March 26, 2009

Western Wear in Theory and Practice

I do like living in a part of the country that has its own regional dress. Sure, put on that bolo tie. But sometimes there is a gap between theory and practice.

Our sheriff and the one deputy who lives nearby dropped by the volunteer fire department meeting last night to discuss enforcement of the outdoor fire ban.

They were both picture-perfect Western lawmen: tall and lean and firm of jaw--in their sixties, but no potbellies. They wore dark-green uniform shirts and tan trousers, topped with crisp, immaculate cowboy hats.

They finished their business and left after a round of hand-shaking. Then the rancher/fire department board president resumed the meeting—until the telephone rang.

It was for him. He spoke briefly, then stood up. "Sorry," he said, "I have to go have a calf."

And he put on the cap I always see him wearing in cold weather, the kind with ear flaps and an imitation-sheepskin lining. In his truck or on horseback, he typically dresses like a Midwestern dairy farmer.

This man runs one of the two large working ranches in the area, but he never seems to go for the "stockman " look.

And in that he is not unique, when you get down to it. Just practical.


Anonymous said...

I spent a Sunday afternoon in January at the Denver Stock Show and very much enjoyed seeing the different sorts of outfits that pass for ranch/western wear. Much like you described but on a monumental scale.

As an aside, many of the vendors at the show selling such clothing seem to have imported most, if not all, of their stock from China.

Reid Farmer said...

I just love looking at historical photos to see what the real cowboys wore in the 19th century. One of my favorites was taken in Cheyenne back in the 1880s. The three cowboys are in front of their horses and are wearing big wooley chaps, thick turtle-neck sweaters, and bowler hats. Sort of illusion-busting

Do they even make those wooley chaps any more?

Chas S. Clifton said...


Oh yes, the sheepskin chaps are still out there.

I've seen some 19th-century photos too that show all manner of gear. Cowboys didn't have a lot of money to spend on clothes. You see old dress pants, hats and coats of all description.