Beyoncé Has Finally Changed Fashion

Has there ever been an artist who owned fashion — and owned as much fashion — as Beyoncé Knowles Carter? Though chances are slim that she will attend the Met Gala on Monday (she hasn’t graced the party since 2016), she is practically a Met Gala unto herself.

She wore about 148 looks on her Renaissance world tour alone. More than 60 in her film “Black Is King.” More than a dozen in the under-two-minutes teaser video for “I’m That Girl.” It has been both dazzling and groundbreaking to see her bend fashion to her will, bestowing the glowing crumbs of her attention on as wide a swath of designers as possible, while seemingly all of them clamor for her favor. Name a brand; she has worn it. Probably a custom version of it.

And yet for all that, despite winning a “fashion icon” award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and having her own fashion line, Ivy Park, despite a high-fashion collaboration with Balmain, Beyoncé has not really changed how people dress. It may be counterintuitive, but generally she has seemed more interested in having fashion serve her, rather than serving fashion. Spreading her influence so widely has focused attention on no single name or aesthetic save her own.

Until now. With “Cowboy Carter,” finally, her fashion and her mission have become one and the same, and the effect is industry-shifting. Even more than Taylor Swift, her fellow diva of the moment, she has determined the look of the moment.

According to a spokeswoman for Lyst, the fashion search engine, Western-related product engagement is up 59 percent year-on-year for this quarter. “We’ve seen a 51 percent increase in searches for ‘cowboy boots,’ a 31 percent increase in searches for ‘Levi’s jeans’ since this song and the album dropped and a 57 percent increase featuring the keyword ‘cowboy,’” she said. Searches for Ganni Western boots alone grew 224 percent between March and April, and searches for Y project Western jeans were up 610 percent.

Sure, cowboys have been edging their way into popular culture ever since Lil Nas X sang “Old Town Road,” “Yellowstone” became a hit and Bella Hadid started dating a rodeo star. Ralph Lauren has been embracing the Hollywood West almost since he began.

But in Beyoncé’s total and carefully calibrated cowboy-ification of everything, she has taken the phenomenon to an entirely different level. Not just the multiple versions of denim, plaid, chaps and rodeo-glam, but also the enormous Alexander McQueen shearling on the cover of W, the beige Ferragamo suit and trench she wore to promote “Cowboy Carter” in Japan, the bejeweled dove gray Gaurav Gupta jacket and boots she wore to the Luar show. All of it captured on Instagram and on to preserve for posterity the aesthetic revolution of the “Cowboy Carter” rollout — a campaign that could be a course of study in itself.

“She has mainstreamed country as a genre, and mainstreamed its aesthetics,” said Riché Richardson, a professor in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University who has taught a class called Beyoncé Nation.

Marni Senofonte, the stylist who has worked with Beyoncé for about 15 years and created many of the “Cowboy Carter” visuals, agreed. “This is worldwide,” she said — even in the context of previous Beyoncé fashion statements, like the H.B.C.U. moments of Coachella, the Black Panther ode of “Formation” and the puffed sleeves of “Lemonade.” “It’s easily the biggest trend response we’ve seen.”

Alison Bringé, the chief marketing officer of Launchmetrics, the data analytics company, said that in the two weeks after the release of Beyoncé’s “Levi’s Jeans,” the song generated an additional $1.2 million in online and social media exposure for Levi’s — all of which, she said, can be attributed solely to Beyoncé’s influence.

“Moreover,” she continued, “Beyoncé’s pivot into country music has served as a catalyst for a nearly 45 percent uptick in the prominence of Western and country styling within the broader fashion landscape.”

It has become hard to see anyone in cowboycore — Kim Kardashian in a cowboy hat at the Super Bowl, Venus Williams in cowboy boots doing a talk on art collecting at the Met — and not think you are seeing the Beyoncé effect IRL.

Part of this, Ms. Senofonte pointed out, has to do with access. Everyone can buy jeans, but not everyone has the ability to get, say, Jonathan Anderson of Loewe to design them a bodysuit as he did for Beyoncé during her Renaissance tour. (And not everyone wants to wear a bodysuit.) Part of it has to do with the fact that, Ms. Richardson of Cornell said, Beyoncé has been seeding the ground for a while.

“‘Renaissance,’ ‘Formation’ and ‘Lemonade,’ to different degrees, built on questions and challenges related to national identity in terms of belonging,” Ms. Richardson said. “This is a more mass expression of that project.”

But the Beyoncé effect also has to do with a broader reclaiming of certain powerful mythology for women at a time when they seem to be increasingly disempowered. After all, as Ms. Senofonte pointed out, Beyoncé called her album “Cowboy Carter,” not “Cowgirl Carter” — and she does nothing by accident.

She has been wearing chaps, cowboy hats and bolos, the semiology of the masculine West, rather than prairie skirts and ruffly blouses, their feminized equivalents. The associations she is claiming for herself have to do with deeply embedded notions of the wide-open frontier, of swagger and sweat and territory. Of freedom and manifest destiny. She’s taking the imagery of “Lonesome Dove” and “Riders of the Purple Sage,” of the Earps and Wild Bill Hickok, and inverting it.

It is not a coincidence that she has been seeding Pharrell Williams’s Western-influenced Louis Vuitton men’s collection throughout her promotional juggernaut. She is assuming the camouflage of the guys. As it happens, Mr. Williams is listed as a contributor on “Cowboy Carter,” and given the time it takes to make an album and to make a collection, chances are he began working on the music before working on his show. Which suggests that the “Cowboy Carter” aura may well have influenced his designs in the first place.

“It’s a challenge to the conventional masculinity associated with that genre,” Ms. Richardson said of Beyoncé’s all-cowboy hats all-the-time styling. “She’s broadening the notion of who can wear this.” And she’s showing everyone how to do it at the same time, using accessories to douse any outfit in the attitude of the frontier. That’s political in the broadest and most inclusive sense of the word.

While it would be a joy to see how she would have given a Western spin to “The Garden of Time,” the Met Gala’s dress code, it’s also possible to conjure up a prickly pear-festooned cowboy hat of the imagination. She hasn’t just earned her spurs. She’s given everyone else permission to wear them.

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