Texas is not the only place to find a cowboy. The italian “butteri” still ride the coastal plains of Tuscany and Lazio, herding the ancient breed of cattle that roam there – and looking dapper while they do so. Their numbers might be dwindling but their distinctive style is not, thanks to the specialist brand that has reinvented the look for a modern audience.
There are cowboys in Italy and, unsurprisingly, Italian cowboys know how to dress. Riding their horses through the rugged Maremma terrain that runs from the southern coast of Tuscany to the northern tip of Lazio (north of Rome), the buttery, as they’re called in Italian, have tended the herds of Maremma cows that have roamed these plains since the Etruscan era, more than 2,000 years ago.
The earliest known documentation of buttero style comes from “Il Cavallo Malato”, an 1887 painting by Ruggero Panerai. A pair of cowboys can be seen carefully attending to a prostrate horse; the men are heavily bearded and wear the well-tailored clothes that their descendants still sport today: a leather-banded fedora, wide-leg trousers and the distinctive Maremmana jacket.
A slope-shouldered outdoor blazer (sometimes a similarly styled vest would replace the jacket), the Maremmana jacket has large buttoned pocket, which form a front-to-rear U-shape around the torso, and a pocket across the back known as the “thieve’ pocket”. It’s not known whether this spacious hidden compartment kept belongings safe from brigands or was used to stash stolen booty. The jacket can be loaded up with everything a cowboy might need: lunch, bullet cartridges, a whistle, even a freshly hunted bird. Its shoulder, upon a which a rile would be slung, bears an extra patch of fabric to be replaced when it becomes worn out. The garment is intended to last for decades.
“It’s an iconic jacket” says, Carlo Sabatini, the CEO of Capalbio, the historic Maremmana brand, which last year relaunched the jacket for a modern audience. The traditional version would be made from moleskin or corduroy and dyed in natural colors such as chestnut, sage and rust. Capalbio introducendo a collection with a slimmed-down fit in knobby wool and wide-wale corduroy, as well as modern materials such as technical recycled wool and water-repellent nylon and cotton.
The Tuscan brand was founded in 1992 but sales slowed and it lay dormant for years before being purchased in 2017 by the Manifatture Toscane corporation. It moved production to Prato, in northern Tuscany, and revved up sales both abroad and in Italy. The line is now sold at boutiques including Principe in Florence and Ferrante in the brand’s namesake Maremma town of Capalbio, where it was originally based. The plan was to dress not just cowboys but a young generation beyond Tuscany.
Today the butteri, like the enormous, lyre-horned Maremmano cows they herd, are much reduced in number, but both riders and animals are tenaciously holding on. The remaining butteri ride every day after dawn. They gallop for hours on their wide-chested, bay-colored Maremmano horses which, like the cows they corral, are an indigenous breed with thick skin suited to the area’s thorny, brackish scrubland.
Like most cowboys still working, Zampieri dons the traditional Maremmana jacket only on special occasions, such as when branding new calves. His daily style still includes the earthy buttero colors, the fedora and handmade raw leather gaiters. Buttero clubs have formed to carry on the tradition an the men and women of these organizations dress in the time-honored Maremmano attire (with perhaps a mobile phone in one o those spacious pockets), They put on riding shows throughout the warmer months but, says Zampieri, they have other careers too.
During the 20th century the Maremma jacket became a favorite item of clothing among the landed Tuscan aristocracy, who, says Sabatini, wore it as a “symbol of identity that signaled their sense of belonging to this rural territory. We are very attached to the land here in Tuscany and we want people to know about this way of life, about the buttero and about living in harmony with the territory”, he says. “The cowboys here have a look that’s completely unique, completely Italian- and also completely Tuscan”.
Written by Laura Rysman for “Monocle”