Style Spotlight: Preppy Cowboys

Sep 6th 2012

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.)

Bentley (country singer Dierks Bentley)
Brantley (country singer Brantley Gilbert)
Corbin (country singer Easton Corbin)
Dalton (the outlaw Dalton Gang)
Easton (country singer Easton Corbin)

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)


September 7, 2012 8:19 AM

The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear "Remington" is the electric razor. But I live in the Northeast and don't follow country music at all, so maybe it's just me??

September 7, 2012 11:05 AM

I thought of Remington Steele!

September 9, 2012 12:49 AM

Branson is also the name of a character on the show Downton Abbey.  Tom Branson, to be precise, but he's referred to as Branson. Another positive pop culture reference for the name.

September 10, 2012 9:11 AM

I was recently discussing the name Sterling as a potential preppy cowboy.  I'm not sure why it sounds so cowboy-ish to me, though, and my friend disagreed. Thoughts on this one? 

I think I probably reside in the preppy cowboy belt, but my brief consideration of Corbin was purely for the Fifth Element reference.  I'm about 97.2% sure I'm in the minority there, though. 

September 11, 2012 10:18 PM

The rise of Landry could also possibly be influenced by the character on Friday Night Lights, which aired from 2006-2011. The show is available through Netflix's streaming service, so it could be hitting a pretty wide audience.

September 19, 2012 5:27 PM

I chose an old west legend name for my son that you didn't list. We named our son Porter, after Porter Rockwell. I would love to see Rockwell on a boy, first or middle.

October 4, 2012 3:16 PM

I actually work in the country music entertainment industry, so I find this post very intersting!  I LOVE your addition of the name Autry.  I wouldn't personally choose that name, but it's spot-on for this style.

And BTW, I know 2 little boys named Oakley.

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