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Posted at 11:50 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

As Timothy Olyphant and 'Justified' return, we assess the best current cowboys

By Jen Chaney

Timothy Olyphant: If the hat fits...(FX)

Only a certain kind of man can pull off a cowboy hat.

Possessing a borderline cocky swagger helps. A twinkle in the eye does, too. And a certain world weariness -- or at least the notion that the wearer of the hat has been around the block more than a few times -- is a requirement. That last factor explains why, at least at this stage, Justin Bieber totally cannot pull off a cowboy hat.

But Timothy Olyphant is exactly the kind of guy who can. And as established in this piece I wrote about him, he has done that on multiple occasions, most notably in his roles on "Deadwood" and "Justified," which returns to FX tonight for the start of its second season.

But Olyphant isn't the only Hollywood guy sporting a Stetson these days. Let's consider the celebrities who have recently dared to go full-on cowboy, then determine who does it most effectively.

Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit"


Bridges not only pulls off a cowboy hat in this Coen brothers film, he's so effective as a grizzled and cranky U.S. Marshal that you can practically smell last night's liquor on his breath. And for the record, his young co-star and fellow Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld doesn't look too shabby in a hat either.

Matt Damon as LaBoeuf in "True Grit"


For those who still think of Damon as either that wicked-smart janitor from "Good Will Hunting" or super-spy Jason Bourne, the notion of him sporting a mustache and a cowboy hat may have required an adjustment. But, fine actor that he is, he pulls it off.

Olyphant as Raylan Givens in "Justified"


Technically, Raylan Givens -- the polite-to-a-point protagonist of "Justified" -- is a modern-day U.S. Marshal, not a man who walked straight out of a Western. Nevertheless, Olyphant has the stride, the attitude and a certain way of saying "ma'am" that makes him the sexiest cowboy currently available for prime time viewing.

John Wayne Schulz, "American Idol" contestant

This guy pulls off cowboy because he actually is a cowboy, one from a small town in Texas who happens to have a solid, twangy singing voice. Plus, when two-thirds of your name is John Wayne, you pretty much have to exude some true grit.

Daniel Craig, "Cowboys & Aliens"

(Universal via Sci-fi Cool)

This movie doesn't come out until July. But somehow, I suspect a few regular Celebritology readers will pre-emptively deem Craig the most convincing and gorgeous cowboy in the history of cinema.

Rango in "Rango"


Rango may be animated. And, also, a chameleon. But at first glance, I think he looks just as stylish in a cowboy hat as Josh Brolin did in "Jonah Hex." Actually, let's go ahead and go with more stylish.

Now that you've perused the field, it's time to rank them. Who is our current best pop culture cowboy?

By Jen Chaney  | February 9, 2011; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Pop Culture, TV  
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While my old school cowboy needs are typically met by Clint Eastwood and/or Sam Elliott, I do believe I'm liking Daniel Craig as a new school cowboy. (Makes yummy noise.)

Posted by: BMore_Cat_Lover | February 9, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Now, now, putting Craig in there is kinda unfair 'cause he's smokin' hot in

That said, I think Bridges is our best "nu" Cowboy.

Posted by: wadejg | February 9, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Response to the photos:
1. Reminds me of a friend of mine who would try this look and totally fail because under the hat, he's a nerd.
2. Excellent Hollywood-authentic cowboy
3. Maybe it's a bad angle, but that 'stache looks totally fake.
4. The hat says Texas, the rest of him says Suit.
5. Cute as a button, and not afraid to be all matchy-matchy with his mom in public. Black-hat bad@ss with a heart of gold?
6. Om nom nom nom...
7. Awwwww...

Posted by: northgs | February 9, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

While Jeff Bridges totally pulls off Rooster Cogburn as you said, and agreed that Daniel Craig is the aforementioned 'smokin hot' anything he plays, how could you ask about Hollywood cowboys without mentioning Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain? They both/each were the quintessential cowboy; I could have easily believed that's what they did in real life. So I'd say Jeff first, then Heath, then Jake, and Daniel is off in a class of smoking hotness all by himself......

Posted by: agog1 | February 9, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

How 'bout some pix of women who can go Western? Or do Cowgirls have the blues?

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | February 9, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Cat lover, I was thinking of Sam Elliot too--the man shouldn't ever be WITHOUT a cowboy hat!

Olyphant is too delicious for words, hat or no hat. I love the way he moves--wonder if he was ever a dancer.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | February 9, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

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