Weatherford Democrat


January 4, 2010

From Wild West to modern rodeo, the look is new


Western wear has evolved into a hardy industry, if a relatively small one. Sales figures are hard to come by, but Mundee of Rocky Mountain Clothing estimates the segment accounts for about $500 million a year in sales. The overall U.S. apparel market is about $200 billion a year, said Beth Boyle of NPD Group, a market research provider.

People in the Western wear business say it's relatively stable, even during the recession.

"We've always done well through the downturns," Mundee said. "They may not buy a new truck, or horse, or saddle, but they always want to look good."

Weil said one of the industry's strengths is that it embodies the West.

"That was the whole point when my grandfather went into business, to make something for a Western identity which was emerging," Weil said.

His grandfather, "Papa Jack" Weil, founded the company in 1946 and is credited with developing such signature Western looks as snap-button shirts and pockets with a sawtooth pattern. Jack Weil, who died in 2008 at age 107, went to work daily until a few days before his death, his grandson said.

Rockmount is now known for putting its Western shirts on the backs of everyone from guitarist Eric Clapton to actor Hugh Grant in "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"

It's a look that never goes out of fashion, Steve Weil said.

"Who doesn't long for what it represents? Wide open spaces, rugged individualism, the myth of the cowboy," he said. "It's something that people universally understand and respect."

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