If you’re in Nashville, Tennessee this weekend, you know it’s CMA Fest (Country Music Association Fest). Nearly seventy thousand people from the United States and around the world have flocked to Music City to listen to their favorite artists and discover new ones. The thing about country music is that like most genres, there’s a culture that surrounds it. From food to fashion, there’s the community that makes them as strong as the music.
Top performers have taken to the stage at Nissan Stadium over the past three nights with One More Day, performing their subgenres in Country and wearing outfits that resonate with their personalities.
There have been style phases in country music since its earliest roots. Beginning in the early 1920s, string bands from Appalachia and other mountain towns began recording and were marketed to specific types of people. Meanwhile, the male singers, called hillbillies, wore overalls and the women wore gingham dresses. But it’s a long way from that style unless you’re Granger Smith’s alter ego, Earl Dibbles, Jr., who always wears the overalls.
Twenty years later, in the 1940s, female artists were wearing cowgirl outfits and Patsy Montana was leading that change. The idea of the cowboy wearing a Stetson was saturated in the American literature of Carl T. Sprauge, who was also a country musician. It was during this time that the “Maddox Brothers and Rose”, a group of siblings who wore matching suits with colorful carrots embroidered around the shoulders or the hem of their pants, fringe, enamel and rhinestones by Polish tailor Nathan Turk. Trained in Warsaw at a tailor, Turk moved to the United States as a teenager and was known for his shop in Van Nuys, California. When Patsy Cline’s career was going strong in the early 1960s, her stage style was reminiscent of Rose Maddox with a cowgirl aesthetic.
Until the early 90s, country artists dressed up on stage. But today, artists are more relaxed, dressing in their own respective and personal country styles. Just like Johnny Cash always wore black, Luke Combs who performed last night always wears a black Columbia peach shirt and jeans. Sing hits When it rains, it pours at She got the best of meand I like you, Combs has the CMA Fest audience fully engaged and on their feet to sing their ballads. He also sang a song which will be released next week from his new upcoming album. The 32-year-old announced it was his last performance before the birth of his child, a boy with wife Nicole Combs.
But also last night, Nissan Stadium performers Brother Osborne, Luke Bryan and Randy Houser were all dressed down. John and TJ Osborne wear shirts and jeans on stage, but their styles were different last night. John with his big beard wore jeans and a button-up shirt, but his brother wore jeans and a t-shirt. Randy Houser opted for camouflage pants, a black long-sleeved shirt, a navy bandana tied around his neck and a military green western hat that looked like it was caught between Harrison Ford’s Indian Jones and a Stetson.
But Carrie Underwood stole the style for the evening by donning the sparkle. From her silver rhinestone thigh-high boots to her black cut-off shorts to a red rhinestone shirt, the winner of 8 Grammy Awards, 16-time ACE Award and 23-time CMT Music Award who released a new album in June tene, Denim and Rhinestones stolen at night. But it was a trend during the festival. Sparkle glam is the language they speak.
Priscilla Block, who performed on the Nissan platform on Thursday, wore sparkling silver head to toe. She expressed her gratitude for performing in the arena of more than 60,000 people. And Carly Pierce took the stage Friday night wearing a short 1960s-inspired dress full of pink and black sequins. Performing with Winona Judd, the audience gave her a standing ovation before and after the song as a hug from the death of her mother, Naomi Judd, who was a country music legend. The mother-daughter duo were due to hit the road this fall for a tour but on April 30e Naomi committed suicide at home.
And Kelsea Ballerini, the hole in the bottle The star wore a shimmering black jumpsuit with silver and gold accents. But Brittney Spencer opted for a denim jumpsuit when she opened the evening performances by singing the national anthem.
Also, on Friday, it was Country men who stole the evening. With satiating energy, Shenandoah opened. Singer Marty Raybon wore a quintessential blue western shirt with embroidery on the shoulder reminiscent of the attire worn by the Maddox brothers. And Zac Brown, lead singer of Zac Brown wore jeans and a black button down shirt and a dark green fedora. Brown invited country soul singer Marcus King on stage. The Greenville, South Carolina native who wore a black western jacket with a white accent on the edges, nostalgic for 1920s country music singers with a gray fedora. He wowed audiences with his blues-inspired guitar shredding.
Darius Rucker and Jason Aldean both wore jeans and a t-shirt, the latter in a yellow Dolly Parton shirt with his typical flared jeans and boots and large western hat added a country touch to his simple style.
The styles of Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett mirror those of Rucker and Aldean. Swindell got the audience on their feet with his hit She had me in mind Caroline, but with a baseball cap, not a western. Lainey Wilson who joined him on stage to sing their duet, Never say never wore his typical flared pants and western outfit with a felt fedora hat.
You can’t put country artists or fans in one box. Because the genre is a subgenre, it creates a diversity of styles and sounds. But whatever an artist wears on the big stage or one of the smaller stages this weekend, they are country and they are welcomed by country lovers.