The secret meaning of Miley Cyrus’ Grammy looks

Although Miley Cyrus’ recent music wouldn’t necessarily be defined as country, she has collaborated with her godmother – most recently on a re-record of Wrecking Ball. Ham says collaborations like these are piquing global interest in cowboy culture.

“Right now, western fashion is very much crossing over to mainstream,” she says. “My friend runs a western fashion store in Fort Worth, Texas, and she describes people being ‘cowboy curious’. When major artists pull inspiration from cowboy culture, like the big hair and the glam, or even Beyonce wearing a cowboy hat to the Grammys, it shows much cowboy culture is taking over the main stage.”

Ashley Jackson is a Western fashion journalist who lives in Idaho. She teaches people about western traditions, from the fashion to the culture – and agrees with Ham that cowboys are having a moment. For Jackson, Cyrus’ looks are not only a nod to her godmother, but also her own heritage.

“She thanked her family and Dolly in her speeches, plus in her Instagram post, and she did it with her outfit too,” Jackson tells BBC Culture. “This is Miley saying, ‘Hey, I’m rooted in Western culture and it doesn’t have to be defined by a horse and jeans. Our culture is classy, feminine and powerful.”

Jackson also notes that, on a personal level, Cyrus has been through a lot – having recently gone through a divorce – and her stage looks were about asserting her strength.

“There’s power in a woman who wears her hair that big,” says Jackson. “Western culture is about true grit and character.”

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