Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Cowboy hat losing its cool among country singers

RECOMMENDED READING


When Brad Paisley twangs out the hits in Tampa this weekend, he will be the rare Nashville chart-topper still wearing tradition on his head.

Once the chief sartorial signifier of the tear-in-your-beer crowd, the good ol' cowboy hat has lost some country cool.

Blake Shelton, the hottest country artist around, doesn't bother with one. Eric Church and Luke Bryan don't either. Darius Rucker has a smooth hit with Wagon Wheel — and a smooth-pated head on proud display. Carrie Underwood and Florida Georgia Line are too pretty to obscure their lush locks.

It's a trend among a lot of talented folks at the top of today's country music charts. In fact, when Paisley picks out such hits as Ticks and Waitin' on a Woman at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Saturday, his white felt Serratelli cowboy hat will stand out more than usual.

Paisley's opening act, however, will be a different — and more modern — story. Chris Young made headlines a few years ago when he changed his image, starting with the top of his head.

"People made a big deal out of Chris Young ditching his cowboy hat," says Veronica Alfaro, radio personality on WQYK-FM 99.5, a country music station in Tampa Bay. "But it worked. I think he had, like, five No. 1's after that."

• • •

Whither the Stetson?

On Billboard magazine's mid-June list of the most-played country songs on the radio, only two of the acts on the list routinely wear cowboy hats: Paisley and the black-hatted Tim McGraw, who, at 40 and 46, respectively, were also two of the oldest singers on the chart.

On iTunes' recent list of top-selling 50 country videos, only five featured a star singer wearing a cowboy hat, and Big Green Tractor growler Jason Aldean counted as a couple of those.

The far more popular lid these days is the venerable baseball hat, the trucker cap, gritted up and brim-curled. Maybe even a camo ball cap with a fish hook in the bill. Down-home casual is in; formal and traditional is out.

"It's the 'urban cowboy' fashion trend," says David Harb, the general manager of Live Nation Tampa. "The ball cap is more universal, more palatable than the cowboy hat these days. But the cowboy hat is never going to go away. It means too much."

He's probably right. Country, for all its traditions, is cyclical, subject to style and trends like any other popular music genre. Not just in sound (traditional, outlaw, pop), but in fashion, as well. In the early 20th century, a country singer wore a cowboy hat. During the '60s and '70s (your Glen Campbells, your Johnny Cashes), thick, handsome hair was in and hats were out.

In the '80s and '90s, when Charlie Daniels' Devil Went Down to Georgia and then Garth Brooks was hot, many country artists, especially male ones, wouldn't be caught dead without the appropriate topper. The charts reflected as such: Alan Jackson, George Strait, Toby Keith, John Michael Montgomery. Even female hitmakers a la Terri Clark and Shania Twain would sport a cowboy hat.

Over the past decade or so, there's been another change. Yes, Kenny Chesney, the king of the summer, wears a beach-bum version onstage — although he wears a baseball cap everywhere else he goes. But more important, Taylor Swift, the queen of summer and then some, has brought seismic change to country music, and she's done it all, from her very start in Wyomissing, Pa., without a cowboy hat. She lets her blond curls fly.

WQYK's Alfaro says some artists are indeed trying to be more mainstream, to soften their Southern geography a bit and do a pop cross-over. Before he blew up, Shelton also used to be cowboy-hatted; now his high handsome 'do is on full display as a judge on The Voice. "When Blake first started, he had a cowboy hat AND a mullet!" she laughs.

Folks in the cowboy hat biz aren't worried about the trend. "The cowboy hat is still extremely popular," says Anthony Emrich, assistant manager of Russell's Western Wear in Tampa. "Trust me, the newer artists, nine out of 10 of them, still wear 'em, just not everywhere they go. If they're going to a fancy banquet or a wedding, they're still going to wear a nice dressy cowboy hat."

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @seandalypoplife.

Comments
Flo Rida coming to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

Flo Rida coming to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

In 2016, Flo Rida headlined a free postgame concert for the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium.Come January, he'll have the place all to himself.The Carol City hitmaker will top a show at Al Lang on Jan. 14. St. Petersburg. native Macy Kate will al...
Published: 11/18/17
Bluegrass and a traditional Thanksgiving meal on tap at annual Sertoma festival

Bluegrass and a traditional Thanksgiving meal on tap at annual Sertoma festival

SPRING LAKE — When it comes to traditional fare, picking, fiddling, harmonizing and a whole lot of foot-stomping make for the main course at the annual Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival.Since 1980, the event, which will be Nov. 23 to 25 at the Sertoma ...
Published: 11/17/17
Two weeks after Tampa concert, rapper Lil Peep dies at 21

Two weeks after Tampa concert, rapper Lil Peep dies at 21

Lil Peep, a driving force in the young, ascendant, genre-blurring world dubbed "SoundCloud rap" or "emo rap," has died at 21, less than two weeks after performing at the Orpheum in Ybor City.TMZ reported the Long Beach, N.Y. rapper born Gustav Ahr di...
Published: 11/16/17
Randy Newman talks Dodger baseball, his ’70s collaborators, measuring himself against his peers and more

Randy Newman talks Dodger baseball, his ’70s collaborators, measuring himself against his peers and more

Randy Newman was always widely respected by his peers. But back in the '70s, it took him a while to accept he might never be as famous as his peers."I remember hearing Just the Way You Are in a hotel," he said in a recent phone interview. "I was tryi...
Published: 11/16/17
SoundBytes: Yonder Mountain String Band, Robb Banks, Datsik and more

SoundBytes: Yonder Mountain String Band, Robb Banks, Datsik and more

— Jammy bluegrassers Yonder Mountain String Band will make their annual pilgrimage back to Jannus Live on Jan. 25. Click here.— Also coming to Jannus Live: JJ Grey and Mofro with a stellar lineup, including the North Mississippi Allstars,...
Published: 11/15/17
Harry Belafonte to speak at the University of South Florida in Tampa

Harry Belafonte to speak at the University of South Florida in Tampa

Singer, actor and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte is coming to Tampa.The renowned cultural figure will speak at the University of South Florida on Jan. 16 as part of the school's student-run University Lecture Series. It'll take place in the Marsha...
Published: 11/15/17
Vans Warped Tour, a staple on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, ending after 2018

Vans Warped Tour, a staple on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, ending after 2018

For fans and bands alike, the Vans Warped Tour is a sweaty, smelly, screamy rite of summer.Every year, like clockwork, the fest swings through Tampa Bay, almost always at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, where hordes of tattooed teenagers, punks and met...
Published: 11/15/17
This week’s top Tampa Bay concerts: Randy Newman, Tiesto, Et Cultura, more

This week’s top Tampa Bay concerts: Randy Newman, Tiesto, Et Cultura, more

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE: Randy NewmanOscar campaigns are nothing new for Randy Newman. For years, the iconic singer, songwriter and film composer was the most-nominated person in history without a win, until his 2001 trophy for the Monsters Inc. song If...
Published: 11/15/17
Randy Newman will never be a million-seller, and he’s fine with that

Randy Newman will never be a million-seller, and he’s fine with that

Maybe it’s fitting that the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t win the World Series. Maybe it’s better that all of Southern California didn’t pop Champagne and celebrate as Randy Newman’s I Love L.A. blared through the Dodger St...
Published: 11/15/17
The Castle, Ybor City’s goth paradise, celebrates 25 years of darkness and weirdness

The Castle, Ybor City’s goth paradise, celebrates 25 years of darkness and weirdness

The Castle, the multi-story, gothic nightclub where it's not uncommon to see someone on the dance floor in a Batman cape, a leather corset or a Peter Pan costume — or really anything you can think of — turned 25 this year, which...
Published: 11/15/17