The Most Elegant Urban Cowboy You Know

My friend Chad Lawson is an artist, writer, teacher and  sartorial savant. We attended graduate school together and–as I mentioned in my last post–I loved seeing the subtlety-meets-peacock-flair of Chad’s outfits. He always impressed me with his pitch perfect ability to blend the inventive with the classic. As you’re about to see, his style choices run way deeper than seasonal trends and my working theory is his playful depth is a big part of why he always  looks like a million bucks.


In the years since we’ve graduated, Chad moved back to his hometown of St. Louis. I asked him to send a dispatch from the heartland and he gamely complied. Here you have, then, a curated collection (with notes) from Chad’s closet. The pointers are killer. Prepared to be schooled.


Classic Woolrich


Chad: This Woolrich shirt is at least twenty-five-years old, or perhaps older.  The wool is dense, and serious enough that if it wasn’t for the silk- lined collar and cuffs you would get that scratchy itchy feeling. The shirt is super warm, and on a 23 degree day like today, I can pop outside and still stay cozy.

IBC: What retailer gets the biggest share of your hard-earned cash?

Thrift stores get most of my allotted fashion cash.  You wrote something recently to the effect of, “As an artist, teacher, writer, non-profit worker I never have excess funds around to spend on high ticket items,”–we’re in the same boat.  So, I am always looking to re-purpose vintage gear.

I do treat myself to three items a year.  These typically are: one pair of classic, quality, hand made shoes; a crisp pair of raw denim; and a unique perfume. Over the past couple of years Context Clothing or Barney’s have been my go-to for luxury splurges.

Chad in his Woolrich


IBC: What’s your style philosophy?

Sometimes I like to  just roll with “Why not?” but at other times I keep it really simple and traditional. I think that’s why some of my favorite outfits are denim based–a shirt and tie, a pair of clean brogues.

I like narrow lines and well fitting garments. I’d take a shorter sleeve length over an ill fitting over-sized dad shirt. I just kind of follow what feels good to me, what makes me feel giddy and pumped about what I’m wearing.

JC Penney Denim Work Shirt


I dig denim, have for a long time. And often, I attempt to rock multiple layers of denim. I mean think about it–what greater challenge could one want in choosing their outfit?  Double-deniming, or even tres-deniming, can fail, and one can very quickly end up looking like their Uncle Rick waiting in line at a big box store. Who wants that? Seriously, the Midwestern boy in me whats to take advantage of all the great denim finds I have access to here in St. Louis.

One of my go-to pieces is this hella old JC Penney’s denim work-shirt. I’ve had for nearly a decade, and it still has the rusted buttons that I found it with. Some of the rust has transferred onto the shirt. She is my baby, and I wear her at least twice a week. Throw a formal under it, pair it with a tie, or maybe just put on a white v-neck tee and show off a little retro-sexual chest hair.


One has to have denim jacket. This one I’ve had since ’97.  My OG jean jacket has gone through a few modifications over the years. At one point, I thought it would be cool to restitch half of it with neon pink thread.  It looked hot for about a month, and then neon pink wasn’t all that slick anymore.

For me, the denim jacket is just as classic as a Harris Tweed sport coat. You’ve got to be on the look out for a couple of nice vintage ones to keep the closet fresh. I keep a clean, raw denim Gap jean jacket that I use when I want a little bit more of a crisp look.

IBC: As a writer and artist, how do you perceive the connection between your fashion and artistic aesthetic?

I like my writing concise. Perhaps that translates into how I dress, I’m not really sure. A great brown belt is a great brown belt. A jean jacket is a jean jacket. If I want to get wordy, I might throw in a high-colored scarf,  flashy socks, or a bright-hued under-layer.


My newest fun item are these great old school Justin roper boots. I copped ’em at Imogene + Willie in Nashville. Their staff (and owner, Carrie) are some of the kindest folks I have ever met, for real. If you aren’t privy to them,  they design and hand stitch amazing American-made denim. Their store is a beautiful comfort, and has a phenomenal selection of vinatge boots. They also carry RRL; I am priced out of this but have fun little fantasies about draping some of his product on my back someday.


Anyway, I’m diggin’ on these roper boots because of the elephant skin pattern pressed into the leather. There are a million little cracks for dirt and oil to build up. I take the fringe off sometimes which gives it a bit more formal/less cowboy vibe, throw on some wool trousers and there ya go.

Perhaps I’m drawn to the elephant print  for nostalgic reasons–they remind me of my first pair of Nike Air Jordans 3, circa ’88, and Tinker Hatfield’s genuis design. It is was the dopest thing to see on a sneaker, totally orginal, and something none of us kids had ever seen before.

Maybe I still want to be that breakdancing hip-hopper/urban cowboy sorta dude, so these vintage ropers give me that free space to play both worlds.

Momotaro Jeans + Context Grand Indigo Selvage


Right now I have my Momotaro + Context Grand Indigo Selvage collaborative jeans in heavy rotation. I wear them probably five days a week and then pop on my A.P.C. Petite Standards the other days. If you haven’t peeped Context make sure you do, they are super knowledgeable and kind. They also stock some of the highest quality gear a dude could ever want.


These jeans are the best fitting jeans I have ever had. They are a heavy 15oz denim that took me at least 30 wears before they loosened up. Totally worth the work though, as now they feel like a second skin. The indigo warp is unbelievable, and with such a rich and deep hued fabric, I feel hella luxurious when I’m wearing them.

IBC: Tell me something about style in St. Louis.

After living in SF–where it seems like one can roll into any restaurant, on any night of the week, straight looking a slob–I feel like in St. Louis folks tend to make an effort to put together something that they feel makes them look radiant. Not hating on SF at all, but we all know shit is a little too casual there sometimes. I mean, come on, you’re at a three star restaurant: tuck your shirt in, put on a belt, clips your toenails.

There is still a formal vibe in St. Louis. A lot of dudes still roll to dates with suits on. Not because they are trying to be big time or fancy but because that is the way their grandads and dads did it. I can fully appreciate that.

St. Louis has always had ties to traditional workwear; we are a straight working class city.  All that vintage Woolrich, Levis,  Red Wing, pocket-knife-in-the-coin-pocket look; that “blue collar” stuff that is hella hot right now?  I can remember those sort of wears on damn near everyone I grew up with. That, and beards. I guarantee before dudes in Brooklyn started rocking beards a decade ago, cats here in the Lou had them from way way back. We’re born with beards.

You also see a lot of men wearing hats: suits jackets and hats, trench coats and hats. Puts me back to the days when I was a kid and we would come downtown to shop and you’d see men in hats. That was nice. Maybe I’ll be that old man someday.

About Thomas Page McBee

Gentleman first, always. James Dean is my patron saint, poet is my gender. More about me here:


  1. Michael von Braithwaite

    This is how this look should be done! So many guys TRY to pull this off and end up doing it too “Boho.” Perfect. And I love the subtle touches of color and the way he connects his overall to a real sense of place. The Levi’s thing right now ends up being groundless costuming for a lot of people with no working class experience and there’s something kind of tacky about it.
    AND as someone who grew up in the South, I’d also like to say how much I appreciate the skillful use of denim on denim! That’s always a crapshoot.

    Also YEAH Imogene + Willie!! That store is AMAZING. Nashville represent, y’all!

  2. Sloane

    I am such a fangirl for Chad and his style.

  3. Pingback: Winter (Somewhere Else) « Ironing Board Collective

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