Out West

Rex Cauble: The Only-in-America Saga of Cutter Bill’s Western World

Cutter Bill Western Store

Rex Cauble’s chain of Cutter Bill stores made a huge mark in the Western apparel and fashion industry.

Today, one only needs to start scrolling through their Instagram feed to find any and all kinds of Western oriented apparel, gear and shiny objects, made by everything from mega companies to one-maker work benches.

front of Western store building
Photo courtesy of The American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and Museum

The era of the destination Western store that for years defined the genre is not over, but it (like everything else in retail) is being impacted by specialty websites. It wasn’t always that way. Not long ago high-end Western wear and saddlery had some pretty stellar locations around the country. Think Falconhead in West Los Angeles; Billy Martin’s in New York; Out of Santa Fe in Newport Beach and so many others that defined the 1970s through the end of the century.

To be fair, there are still a number of wonderful high-end stores going today, and they are still a treat to visit in person and online. But no matter the store—then or now—they all owe a lot to a Texas cowboy named Rex Cauble and his Cutter Bill Western World, high-end concept stores that would ultimately help define the market.

The first one opened in the late 1960s in Houston, Texas, on Westheimer, a prestigious business area. The store was located in an old bank building and had an impressive storefront. The name of the store came from Cauble’s famous Quarter Horse stallion, a golden palomino, named Cutter Bill. He and his wife, Josephine had bid $2,500 for the horse in a Wichita Falls auction in 1956. Cauble broke Cutter Bill himself and went on to a number of big wins in the cutting horse game. Cauble was a self-made millionaire in grand Texas style and knew his store could work in Houston. After all, the Houston Livestock Show was there and brought in thousands of folks each year. Plus, plenty of horse-types lived in the surrounding area.

cover of Cutter Bill Western World Catalog
Photo courtesy of The American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and Museum

The store would make its reputation selling unusual and one-of-a-kind Western items along with high-end boots, hats, jeans, shirts and accessories. Along with the store’s managers, John Mallow and John Pearce, who were two seasoned retail businessmen, they brought in attractive helpers to assist customers and offer cocktails to enhance their shopping pleasure. Mallow and Pearce, both enthusiastic about creating a new retail experience for their customers, went to traditional men’s and women’s wear manufacturers and convinced them to create unique, high-fashion, Western wear.

As the story goes, store managers would come and go due to Cauble’s rather fiery temper. Frankly if the Cutter Bill Western World story were around today, it would be a glorious reality show. But the real genius of Cauble’s Cutter Bill stores was the marketing outreach they did with their catalogs. The Cutter Bill catalog was aspirational and conceptual in its presentation and opened the doors to what came to be called, “the Western-lifestyle industry.” It was a new model in Western fashion that was no feed store, but rather a luxurious retailer inhabited by super model-esque, cowgirl femmes and chiseled, handsome urban Marlboro-types just stepping off their private planes looking for their next pair of unborn-albino-antelope boots.

From the early 1970s to 1985, Cutter Bill’s Western World was the West’s Neiman Marcus and in a nod to the Dallas-based, luxury department store’s annual Christmas catalog (started by Stanley Marcus in 1952). Cauble’s Cutter Bill catalog was designed to be the ultimate cowboy wish book.

inside the Cutter Bill catalog
Photo courtesy of The American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and Museum

Unlike Neiman Marcus’s catalog, which offered high profile gifts like his and her Rolls Royce vehicles or a sterling silver barbeque cart, the Cutter Bill catalog offered luxury outfits, hand-crafted saddles and boots along with every accessory the store’s high-end customer could want. In its own way the Cutter Bill catalog helped create the luxury Western business that went beyond the core working cowboy customer who needed one good white shirt or a bench-made pair of boots that took a year’s wages to save for.

Rex Cauble was a marketer, beyond everything else, and worked tirelessly to keep his store, and himself, in the public eye. In a sense, he helped Texas continue its popular, larger-than-life image. (Think “Dallas,” and “Urban Cowboy.”)

Rex Cauble holding Quarter Horse stallion Cutter Bill at The Press Room in Houston
Photo courtesy of The American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and Museum

The party lasted for Rex Cauble until 1978 when the cowboy entrepreneur was indicted under suspicion of funding what was ultimately called Texas’ largest marijuana smuggling business—a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute (RICO). And although he continually declared his innocence, he served five years, and was released on good behavior in 1987, two years after his Cutter Bill stores had closed. Cauble went on to try and open a new Cutter Bill in Jacksboro, Texas, but was never able to make it work, as his past kept catching up with him. In 2003, he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease while in an assisted living facility in Durant, Oklahoma.

To the end, Cauble believed in himself and his benchmark contribution of the Cutter Bill Western World concept and catalog that changed forever the way the West was worn and shopped.

8 thoughts on “Rex Cauble: The Only-in-America Saga of Cutter Bill’s Western World”

  1. Some of my best childhood memories were going to Cutter Bill’s with my dad in Dallas. I remember walking through that store admiring every bit of western wear with all its associated Cutter Bill’s pageantry. Guys like Rex Cauble and Whistle Ryon were in a class all to themselves.

  2. We had Bills Sunbar for 33 years, she passed in August 2018. We drive past his old ranch on 35 and it is sad looking. Wish they would do something with it. Went to his store in Dallas many times in the 80’s, great place.

  3. I to had some fond childhood memories at Caubles,we lived on the ranch for several years.My dad worked for him for several years back in the late 60s mid 70s..Use to spend a lot of time at arena.

  4. I can’t really remember the exact years but at the age of 14 Rex Cauble hired me to work as a receptionist at his ranch between Sanger and Denton Texas. He then ask me if I would move in with his wife and help her. My father was against this so I eventually went to work for Cutter Bills in Dallas as head cashier. I loved working there and did so until I was married. I loved Mr. Rex Cauble, He was a fine caring gentleman!

  5. I managed the Cutter Bill stores. I was very proud to be part of the dynasty. Had the opportunity to meet some very interesting people. What most people don’t know, some of the people I worked with are still a big part of the western industry.

    • I lived in Louisiana but I went to Houston rc just to go to cutter bills I bought boots shirts and all kinds of western things I loved cutter bills wish they still had them

  6. I bought a great pair of antelope boots in the Houston store, back in the 70’s. I never saw a store with more beautiful cowgirls in my life, simply breathtaking.


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