WRANGLER®, BADLANDERS AND COWBOY SPIRIT.
DESIGNING BRANDS AROUND AMERICAN COWBOY ETHOS.
I noted the Wrangler event in Vegas [now running] and it reminded me of my journeys into farm-work, bull riders and cowboy culture — here and abroad.
There’s a sense, working around cowboys — cattle hands, herders, fence-men, range-drivers, rovers, drivers, farmers — that there is a certain kind of quiet ethic and chivalry, at least that’s what they say.
“Do your best. Treat ‘em right.”
In my first exposure to American cowboys, working around a cattle and horse farm, I was surprised, meeting a diverse crew of cowboys, by a shared sensation of etiquette and politeness that belied the mythic premise of the rough-rider. Genteel, maybe. Then working around rodeo culture, I found that, while many of the cowboys that I met weren’t actively working range hands, there was more money in the rewards of winning rodeo events; and they too espoused a certain careful and quiet, even slightly contemplative and philosophical air.
I was working on a brand effort for the American Bullriders, a group that was looking at a brand evolution and elevation. I met a number of bull riders, ropers and bronc riders, as well as the steer wrestlers, barrel racers, calf and steer ropers. I got on the back of a bull, to see what that felt like.
Seeing the return of the 33rd National Finals Rodeo to Las Vegas,
sponsored by Wrangler I recalled these efforts.
#wranglerNFR | @LasVegasNFR
Chase Stevens Las Vegas Review-Journal @csstevensphoto
Looking at a paper promotion event, we wrapped that strategy around the Cowboys of the Rodeo spirit and the work of a photographer who had spent months traveling with cowboys, in and out of the circuit, David Watanabe.
To get the brand story,
it’s not a theory,
it’s a walk-into the place
that the brand and its story lives.
You go in, stride deep, walk wide, and the journey of design reveals many paths, and these new ways of seeing reveal themselves as new potentials for expression — so that others can relate.
Hard scrabble, tireless work, tough weather, astonishing beauty.
Real people, talking, reflecting, working hard.
I’m looking for signs, signals, signets, vibrations and sensations,
words and meanings that draw the viewer in.
The walk-into cowboy culture.
In the character of that journey —
finding soul in brand, it’s all about the learnings, and the leanings of those that you meet.
And mind, memory and meditation;
and what the hand makes of it.
This is a culture that you go into by invitation. It’s a realm of hard-working people — those that live in the craft of the hand, strength and balance, the pull of snapped leather, 2000lbs. of muscle, the waft of cattle and horses, and the crystallized scent of salty sweat, old canvas and cotton, diesel, hay and dust.
Working on a farm as a bale-bucker and Combine Harvester driver, you get out to the cattle, saddle the horses, get close to the earth, the wheat, the wind, sun, and the dust.
A field-side mason jar of quenchingly cool well water tastes like heaven’s rain.
It’s America. One America, that few know close-up and personal.
I’ve worked with those stories — both in interviews, interceptive testings and brand development sessions for Wrangler, as well as bull riders, cattle ropers, farmers. And cowboys — a chivalrous, genteel culture — the surprising self-deprecating etiquette of cowboys is a legend, something mythic.
It’s the newly vanishing American modesty “aw shucks, weren’t nothin’.”
What I’m looking for is beautiful moments, the quest in finding, making beautiful brands — rich and holistically robust layered experiences of stories and sensation points in brand journeys. I’m looking into and for the work of people — the heart of them — their stories, what their dreams are, their songs.
In the character of my evolving practice, time and again, I realize the direct link to people, eye to eye, present — being with them, sensing them, listening to them, hearing their world — the appreciative watch: feelingness and the visioning of their paths that spiral out like the weaving of a tapestry, diaphanously layered: marvel-making.
I stand in wonder. Awed.
Earlier, I’d been asked to offer a gift from a paper company.
The idea we’d proffered — a complexly printed folio, of a photographic collection by
David Watanabe, a man possessed by shooting imagery of cowboys.
We reached into cowboy-space:
The realm of hand-craft:
made hand-drawn figurations,
scribed with metal tools
on old handmade paper —
calligraphy of the interviewed cowboy quotations,
hand-drawn border treatments.
Looked like this, metallic tri-tones — copper gold, bright gold, warm-black:
“Cowboys do more living in a year than most people do in a lifetime.”
“For the man that’s in the sport, the biggest thing is the heart, the try.”
And what of the Bullrider’s work?
That came to a name, premise, gear
that went to the heart of bullriding, as in Badlanders.
You get out there, listen to the people, let them tell their stories,
and there might be a beautiful brand;
find what you can and design
to what beauty you find there.
Tim | GIRVINWATERFRONT
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