During the late 60s into the 70s, no other musician embodied the spirit of a hard living, honky-tonk rebel more so than Waylon Jennings. Style and attitude go hand in hand, and during his prime, Waylon undoubtedly had both.
Before making his way to Nashville, Waylon Jennings toured the country as rock pioneer Buddy Holly’s bassist. It was during the “Winter Dance Party” tour that Jennings infamously gave up his seat to J.P. Richardson Jr. at the last minute on the plane that crashed and killed everyone aboard. Holly’s death had a profound impact on Jennings. The two were friends, and Holly even served as mentor of sorts to Jennings who he taught guitar riffs. Holly even produced Jenning’s first single, “Jole Blon.” Waylon recalls, “Mainly what I learned from Buddy was an attitude. He loved music and he taught me that it shouldn’t have barriers to it.” Waylon took this lesson to heart; attitude and pushing boundaries defined his entire career.
When Waylon arrived in Nashville in 1965, the cookie-cuter mold of country music was already well established. Unbearably clichéd lyrics, orchestrated arrangements and a clean-cut image dominated the scene. It was in 1972 – a pivotal year in music – that Waylon bucked the establishment and changed the direction of country music with the release of Ladies Love Outlaws. Introducing rock rhythms and stripped down production, he returned country to its honky-tonk roots and most importantly, gave country music a much-needed edge.
By going against the Nashville establishment, Waylon was deemed an “outlaw,” which proved to be a rewarding title to wear. Jennings had 16 No. 1 singles during his career. In 1976, he collaborated with fellow outlaw Willie Nelson on the album, Wanted: The Outlaws, which became the first platinum selling country album. By following the lead of Buddy Holly years ago, Waylon made music on his own terms and changed the course for an entire genre of music.
Sartorially, we could all benefit from Holly and Jenning’s approach. Style isn’t a matter of what is being worn, but how it is worn. In a time when Waylon’s peers were draped in sequin blouses, he wore denim and leather – the garments of choice of a true outlaw. Take a stand against the established norms and unapologetically throw on all your denim, mix your shirt and necktie patterns and make sure your collar is un-collapsible. Who knows, you may start a movement of your own.