Matt McCormick filters timeless cowboy iconography through a modern lens—in his art and a new collaboration with Stetson.
By Andrew Bradbury
Photography by Germano Assuncao
Matt McCormick is not a cowboy—he makes that clear upfront. But like the song goes, his heroes have always been. “As a kid, my superhero was always the cowboy.”
Matt grew up in the Bay Area, but there were many trips with his mother to California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley, and plenty of exposure to endless Western movies with his father.
“That cowboy character became a kind of North Star of what it means to be a man,” he says. Now the work he creates evokes conversation about broader national themes, filled with strong, silent types serving as the hero and dreamlike symbols from the sort of roadside Americana that was, if not invented, then certainly perfected by his home state: neon motel signs, muscle cars, a soda machine at an old filling station.
MATT MCCORMICK IN HIS LOS ANGELES STUDIO IN 2022.
“The Stetson hat has become a symbol of American culture that reverberates throughout my work.”
His aesthetic and good-old-DIY, California punk-rock ethos that has made his work a crossover success with both hypebeasts (literally—he was on the cover of Hypebeast magazine in 2019) and serious art collectors. It manages to convey a heightened, stylized reality that feels rooted in the past, but fully of the modern world, making McCormick one of the most dynamic artists working in the Western genre—likely because he’s not fully confined to it.
The contrast is apparent in his new collaboration with Stetson, which features a limited-edition boot, as well as a pair of legendary Fender® Telecasters® emblazoned with custom graphics. Though it’s his first official collaboration with the brand, McCormick says, “The Stetson hat has become a symbol of American culture that reverberates throughout my work.”
For the boots, McCormick brought classic Western design details to a more city-friendly Chelsea style. “I always wanted a boot with a western feel that could exist seamlessly in the city, as well as the outdoors,” he says, “a traditional cowboy boot is a little intense.” The guitars—a pair of American-made Telecasters® featuring rough charcoal interpretations of classic Stetson logos and a sketch of a modern cowboy—are another reminder that a little bit of country and a little bit of rock and roll can go a really, really long way.
In that spirit, McCormick cites Dwight Yoakam as one of his heroes, “He got his start playing alongside punk bands in LA but he is also super traditional, and paid homage to the greats like Buck Owens and earned those guys’ respect. But he didn’t just stick to one world.”
Music has always played a role in McCormick’s life, thanks to his father, a musician who still plays in bands. Inspired by the time his father secured a grant to fund an art program when his school was without one, McCormick is committed to using his platform to raise awareness for arts education.
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We’re happy to join him in that effort, and as part of this launch, The John B. Stetson Company, in conjunction with The Bulova Stetson Fund, has made a donation of $10,000 to Education Through Music-Los Angeles, which partners with under-resourced schools in McCormick’s backyard to provide music as a core subject for all children, utilizing music education as a catalyst to improve academic achievement, motivation for school and self-confidence.
Seventh grader Nathan is an up-and-coming young guitarist from East LA. He learned to play guitar from his dad and loves Metallica. He also loves the bongo.
Ninth grader Brianna is usually strumming on the bass guitar. She’s equally talented on the Telecaster® though—pictured here performing at Matt’s studio in Los Angeles.
“It’s been proven the benefits that it provides,” McCormick says, “and music is a language we can all understand. For kids, having a moment to pause and get away from a screen is very calming and very therapeutic. And I think it keeps the imagination alive. I feel lucky that I get to exist in a career where I get to imagine and have dreams all day.”