When we think of cowboys, we generally think of the stereotypical American West cattle ranger of the late nineteenth century with his Stetson and lasso. Although that’s a relatively accurate assumption, there was a lot more to the traditional cowboy/girl aesthetic; with practicality at the forefront of their minds. Everything the cowboys wore has a purpose. Chaps, spurs, even denim; it was all chosen for a reason. Time to get your Western style on!
Western wear is a category of men’s and women’s clothing. This derives its unique style from the clothes worn in the 19th-century Wild West. It ranges from accurate historical reproductions of the pioneer, mountain man, Civil War, cowboy and vaquero clothing to the stylized garments popularized by singing cowboys such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers in the 1940s and 1950s. Western wear can be very informal. It can come with a t-shirt and blue jeans forming a basic ensemble, or it may consist of tailored formal garments with western accents. At a minimum, western wear generally incorporates a cowboy hat, leather belt, and cowboy boots.
Traditionally made from either denim or tartan, the cowboy shirts that we have come to know over the decades follow a very distinctive style; long sleeves, elaborately decorated panels and a stylized yoke. In more recent years, the addition of snap pockets and fringing became quite common. Roy Rogers attires in his movies are perfect examples.
As was the case with most garments in the American West during the late nineteenth century, both male and female jackets featured a lot of fringing; Annie Oakley was regularly seen in a fringed jacket when she was participating in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West as a sharpshooter.
Clint Eastwood’s stint as the Man with No Name greatly raised the popularity of ponchos amongst cowboy communities in the 1960s, although it did not necessarily stick and, like the ten gallon hat, became a stereotype of the American West that is not entirely accurate.
During the early nineteenth century, trousers in the American West were traditionally made of wool. And then during the summer months, this was swapped to a canvas. However, this changed completely following the Gold Rush of the 1840s in which miners began to wear denim overalls for their durability. Levi Strauss took this and improved upon it to create a design which ranchers and cowboys had adopted by the early 1870s, and they continue to be one of the most popular trouser styles among cowmen today.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, women tended to wear knee-length prairie skirts, red gingham dresses or suede fringed skirts that derived from Native American dress. However, following the years after World War II, many women in the American West began to wear jeans.
As soon as someone says cowboy, the first thought that crosses many-a-mind is the famous cowboy boot, however, this was not initially the most popular footwear in the area. In fact, Wellington boots are the most popular among cowboy communities until the 1860s. Following this, the trend moved towards a boot with a Cuban heel, a round to pointed toe and a high shaft, forming what we now consider the traditional cowboy boot.
Although normally made from cowhide leather, some boots are known to be made of incredibly exotic animal skins including alligator, buffalo, elk and even ostrich! There are laces on the boots to prevent them catching in the stirrups whilst horseback riding. Some boots feature spurs attached to the back of the heel of each boot in order to cue their horses.
Do It Yourself!
Creating your own American West inspired look is easier than you think! All you need to start off with is a button-down shirt and jeans. And then you can go to town with your accessories. Add a colonel or bolo tie for a subtle cowboy look. You can also choose to go all out with the whole package – fringing on everything, spurs on your boots, and an oversized Stetson. Why not?!!