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February 12, 2023 3 min read

What is it that’s so irresistible about an outlaw? Even the most law-abiding among us must admit there’s an intrigue to the kind of characters that ran rogue in the Wild West.

“You can do a quick Google and instantly have a list of probably fifty or more movies about, or at least including, Billy the Kid,” Cheryl said. “America has always been obsessed with the idea of an outlaw, of that whole era, really. The age of the cowboy. We probably romanticize it quite a bit, with more than a century removed from a time that was actually quite dusty, dirty, and dangerous. But those larger-than-life legends –Jesse James, Doc Holiday, and of course, Billy the Kid and his cronies – they’re fascinating.”

So, who was Billy the Kid? Well, for starters, he wasn’t even really a Billy. Though his most well-known alias is William H. Bonney (the origin of his infamous moniker), he was born Henry McCarty in New York City in 1859 to Irish Catholic parents. Orphaned at 15, that’s when his streak of shenanigans began. [His list of crimes is about a mile long, but here’s a real quick condensed Cliff’s Notes version.] His first crime was petty theft of food, but his renegade ways escalated quickly, robbing a Chinese laundry with an associate just ten days later making off with some clothes and a couple of pistols. After a series of getting arrested, escaping, and fleeing, he ended up in Arizona where he started out legit, working as a ranch hand, but soon slipped back into the outlaw lifestyle stealing horses, and committed his first murder at 17, the unfortunate end to a barroom brawl with Francis “Windy” Cahill. Then there was his time with the Regulators and the Lincoln County War, a few more rounds of ‘arrest, escape, and flee’ before he was eventually shot to death by his former friend Pat Garrett in 1881 at just 21 years old.

It's safe to say that Billy the Kid packed a whole lot of misadventure (and murder) in his short little life, and almost as many aliases. He took on the name Henry Antrim, his stepfather’s last name, for a while and earned the nickname Kid Antrim in Arizona before adopting William H. Bonney and Billy the Kid. (If you’re noticing a theme, ‘Kid’ stuck allegedly because of his youth, slight build, and clean-shaven appearance.)

“It’s undisputed that Billy killed several people, and while that is certainly deplorable, the more you learn about his origin story – I mean, his dad died, then his mom remarried, but got tuberculosis and right before she died, the stepdad just bailed on him and his brothers – the more you can’t help but wonder if it started as dire circumstances and just absolutely snowballed beyond his control and then there was just no turning back,” Cheryl said. “Or maybe he really was just a bad seed. It was definitely a different time, I can’t imagine an orphan had a lot of options.”

We’re certainly not here to glorify a gangster, but we do resonate with a rebellious spirit, and there’s a whole modern-goth movement happening in fashion that speaks to us on a cellular level. Old school angst has elevated to empowered indifference. Buck societal norms, shake up the status quo, and outfit yourself in edginess.

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