Broken Bow Country: Meet the 17-year-old behind a viral Western clothing brand

Bone dry

Broken Bow Country offers far more than high-quality apparel and prints with lonely skeleton cowboys. It comes with an honest-to-God ethos. Not, like most clothing brands, a “philosophy,” not in a stilted, corporate, phony way.

No, this is an ethos. Something that would drive a strong, silent outcast traversing the gasping heat of an endless desert.

‘Until you’re in front of people, until they know you have the credibility and the ethos, they’re not going to care for the most part.’

The Broken Bow Country
Instagram account features feverish videos full of rebellion and culture: outlaw culture.

I assumed that all of these creative lanes — clothing design, prints, video editing, and the adoration of music — were the outcome of a collaborative venture, a lean company of artistic-minded men with a heart for a bygone world.

So imagine my surprise upon discovering that Broken Bow Country is the handiwork of a17-year-old student at Columbine High School in Colorado. He took the SAT the day before our interview.

His name is Colton Patterson, an artist and country music fanatic, who sees his craft as a path to “actually being true and providing something that adds value to people’s lives, that speaks to the stuff that they enjoy.”

When he first started the Broken Bow Instagram account last December, it was mainly to curate and share videos he liked. He quickly realized that his video edits appealed to hundreds of people.

Then it was thousands, then hundreds of thousands. Before long he had half a million followers.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’m so grateful to have some place, something that I enjoy and love, and have it in front of that many people. I thank God for it. I’ve never seen them.”

He finds humility in this success. “I’d probably be doing stuff like this if I wasn’t, like, getting any return from it at all. I’d still be drawing, and I’d still be looking at classic country stuff, so it’s incredible that it’s something that is, like, actually going down and that I can do for a job.”

I ask Colton what people at school think of his brand and his art.

“It’s hard to get it across to most people. They think it’s cool that it’s big and it’s out there. But for the most part, people don’t care all that much about mostly super old grandpa country music and drawings. It stays on the lower key, but people recognize and see it. They appreciate it.”

Pop country sucks

Colton remembers road trips with his family when he was 6 or 7: “I’d be in the car, my dad would play him on the CD player we had in there, the movie screen. I’d watch ‘The Searchers’ and ‘The Cowboys.’ I loved John Wayne.”

His great-grandpa always had Westerns on: “All the John Wayne stuff, and I’d just be there and I can’t understand what’s going on, but you can see cowboys riding around, and I knew I liked it. It’s always just stuck with me and the stuff I do.”

“I’ve always enjoyed country music,” Colton tells me, “and it’s always been something that I’ve been connected through with my grandparents and my dad and everybody. And being an artist and liking to do that stuff, I just wanted to put it all out in one place where I could have the things that I liked or that I thought other people liked just in one location. I thought I’d be good at it, and it turns out that it’s worked well, and I’m incredibly grateful. just be able to have it as like a collective or an archive of the stuff that I enjoy, and the classics that really don’t get brought up that much.”

He loves George Jones, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings.

He listens to music while making his art so that he can achieve a “flow state,” the heightening of his creative output.

Marty Robbins’ album “The Gunfighter,” for instance, activates the flow state: “If that doesn’t get you in the mood, nothing else will.”

He also likes “Ralph Stanley, a bluegrass musician from Kentucky.” Colton continues:

He played with Keith Whitley, actually, if you know, he was the rhythm guitarist in his band forever, before he was famous. And they rolled around together, and he’s one of the best bluegrass musicians of all time. He’s incredible.
You can make a lot of like Western gunslinger type things and also like very sad portraits and scenes and these types, and I think it just works really well for all the cowboy ethos and all the Western mystical cowboy that surrounds the whole genre of country music.

You look around, and like in anything else, in any other genre of music or type of thing or like culture that you look in, you don’t find anything that’s as pure and preaching good qualities and the type of, I’m just trying to think of the stories and the values that you actually get in country music. Because you’re telling stories about people that have been through hard times or that are trying to find God, or a lot of it’s God-related too. That’s a big thing.

He pauses.

“Cowboys also,” he adds. “I just think cowboys are cool.”

I ask him if he was one of those kids who draws on everything.

“Yes, definitely. I’ve drawn forever. It’s something my mom does, and it’s something that I’ve gotten good at just doing over and over. It’s really just something that I love and have always wanted to use as an actual outlet or something, the way that my business is doing it now. I’m incredibly grateful to just have it as the centerpiece of everything I do now.”

He’s
not a fan of modern country. His most striking expression of this contempt is an image of Johnny Cash’s skeleton making the same rude gesture he once made in life.

Playfully, the post’s location is set to San Quentin Prison.

“There’s definitely good modern country music, but a lot of it is really just trash,” says Colton.

He’s hopeful that this will change.

He has a special ire for Morgan Wallen. “I trash him on the account. I feel bad for that, but it’s, I don’t like the way that it puts country music in, and it really doesn’t do justice to a lot of it. George Jones is rolling in his grave.”

The Applebee’s song, for instance.

When I tell him I haven’t heard it, he’s genuinely relieved.

“All the values in country music that are worth it, the ones I was speaking about, the stuff that I actually resonated with, are completely lost in most of the stuff that comes out today,” he tells me:

Because it’s really mostly just about getting drunk and doing whatever, all these party songs, like things you can just spread out and commercialized and put on the radio, and it’s not things that are truly speaking to people’s emotions and true stories and feelings that people have.

Because George Jones or any of these guys, Waylon Jennings, they make songs that are they started off as people that were just pawns of like commercial radio and all the big country stars that were wearing like rhinestone suits on stage

But then they actually shifted over to music that was speaking to true, like, gritty problems that people have, alcoholism and women leaving you, things like that, like stuff that you don’t want to talk about if you’re putting it out to mass radio platforms. And it’s truly, it’s been lost. It’s just not there in new country.

I’m hoping that it doesn’t stagnate or something doesn’t happen, but really it’s just my goal to keep going authentically, putting out the content and collecting the things that people like to see and enjoy and have lost in other parts where they’re just not being shown. It’s really just what I’m trying to stick to as time goes on.

Tradition

Along with remaining humble, Colton’s concerned with maintaining authenticity.

“What I realized very early on is that like no one will care about it until you just put it in front of them and you’ve shown that you can add value to their life,” Colton says. “Because I imagine I could have started with the drawings, I could have posted them as much as I wanted, but until you’re in front of people, until they know you have the credibility and the ethos, they’re not going to care for the most part.”

“But having the page and showing that, like, I can constantly find these things and create this collection of stuff that people enjoy watching and that I love — it creates a community and a group of people that you know, like, are familiar with your taste and things you like. It’s all just about being actually genuine because you can’t get anything across. People know when you’re faking it and when you’re just trying to move your way up or try to get a little leverage on them.”

“Things aren’t looking the best,” Colton says. “But culturally, the values you’re talking about, I think definitely because in the ’70s, you saw people come out of the ’60s and they had a conservative revival because you’ve seen like the peak, like the pendulum swung all the way this way and, like, people are doing crazy stuff. They’re like, okay, we gotta come back down and get back to traditional values. And I think that’s very much what’s happening right now.”

I tell him that I’ve seen it also in faith with his generation.

“Faith is definitely coming back a great deal. More people believe in God now than ever in the past recent years, at least. I see tons of people my age that believe in God and take it on more. Because people are realizing right now, they’re understanding, like, we’ve gotten too far away. Like it’s time to come back and reel in.”

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