Sunday, January 11, 2009

Suburban Cowboy

Few retail clothing establishments are more fully realized in concept, and match my sartorial style less, than Shepler's, the Western-wear outfitter. I stopped in their Denver Tech Center location today to investigate.

First observation: the store is in the Denver Tech Center, nestled among the gleaming, high-tech office buildings filled with computers and surrounded by parking lots. The RTD light rail trains serving the congested I-25 commuter corridor travel north and south, only eight or ten lanes of freeway traffic away from the store. I've heard Denver called a cow town before, but there isn't a dogie to punch for miles around.

Fully 20% of the floor space holds boots, in five basic form-factors: work boots, steel-toed work books, low-cut cowboy boots, high-cut cowboy boots, and absurdly high-cut cowboy boots. Any higher, and they'd touch the rim of your cowboy hat; which naturally they can also sell you, in sizes ranging from Huge to Even More Xtra Huge. The Texas insult "All hat, no cattle" could have originated at Shepler's.

Then we have the jeans: boot cut, cowboy cut, slim fit, classic fit, relaxed fit, pre-shrunk, unshrunk, pre-faded, unfaded, black, blue, dark brown, tan, Levi's, Wranglers, etc. Surely these are the same, authentic selections that were available to Centennial State homesteaders in 1876.

Racks of polyester plaid shirts with faux-pearl snap-fasteners in lieu of buttons were on "Clearance", marked all the way down to $24.95. By the way, what's the deal with those snaps on the front of Western-style shirts? It seems to me they'd be awfully cold against your belly tattoos, especially in winter, while you're out riding fences, corralling your herd, or oiling your six-gun in preparation for the climactic shootout.

Speaking of firearms, I saw an advertisement for local shooting lessons posted on the community bulletin board, next to the private-party notices of Winnebagos and quarterhorses for sale. The logo on the shooting lessons ad depicted a human skull with two crossed rifles. Yee-haw!

I walked out of Shepler's empty-handed, steered out of the parking lot past the steakhouse that looks like a funeral home, and motored back onto the interstate. You might take this cowboy out of the Northeast, but you'll have to pry the L.L. Bean catalog from his cold, dead fingers.

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