Willie Nelson performs at the Avalon in February 2013 in Hollywood, Calif. (Jerod Harris, Getty Images for H&M)

High Style Icon: Willie Nelson, forever cool as fearless cannabis advocate

Marijuana is obviously having its most major moment. And with it comes an entirely new culture — one where it’s more acceptable than ever to wear weed on your sleeve. Here at The Cannabist, we are setting out to shine a light on those who define the style of cannabis culture — past or present, real or fictional. We’re looking to those who embody the spirit of what marijuana means, through art, music, fashion and film.

It is our honor to start this series on weed icons with the original outlaw, Willie Hugh Nelson (b. April 29, 1933; Abbot, Texas). In a recent Rolling Stone profile, Patrick Doyle dubbed him “one of America’s greatest songwriters, a hero from Texas to San Francisco, a hippie’s hippie and a redneck’s redneck.” We will also add that he’s a stoner’s stoner.

High Style Icon: Willie Nelson, forever cool as fearless cannabis advocate
Willie Nelson’s new memoir goes on sale Tuesday, May 5. (Provided by Hachette Book Group)

The music legend and fearless cannabis crusader just marked his 82nd birthday — each one of those years recounted in his new memoir “It’s a Long Story: My Life,” on sale Tuesday, May 5. The New York Post reveals from the book: “I owe marijuana a lot,” he writes. “I think I can fairly make the claim that marijuana — in the place of booze, cocaine and tobacco — has contributed to my longevity.”

Long before marijuana was respected — and legal — Nelson was smoking it. He was loud, proud and rebellious. As a proponent of legalization from the beginning, he is a trailblazing activist serving on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and creating Willie Nelson’s Tea Pot Party under the motto “Tax it, regulate it and legalize it!” after his fourth arrest for marijuana possession in 2010. 

In the book, Nelson also reflects on finding inspiration in the counterculture of the 1960s — the time when he first experienced and soon adopted the hippie lifestyle.

“I liked that (the kids) had courage to look and act any damn way they pleased,” he writes. “The new world represented by the Grateful Dead or the Jefferson Airplane was new only in appearance. (It) appealed to me because it was bold and creative and said to the world, ‘To hell with what you think. I’ll dress any way I please.’”

And he always has. Nelson’s signature style is anti-establishment, anti-fashion even. A black hat, bolo tie, cowboy boots (now New Balance), T-shirt and a bandana headband are all a part of Nelson’s enduring look. Oh, and the braids. Hell, they fetched $37,000 at auction in 2014. When classic cowboy is matched with rockstar authenticity — it’s inimitable. He doesn’t try, and he doesn’t have to. He’s just that fucking cool.

High fashion too, looks good on Nelson. Designer John Varvatos, who has a deep connection to music, celebrated Nelson’s style in his fall/winter 2013 advertising campaign featuring the star alongside his sons Lukas and Micah.

Watch Willie Nelson and family perform:

Soon you can channel the style of the inhaling icon. Plans are in the works to open “Willie’s Reserve” stores in 2016, which will carry his own strains of marijauna as well as like-minded products “reflective of his passion” in each recreationally legal state.

For now, shop these Willie Nelson statement pieces. But unless you’re the man himself, don’t wear ’em all at once.

The look

Willie Nelson “Shotgun Willie” Ringer T-Shirt, $22

Willie Nelson style: Cannabis leaf shirts made by Denver Western store Rockmount
The cannabis leaf motif on shirts made by Denver Western store Rockmount. (Photos provided by Rockmount; Photo illustration by The Cannabist)

Rockmount Ranchwear “Cannabis Cowboy” Western Shirt, $96

Allens Boots Cowboy Boots, varied

Kemo Sabe Cowboy Hat, varied

Levi’s Paisley Bandana, $14


It’s a Long Story: My Life,” $12.99 (Kindle Edition)


Countryman,” $5.99 (iTunes)

Willie Nelson turns 81 today. Old signed custom "Willie" 496s found in the office.

A photo posted by Patrick Cassidy (@patrickecassidy) on