Western Shirt


Yutaka Goto





Find out little-known yet interesting facts about clothing through the words of discerning designers who have been creating
essential masterpieces for BEAMS PLUS collections.
The crucial new philosophy of BEAMS PLUS,
“Updating timeless classics for the future,” cannot be achieved without their wealth of knowledge.


Yutaka Goto (Designer of REMI RELIEF)Goto was born in Aichi in 1970 and established his own brand REMI RELIEF in 2008 after working for some clothing manufacturers such as Levi Strauss Japan. Empowered with its own factory in Okayama’s Kojima region in Kurashiki City, a place internationally known for the denim production, his brand has gained high acclaim from both inside and outside of Japan with its exceptional aging techniques that make their jeans look remarkably like authentic vintage pieces. Another reason of the popularity of the brand’s jeans is its modern fit that differentiates their product from mere copies of vintage clothes. As the designer of such a highly creative brand, Goto has been participating in various other projects including brand direction for renowned apparel firms and concept stores.

The symbolic meaning of the shirt
has not changed,
and will not
change in the future.

A Western shirt was initially designed
with a love of cowboys
as a costume
to be a part of the Western culture.

“The origin of a Western shirt hasn’t been told so much, with few compiled materials and reliable resources. Please, therefore, understand that what I say here on the garment is my humble opinion and hypotheses based on my own researches. First of all, denim clothes such as jeans, jean jackets and coveralls were originally designed as functional gear like military uniforms. On the contrary, a Western shirt is one of a few American casual garments made without any particular functions, I think.”

“The history of the shirt is said to begin with the Great Depression triggered by the Wall Street Crash in 1929. Ranchers in the West faced financial difficulties after that as the price of beef decreased. To rebuild their businesses, they started to run dude ranches targeted for wealthy people in the East as an alternative leisure pursuit to a sightseeing trip to Europe. It was like today’s glamping. Because cowboys had been much more popularized by western movies as a masculine ideal in the U.S., just like medieval knights for English people and samurai for Japanese, those ranches made a tremendous hit.”

“By then, cowboys usually wore a thick cotton twill or a plaid flannel shirt. A Western shirt was designed later to put tourists more in the Western mood. Because there is a considerable influence of Spanish culture in the Southwestern United States, the design of the original Western shirt was based on the clothes and motifs in Spain, along with some Native-American like features such as fringes. In that sense, it was made as an exaggerated costume. People visiting a dude ranch with yearning to cowboys enjoyed their holiday in a cowboy hat, a Western shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, embodying their idol. It was a kind of cosplay to be a fabricated hero.”

The shirt won acceptance also among
the city dwellers as a symbol of rebellion.

“Although a Western shirt was not something everybody knew at that time, it has been a part of cowboy’s workwear since then, while also being worn by visitors of dude ranches. Around the same time when some workwear brands such as Lee tried to expand their businesses in the mid-1940s by introducing their products as daily clothing, a company called Rockmount Ranch Wear was established in 1946 by Jack Weil who innovatively updated Western shirts by revising the fit and measurements. His design with double-layered shoulder patches and a narrowed waist flattered the masculine frame of the wearer, highlighting the chest and shoulder muscles. His shirt was definitely made to look stylish.”

“On the other hand, the shoulder patches of his shirts also had a practical role to reinforce the garment around the shoulders where easily got worn and damaged while the wearer carried luggage and a rope. And the flaps of so-called Sawtooth pockets were functionally designed not just to prevent the contents from falling off, but also to allow the wearer to take a cigarette or pen smoothly from the pocket. With the snap-button closure, the shirt is durable yet easy to unbutton even with gloved hands. It also helped the wearer escape from a shirt snagged by the horns of raging bull. Although many brands copied such details, Jack Weil is known as the inventor and the person who instilled the basic design of a cowboy shirt. People therefore call him the ‘father of a Western shirt’ with respect. In 1947, Wrangler had started its business as a specialty brand of highly fashionable Western wear, and later became one of the three denim giants along with Levi’s and Lee.”

“After overcoming the depression and experiencing World War 2, America enjoyed its economic heyday in the 1950s, transforming to a country with great power in the dawn of a new era. It was also when Western shirts became widely known as new casual wear. Although older people often considered that such tight-fit shirts were not for adults, younger generations willingly sported the item as a symbol of rebellion after seeing famous stars such as James Dean and Elvis Presley wearing it. During the counterculture era in the 1960s to 1970s, the shirt was loved by American hippies who held doubts about their country and pursued love and peace.”

I find the shirt appealing because of
its subtle sexiness
that no other
American casual clothes have.

“Through my brand, REMI RELIEF, I’ve continuously made a series of Western shirts since the launch of my debut collection in 2008. BEAMS+ (BEAMS PLUS) has carried my shirts from the very beginning because it was one of the items I first selected for the store. It’s also been one of my personal staples for a long time as I love the subtle masculine sexiness. Just like people of my age, I studied fashion after experiencing the 1990s vintage clothing fad in my susceptible 20s. Levi’s has a special meaning to me as a brand because I had been influenced by their products so much that I actually joined their Japanese branch. The influence of Levi’s and its products can also be seen on the Western shirts I made for REMI RELIEF. My design is created by merging the characteristic details of legendary masterpieces into one. Because our clothes always go through the pre-distressed process, however, we need to use more durable threads like the ones for workwear.”

“A Western shirt is now recognized as one of the iconic items of REMI RELIEF because I’ve been making it for about 10 years since its establishment. And I’ll definitely keep adding it to my collection in the future, too, regardless of whether the item is considered trendy. Western shirts are, in fact, not an edgy piece of clothing in the current fashion trend. So, I believe the reason people still love our Western shirts is because of the uniquely distressed surface of each piece. We put most of our effort into it with the belief that our products are the best in the world. I’d like to make a shirt t with an irresistibly distressed and damaged surface that can engage people’s hearts and minds even without our brand tag. The design of this season’s shirts is exactly same, but they got distressed in five different ways.”

Personalizing a Western shirt
as you like is
the authentic
way to enjoy the garment.

“One of the signature features of REMI RELIEF’s Western shirts is the way we use metal studs. We got inspired to do it by an advice I received from BEAMS+ at the beginning of the brand. Besides that, we have various other decoration options such as denim patches and embroideries because, as I told earlier, a Western shirt was initially made as a showy costume. Hippies later repaired and decorated their secondhand Western shirts with patches and embroideries, too. In that sense, I guess I can say that we enjoy the item in a very authentic way. The original idea of the shirt as a fashionable costume hasn’t changed until now and people still find the item attractive. And I think it won’t change in the future, too.”

Shop Info.

The products shown in this article are
available at BEAMS PLUS stores.