Phoenix native Nick Wetta makes a fashion statement with West Major

Hailing from Phoenix, Nick Wetta has always had a fondness for desert southwest aesthetics, including western shirts. But it’s not just cowboys and cacti that got him hooked.

“I didn’t grow up on a ranch; I don’t know how to ride a horse,” he said in an interview with Phoenix New Times September 15 at Cave + Post Trading Co. “I grew up playing music.”

After he started playing drums as a child and branched out into classic rock, he noticed that a lot of musicians wore western shirts. “George Harrison on Abbey Road wore a Western shirt,” Wetta notes of the late Beatles guitarist.

When Wetta tried to emulate his idols, it wasn’t easy.

“I would find these great vintage shirts in those 70s thrift stores,” he says, “but I felt like there weren’t brands today that make them with the same look, the same vibe and the same style as those old vintage shirts, so that was the seed of the idea.

Wetta adds, “These are such cool shirts and they’re from the culture here,” though he was disappointed that it’s rare to find ones made in the USA.

A love of the western look and the goal of preserving iconic American fashion led Wetta to start his own company, West Major, in 2019. Shirts are cut and sewn in the USA with premium fabrics imported from around the world entire.

“There are hardly any fabric factories left” in this country, explains Wetta. “The long-term dream vision is to build our own factory here in the southwest and eventually make our own fabric as well. There’s all this cotton grown here. So I think it’s doable.”

He adds: “This is Arizona – shouldn’t there be western brands here?”

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Nick Wetta displays one of his shirts at Cave + Post Trading Co. in Phoenix.

Geri Koeppel

Wetta started the brand with money he saved as a bartender, with no funding or investors. West Major now has just two styles of men’s shirts — long-sleeve and short-sleeve — in a variety of colors and fabrics, but eventually plans to add denim jackets and a women’s line.

The shirts are understated and contemporary, not flashy, with a classic western fit. West Major sells online and in a handful of stores in Arizona and Texas, including Cave + Post and Grass Clippings in Phoenix, and Rooster Bus in Scottsdale.

Patrick Burch, owner of Cave + Post with his wife Mary, says the fact that West Major shirts are designed in Phoenix and made in America “fits the style perfectly with our in-store aesthetic,” which is inspired by the Classic Americana.

Patrick Burch adds: “They are kind of timeless, but at the same time they are part of what is cutting edge. Chambray, denim, pearly snaps are always a timeless look, whether western or trendy, new and current.”

Wetta attributes his brand’s success in part to the resurgence in recent years of “big alternative country, folk music, blues,” he says. West Major references both Western culture and the musical scale, establishing a harmonious connection with Western wear.

Classic country music has reached new audiences with younger artists like Tyler Childers, Luke Combs, Carly Pearce, Colter Wall and many more. This year’s release from Wilco’s cruel country is another nod to the growing interest in the genre.

Again, West Major shirts appeal to a wide audience. “Rock bands, metal bands, rap artists all wear western clothes today,” Wetta notes. “I think Western shirts and Western clothing and the West as a theme in general represent freedom, freedom of expression, autonomy, individuality.”

Additionally, Wetta admits, “I don’t like super loud stuff, and I think some of the Western outfits might look a little cheesy.” His shirts, on the other hand, are “very wearable for the average guy.”

Loyal customer Alex Johnson of Phoenix said, “You literally can’t leave the house in this shirt without getting a compliment.”

Johnson says versatility is an asset: “I like to wear clothes that I can wear to work and that I can wear to dinner with my wife on the weekends.” He adds that the shirts are “visually appealing, they fit well; the fabric and materials are so comfortable, so well thought out.”

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Timeless touches like pearlescent snaps are the hallmark of West Major shirts.

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Despite her dedication to clothing, Wetta has no fashion background. He graduated from Arcadia High School in Phoenix and attended San Diego State University, where he earned a business degree in 2012. Initially, he worked in software sales, then moved in Los Angeles with the aim of getting into making documentaries, but ended up working in reality television. Wetta’s credits include executive assistant on In pursuit of fate, The greatest party story of all timeand It’s Mike Stud.

“In my late twenties, I was starting to burn out and wanted to start my own business, and the western shirt thing was always a priority for me,” Wetta said.

His friend Steven Borrelli had just started Cuts Clothing and gave Wetta advice, telling him to hire a pattern maker. He worked with a contact on the fit and design, and she helped him find fabric. “One of the places I bought fabric said, ‘Hey, I know a factory,'” Wetta recalls. “One connection led to another to another.”

At 29, Wetta started working as a barback at Misfit in Santa Monica, California, so he could earn money at night and pursue his passion for Western clothing during the day. After nine months, he returned home on his 30th birthday (September 15, 2019), “which was a terrifying experience,” he concedes. “That’s not really what you want to do at 30.”

After selling out all of her inventory in 2019, Wetta ordered a bunch of fabrics, expecting to have another huge year. Then COVID-19 hit and he “practically had to shut down and hang on,” says Wetta, now 33.

Although Wetta lost money in 2021, his gross sales hit six figures and he quit his job at The Vig Fillmore restaurant in June to work full-time on West Major.

At $130 to $150, the shirts aren’t cheap, but Wetta explains, “They’re all made here, and we offer free shipping, returns, exchanges, and repairs.” It’s more expensive, but you can buy it with confidence knowing that if anything should happen, this company will take care of it.

And the shirts are made to last, according to Wetta. “You could wear it today or 50 years from now, and it’ll still look good with jeans,” he says. “I want this stuff to end up in a thrift store when people are done with it.”

Wetta adds, “Every guy has a favorite shirt. That’s what we’re trying to do is create your next favorite Western shirt.”

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West Major founder Nick Wetta, featured at Cave + Post Trading Co. in Phoenix, designs versatile Western shirts made in the USA.

Geri Koeppel

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