speeded up to a quick-step rhythm suitable for dancing – ballads of colonial exile sang with a cowboy twang while people jive. The Montague Hotel was a hitching-post on its touring circuit, a regular haunt for the stars of the Country–and–Irish music scene which was hugely popular in the midlands, a key venue through the 70s, 80s and 90s.
The bands traditionally wore matching jackets, but not in the elaborate Rodeo Tailor style.
I find it hard to separate The Montague from Country–and–Irish, and have been thinking about it in this sense – about how the 40-year history of a country is weirdly contained within its walls, the story of who we are, where we’ve been, where we’re going. What if a band was to wear its sense of history, it’s sense of place, its sense of itself on its sleeve? What would these jackets look like? Bog cotton rather than cactus flowers, green plains rather than dusty plateaus? Old wounds becoming scars becoming appliqué embellishments, hardened into a smile by a rhinestone outline?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But, as I sit here tonight, imagining the characters of a band like this, I’m imagining how they might dress.