Richter Goods Is Redefining Western Wear Deep in the Heart of Texas

In an unassuming building surrounded by historic estates just north of Downtown San Antonio, Texas, Western wear is having its moment. But its use is no longer relegated to the purpose and culture for which it was created. Pearl-snap shirts, cowboy boots, and cowboy hats have become ubiquitous in many a wardrobe, but you’d be hard-pressed to find that any of them have actually ridden a horse or gone two-stepping. 

After seeking refuge from the sweltering heat of a Texas summer with an iced tea from the adjacent cafe, I sat down with Mario Guajardo and Bronte Treat, owners of Richter Goods, a clothing manufacturer in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas. “Everything started” a little over ten years ago, Mario told me, “with the idea of loving shirts.” Their repertoire is mostly focused on Western-style shirts and outerwear with an emphasis on high-quality fabrics sourced from Japan and Portugal. 

I visited Mario and Bronte in their studio, a renovated law office just north of Downtown San Antonio. After being buzzed in, I was greeted by two long tables cluttered with fabrics, patterns, scissors, and buttons. The lighting was almost clinical. The harsh blue overhead accentuated the dull bluish-gray walls, creating a total shock to the eyes from the hot greens and verdant oranges outside. I was then led into a wood-paneled room with a white lace curtain on one of the walls and a pile of paper and fabric in one of the corners. It was as if I had stepped into a totally different world. Mario and Bronte, who describe themselves as both “husband and wife” and “BFFLs,” greet me warmly and offer me something to drink. I decline, and Bronte cracks open a Lone Star and Mario an East Brother Red Lager. 

Despite their easy demeanor, they have a clear mission: they want to be the best. “There is not a brand in Texas that is using the fabrics we are using,” Mario boasts. Bronte adds, “What makes us authentic is not that we’re making pearl-snap shirts, it’s that we’re making them five minutes from the Alamo.” Their garments embody a complicated legacy that spans from the Black and Indigenous vaqueros of Northern Mexico and South Texas to the John Waynes and Clint Eastwoods of Spaghetti Western Hollywood. Their shirts, much like San Antonio itself, are the confluence of countless inspirations that is the American West. But they are also as much the cowboy and the West as they are the idea of the cowboy and the West. Mario even explains that the vaqueros themselves—the original cowboys—didn’t have pearl-snap buttons on their shirts. That was a later Hollywood invention. So perhaps people aren’t as drawn to the reality of the style as they are to the concept of it. “They want to be the ‘main character’ of their life,” explains Bronte. “They want to be James Dean.”

For Mario, Richter Goods is a deeply personal venture. He describes his upbringing in Mexico City, telling me that his father “always had a pair of boots and a Western shirt” at the ready, even for his job as an attorney. His family is from East Texas. When describing their immigration experience, he says, “The border crossed us.” Like many Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent), Mario’s family knew this place as a Mexican territory well before it was swallowed up by the ever-expanding United States in 1845. There is a robust connection between his family, the land, and the ways in which people have dressed to adapt to it for generations. 

One of these perpetual considerations is the increasing temperature of Texas summers. While it’s always been, for lack of a better term, real damn hot, climate change motivates Mario and Bronte to think about how people will fare wearing their clothes in the heat. They accomplish this by employing appropriate fabrics for the climate, such as light, breathable linens during their spring/summer campaigns and wools that aren’t excessively warm or heavy for fall/winter. The realities of climate change also encourage the company’s sustainability policies. If a fall/winter long sleeve is an underperformer, it becomes a spring/summer short sleeve. Bronte says, “If we don’t sell one shirt it’s not the end of the world.” They often give extra product to both familiar and new clients as a gift. Everything they produce ends up in someone’s hands: nothing goes to waste. 

But there have also been failed experiments along the way, and Mario explains, “We have made mediocre garments, terrible garments.” Among them was a romper, constructed circa 2017 when men everywhere were trying to challenge their masculinity in the ugliest way possible. When I ask what they’d like to experiment further in making, they mention pants and taking another shot at a jumpsuit, but that their goal is to remain a “champion of shirting.” 

This summer, the couple was invited to showcase their pieces at the MAN/WOMAN SS24 show in New York which featured heritage brands (Alpha Industries, Dehen 1920) and relative newcomers (Wythe, Alex Crane) alike. At the trade show, which brings together designers, buyers, and the fashion press, they made an interesting curatorial decision: they only showcased Western pearl-snaps. Bronte shared with me how she has seen some designers attempt to make a Western shirts with confusing results; it’s just not their area of expertise. As a result of both of their upbringings and connections to Texas, Mario and Bronte, to put it simply, know their shit. Where other brands see trend, Richter Goods sees heritage.

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