Is Ed Ruscha the Most Stylish American Artist?

Most of Ruscha’s Great Plains-esque looks you can trace back to the ’70s. Posing in a suede jacket, blue jeans, and brown boots in London in 1970, he looked more like a ranch hand than a painter and printmaker; a portrait taken in New York that same year showed him in a bedazzled western shirt, cowboy belt, and his beloved blue jeans. By the 1980s, he shifted into a more casual, less overtly cowboy wardrobe of billowy button-up shirts, unconventional polos, and even a rugged henley. Around this time, it was more likely that he’d wear a pair of sneakers than leather boots. (But make no mistake: the man still loved his good ‘ole American denim.)

Ruscha in 1970.

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In the 1990s and the aughts, Ruscha began wearing short-sleeve button-ups and khakis and more comfortable sneakers, like these rugged laceless mocs and New Balance 991s. (Please also note his love of zip-off cargo pants.) But at events around this time, Ruscha started appearing in dressier threads, with a bolo tie hanging from his neck. Sometimes, he wore it with a formal suit, like this one with piping details and a crisp white shirt. On other occasions, he bolo-ed with more casual fare, or lost the tie entirely (while still looking pretty snazzy).

Ruscha in his studio, 1981.

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Ruscha in New Balance 991s in the 1990s. (Say that five times fast.)

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Perhaps the bolo is Ruscha’s nod to his youth spent in the Great Plains, or maybe he just likes the look. Either way, there is a lesson to be learned from Ruscha’s fits: Dress sharply and simply—and add just enough of a personal touch to stand out from the pack.

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