Style Spotlight: Preppy Cowboys
In 2010, the hottest rising name in America was Bentley. In 2011, the hottest rising name in America was Brantley. The resemblance is hard to miss. The sound and spelling similarity of those two names, though, may mask the broader trend they represent.
Bentley and Brantley are both preppy-styled surnames associated with country music stars (Dierks Bentley and Brantley Gilbert). That style fusion has proven just as potent for names with a totally different sound and shape, such as Easton (as in Easton Corbin). All signs point to more preppy cowboys ahead.
In one sense, the preppy cowboy names fit in with classic southern naming traditions. The use of surnames as first names, for both boys and girls, is an old custom of the South. Traditionally, though, those would have been family surnames. The new generation of surname is selected for pure style, and the hottest choices suggest G & T's at the yacht club more than sweet tea on the front porch.
What tips these surnames toward the country and western side is a cultural reference -- occasionally to a place or event, but most often to a person. The preppy cowboys connect to country singers, Old West legends or western movie stars to give the names a subtle makeover.
The following examples are top-100 names in at least one state in the preppy cowboy belt. (That belt roughly follows the hotbeds of country music, but it's growing fast.)
And some up-and-comers to watch:
Autry (singing cowboy Gene Autry)
Axton (country singer Hoyt Axton)
Branson (Branson, Missouri)
Gentry (country singer Bobbie Gentry and duo Montgomery Gentry)
Landry (Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry)
Oakley (sharpshooter Annie Oakley)
Remington (Remington rifles and western artist Frederic Remington)