Curious about the Americana style for men? Here’s what you need to know.
I’ve noticed that some form of “Americana is back” or “Americana is trending again” hits the headlines of major fashion publications every other year or so. Truly, Americana never really leaves the cultural zeitgeist — there’s just something about it that’s evergreen, especially in men’s style.
Perhaps it’s because it’s as varied as America itself. During the early aughts, the Millenium frosty futurism aesthetic made way for cowboy boots and graphic rock n’ roll tees.
I also remember the neo-prep resurgence of 2008, which was more Americana-adjacent. College prep and Ivy trad are part of American lore, but there’s a lot of overlap between that and the British countryside.
Moreover, there’s a lot of remixing and parodying of Americana. Its crafty, kitschy wing almost begs for it.
So what is it? What isn’t it? Today, I will break down what Americana style is when it comes to men’s fashion. You’ll find it’s a nice feature to have in your style arsenal.
Classic Americana Style for Men: What Is It Exactly?
The quick and dirty is that Americana style is rooted in or references America’s history, geography, folklore, and general cultural heritage. Everything from cowboy boots to Algonquin-style moccasins to a 1960s Ivy League pull-over can be Americana.
Again, Americana style is as varied and diverse as the good old US. However, in general, when it comes to fashion, the entire category is mostly rooted in the rustic and the retro.
So, going back to Ivy prep, a gent wearing a Harvard sweater he bought from the school store, with chinos and boat shoes, doesn’t automatically scream Americana.
You know what would? If that same guy wore a vintage Harvard sweater, Levi’s jeans, and fringed moccasins.
A guy in a full-on cowboy outfit would technically be in Americana garb, but he’d probably look like he’s either working on a ranch or in costume (depending on where he is).
But, if he paired that studded western belt and cowboy boots with jeans and t-shirt a la Bruce Springsteen on the cover of the Born in the USA album? Full Americana.
The on-the-nose component of Americana is one thing that makes it special and truly American. Think about it.
An old t-shirt with an American flag would be a piece of Americana style. Meanwhile, although the Cool Britannia style often incorporates the Union Jack, a t-shirt from a pit-stop gift store with a British flag wouldn’t count.
This is because the open-road culture associated with pit-stop gift stores is inextricably related to American culture.
Motifs and Colors Associated With Americana Style
When you manifest a culture into its sartorial style, it means clothes that imply that culture’s lifestyle.
So, here are some common motifs in American culture:
- College prep. In fashion, the more vintage it is, the more Americana it is.
- American sports like football, baseball, and basketball. Again, in fashion, if it references famous games in pro football or, better yet, college football, the more Americana it is. So combining prep with football, a t-shirt from the 1968 Harvard-Yale Game checks all the boxes.
- Cowboy culture and Western culture
- Native American culture. Some common aspects of fashion include suede, fringe, tribal patterns with diamonds, rectangles, and so on, and turquoise jewelry.
- Hippie culture. There’s a lot of overlap between Native style, hippie style, and frontier style.
- Frontier culture. The most extreme (read: costumey) version of this in fashion would be something in the realm of a coon skin hat, but it can manifest in more wearable ways like a tan suede jacket with fringe or animal fur accents.
- American flags. Generally, stars and stripes on a piece of clothing have an Americana quality.
- Motorcycle and hot rod culture. I’m not just talking about rock n’ roll tees with the sleeves cut off here. A simple leather moto jacket is a cornerstone of Americana. If James Deen wore it, it might qualify.
- 1950s diner culture. Anything reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, like saddle shoes, has an Americana vibe.
- American brands. Of course, heritage clothing brands like Red Wing, Levi’s, and even LL Bean count. But, any American brand, like Marlboro, Coors, Budweiser, Ford, and Harley-Davidson, is a big part of American culture.
- Workwear. America wasn’t the first country where all classes of men needed to work. Continental Europe often referred to England as a nation of shopkeepers. However, the US took it to the next level, and the style that comes out of manual labor (like logging and construction) is another cornerstone of Americana.
- Figures from American folklore and mythology. Some examples include Columbia, the personification of the US, Uncle Sam, a sign of military dominance, and the Statue of Liberty.
Relatedly, some colors associated with the Americana aesthetic include red, white, and blue (naturally), faded hues like cream over bold white and dusty red over bright red, and browns and tans over stark blacks.
This is why brown boots have a more Americana vibe than black boots.
Men’s Americana Workwear Style
Blue-collar workwear is truly the “American uniform.” In the 19th and 20th centuries, this clothing style became common in the factories, farms, and mines of the industrial age.
Arguably, workwear style plays a big part in Americana’s rusticness. Remember my prior-mentioned Ivy prep example? The hypothetical guy in the Harvard sweater? A pair of jeans helped bring out the Americana-ness of his outfit.
And yes, technically, jeans are workwear, so the category is a big mainstay in men’s fashion in general.
Believe it or not, a great example of a brand that proves the visual importance of workwear to Americana style isn’t one akin to Carhartt or Dickies. It’s Ralph Lauren.
When RL first came out, it seemed to emulate the Brooks Brothers, but in a more casual, more truly American way than Brooks’ more Manhattan-esque, borderline British style. Ralph Lauren incorporated cowboy style, fringe, and work shirts.
Today, a lot of these pieces are part of everyday men’s style and hip streetwear. For instance, many German high-fashion brands are synonymous with the utilitarian aesthetic of donkey jackets and heavy boots.
Americana Style Men’s Clothing
Here are some pieces of clothing that are associated with Americana style:
- Blue jeans
- White t-shirt
- Denim jacket
- Leather motorcycle jacket
- Letterman jacket
- Utility shirt
- Baseball cap
- Cowboy boots
- Work boots, in general
- Western shirt
- Aviator Sunglasses
- Work pants
- Flat caps
- Turquoise accessories
- Bell bottom pants
- Corduroy pants
- American branded merchandise. Some examples include university sweaters, a Harley-Davidson t-shirt, and even an old graphic tee advertising Cheers.
- Clothing that references American folklore and history, like a Daniel-Boone-style jacket or a t-shirt with Paul Bunyan on it.
As you can see, a lot of these pieces can be incorporated into anyone’s personal style. Jeans are a staple in casual fashion. Meanwhile, flannels and motorcycle jackets, though associated with specific style categories, can be worn by anyone.
If you came here wondering how to dress more Americana or even wondering how to incorporate it into your everyday style, you may already be doing so.
How To Dress in the Americana Fashion Style
Now that you know what the pieces of Americana fashion consist of, here are some tips on how to put it together consciously.
Again, incorporate this rustic and down-to-earth aesthetic into your style. These tips will help bring it out more. It’s all about context since many Americana mainstays have become universal classics!
Go for it whenever you can pair at least two pieces of workwear. Jeans don’t necessarily indicate any specific kind of personal style, but if you pair them with service boots, you look much more utilitarian.
Whenever you can go vintage, do it. Remember, retro is a big part of Americana style. Moreover, older Levi’s jeans are often more rugged than today’s stretchy denim pants.
Texture is important in Americana. Patterns like herringbone and houndstooth aren’t Americana inherently, but mixing textures and patterns is. A good example is a herringbone vest with a denim shirt and a western-style belt with fitted cargo pants.
Incorporate American heritage brands like Levi’s, casual Ralph Lauren pieces, Red Wing, Carhartt, Woolrich, Pendleton, and Filson.
Also, incorporate the tried-and-true workwear brands. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them are American. We round up a few of our favorite workwear brands here, including Dickie’s and Duluth Trading Company.
So, let’s say your natural personal style is more preppy. The key is to add utilitarian pieces. If you’re wearing the classic combination of a cable-knit crewneck sweater and chinos, opt for a heavier button-down rather than a dress shirt. Instead of boat shoes, go for duck boots (which arguably bridge the gap between Northeastern prep and workwear), and throw on a faded baseball cap.
If you have a workwear-leaning personal style, you’re already 90% there, but you can maybe let the Americana-ness pop with some dusty colors.
A faded red utility shirt, a donkey jacket with an American flag patch, and maybe some faded blue work pants will do the trick. Cinch the look with some logger boots.
A great streetwear combination could include a white t-shirt with the already-short sleeves rolled up, old denim pants and some service boots or Converse Chucks. Throw a motorcycle jacket on if it gets cold.
And by the way, that go-to off-duty sports agent look, a blazer with jeans and a button-down, already has Americana vibes. Just add a Western-style belt to the mix. It leans hard without laying it on thick.
Here are a few common questions about Americana style!
What is Americana fashion style?
Americana style is rooted in America’s general cultural heritage. Cowboy boots, college prep, and Native American aesthetics all fall into the Americana realm, especially when mixed in the same outfit. Workwear, rustic looks, and retro style play a significant role too.
What is Japanese Americana fashion?
During Japan’s post-war reconstruction, American workwear became popular. Today, Japanese Americana is inspired by American workwear, denim, and vintage pieces.
Are vintage and Americana the same thing?
Not necessarily. You can source modern pieces to create an Americana style, but retro-ness plays a big role in Americana. As such, choosing vintage pieces is an effective way to achieve an Americana aesthetic.
Interestingly, a lot of outside cultures helped define Americana, too. While Americans were doing and making Americana style, countries like Japan and Britain watched from the outside and put words to the actions.
It reminds me of how Alexis de Tocqueville watched American democracy successfully take shape while writing all about it, detached, elucidating the movement to even those who were the movement.
For example, Take Ivy, one of our favorite menswear books, documents Ivy League style from a Japanese perspective. Even today, Japanese Americana is a popular street style in Tokyo.
One thing’s for sure. A lot of Americana fashion has become staples in menswear all around the world.
Who wears Americana best? It could be Bruce Springstein, or your dad, or your 5th grade gym coach. Let me know in the comment section!