Trace Adkins cut a dapper figure in a bespoke suit and a matching cowboy hat at the Country Music Awards (CMAs). (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Country music cowboys were riding high at the Academy of Country Music Awards show last night. But the cowboy hat is also a gay icon symbolizing the rugged, macho world of the Old West, where homos on the range were more common than not back in the day.

That’s a complete reversal of the popular notion that the West was populated by virile, heroic men, according to TruWest, a Web site devoted to the history of the Old West.

Apparently there was much more to the life on the open range than a rope, a horse and the ultimate phallic symbol a gun. Think “Brokeback Mountain” more than “Rio Bravo.”

“It’s important to know the history of homosexuality,” says Peter Boag chairman of the history department at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“Society didn’t really designate people as homosexual or heterosexual through most of the 19th century; it was not really until the 20th century that those identities crystallized,” he told the Web site.

Cowboys in country music can be traced back to the 1930s with the popularity of such groups and singers as the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry, William S. Hart, Tom Mix and Roy Rogers who appeared in singing cowboy movies, according to

Image was important even back then. Studio heads they thought Autry was too feminine and not masculine enough to be a cowboy hero. But he proved to be one of the most popular movie cowboys of all.

Check out today’s country music cowboys and their hats.

Country Music Cowboys Ride High (Click Photos to Enlarge!)
Academy of Country Music Awards Winners (in bold) 2017
Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan
Florida Georgia Line
Carrie Underwood
Keith Urban

Album of the Year

“Black” – Dierks Bentley
“Dig Your Roots” – Florida Georgia Line
“Hero” – Maren Morris
“Ripcord” – Keith Urban
“The Weight of These Wings” – Miranda Lambert

Single Record of the Year

“Blue Ain’t Your Color” – Keith Urban
“H.O.L.Y.” – Florida Georgia Line
“Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw
“My Church” – Maren Morris
“Vice” – Miranda Lambert

Song of the Year

“Blue Ain’t Your Color” – Keith Urban
“Die a Happy Man” – Thomas Rhett
“Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw
“Kill a Word” – Eric Church featuring Rhiannon Giddens
“Tennessee Whiskey” – Chris Stapleton
“Vice” – Miranda Lambert

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Maren Morris
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood

Male Vocalist of the Year

Jason Aldean
Dierks Bentley
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

Vocal Duo of the Year

Big & Rich
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae

Vocal Group of the Year

Eli Young Band
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
Rascal Flatts
Lady Antebellum

New Male Vocalist of the Year

Kane Brown
Chris Janson
Chris Lane
Jon Pardi
Brett Young

New Female Vocalist of the Year

Lauren Alaina
Brandy Clark
Maren Morris

New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year

A Thousand Horses
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Maddie & Tae
Little Big Town

Songwriter of the Year

Ashley Gorley
Luke Laird
Hillary Lindsey
Shane McAnally
Lori McKenna

Video of the Year
“Fire Away” – Chris Stapleton
“Forever Country” – Artists of Then, Now & Forever
“Humble and Kind” – Tim McGraw
“Peter Pan” – Kelsea Ballerini
“Vice” – Miranda Lambert

Vocal Event of the Year

“Different for Girls” – Dierks Bentley featuring Elle King
“Forever Country” – Artists of Then, Now & Forever
“May We All” – Florida Georgia Line featuring Tim McGraw
“Setting the World on Fire” – Kenny Chesney featuring Pink
“Think of You” – Chris Young featuring Cassadee Pope