PHOTO CREDIT: ALDO SESSA
Strong and silent, the gaucho horsemen who roamed South America's epic landscape have come to define the spirit of Argentina.
While English dictionaries define the gaucho as a "South American cowboy", the real meaning of the word goes much deeper, encompassing history, myth and legend, and a distinctive rural identity that is celebrated as much in urban neighborhoods as in the countryside.
Gauchos began making their impact as far back as the 1800s, but it was their role in the 19th-century war of independence from Spain that secured their place in the heart of the nation. Strong and stoical in the face of the epic, untamed landscape of the Pampa, the gaucho's image as a noble horseman was immortalized in poetry and folk songs throughout the 19th century.
The gaucho's deep connection to the countryside necessitated a look that was rooted in practicality, yet nonetheless distinctive. Leather boots and bombachas – tapered cotton trousers – were supple enough for hard riding; heavy-weave ponchos multi-tasked as bedding for nights under the stars; belts and buckles harnessed weaponry (such as the long facón knife); and wide-brimmed, low-topped hats protected against Pampa sun and winds.
That look is one reason for the gaucho's enduring appeal – it's both easy and exciting to reference and reinterpret in our everyday lives. Whether it's a luxurious poncho, an equestrian shirt or a contemporary take on a traditional print, when we nod to gaucho style, we also embrace the ideals of untamed freedom, heroism and authenticity associated with this legendary character. The rebel rancher is here to stay.