A Western cowboy in the late 1800s didn’t care about fashion. Instead, he was well dressed in clothes that were practical and adaptable for his outdoor style of life.
A Western Cowboy and His Hat
John B. Stetson is credited with creating the first cowboy hat in 1865. While on a hunting trip with friends, Stetson jokingly made a hat with a large brim. But then everyone noticed that the hat was useful for protection from both the rain and the sun. The joke turned into money when Stetson began making large numbers of his hat, which soon became known as the cowboy hat.
Ask any cowboy, his hat was the last thing he took off at night and the first thing that was noticed by others. His hat could tell where he came from. For instance, if a cowboy came from a rainy area, he wore a hat with a deep crease in the crown so the water could run off. If he lived in a windy place, he needed a hat with a low crown so it would not blow off his head as easily. A man who worked in a sunny area needed a wide brim on his hat to provide shade.
A cowboy used his hat for carrying things. It could carry food for the horses or hold water for drinking or putting out fires.
Don’t forget His Bandanna
A bandanna protected a cowboy’s neck from getting sunburned. It would be worn over his mouth to keep out dust kicked up by the cattle. If a bone was broken, the bandanna would be used as a sling. It could be used as a washcloth. A bandanna could even serve as a tie if the cowboy wanted to dress up.
A Western Cowboy and his Shirt
A wool shirt was worn by a cowboy not only at night to keep warm, but also during a hot day. The wool absorbed his sweat. Shirts were tucked into heavy-duty pants or jeans. Some cowboys wore shirts made from deer skins with fringes on them. Rainwater easily ran off the fringes, keeping the shirt from getting soaked. If a cowboy needed a string for fixing something, he could simply cut off one of the fringes on his shirt!
Vests were often worn over shirts. They protected the cowboy from cold winds while still giving him freedom of movement. Vests also provided pockets for the men to carry matches or other small items.
Every Outfit Needed the Right Boots
No cowboy was complete without his boots. The tallness of the boot protected his legs from snakes, thorns and barbed wire. The pointed toes made it easy for a cowboy to slip his feet into the stirrups. The high heel kept his feet from slipping out when riding rough terrain. It also prevented his foot from going all the way through the stirrup so he wouldn’t get dragged on the ground if he was thrown from his horse. When on foot, the cowboy could dig his boot heels into the dirt to gain a strong foothold when going up or down steep trails or leading a stubborn mule. Spurs were fastened to the boot heels to enable the wearer to tell the horse what to do.
You’ve got to admire the simplicity of a Western cowboy’s clothing. It was always just what he needed and never went out of style.