Cowboy Clothing

Written by Linda Alexander
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Cowboy clothing from the Old West has achieved mythical status in America. I have always been curious about the functionality and usefulness of these clothes. Their origins are rooted in physical ranch labor from the 1800s and cowboy gear has evolved over the years into today's western fashion.

Most work shirts in the late 1800s were pullover style, with buttons or lace running down part of the front. Lighter cotton shirts were usually white or off white with pinstripes. Often, the collars were removable and the cowboy could add a collar if needed. There were really no differences between work shirts and dress shirts back then.

The Most Popular Cowboy Clothing

Boots are perhaps the most well known articles of cowboy clothing, worn not just in the rodeo, but are also a fashion staple of the West--and other parts of the country. Cowboy clothing would not be complete without a good pair of boots. Boots were adapted over the years for cowhands' work. Originally, they had low heels to fit the wider, wooden stirrups of the time. Later, the heels became higher and the toe became pointier, both helping to keep feet from slipping through the stirrups.

The 10-gallon hats we know today were not used by the 19th century working cowboy. Rodeo cowboys and Hollywood stars used them and made them popular. Actually, the cowboy hat evolved from the Mexican sombrero and was used to provide shade from the sun and in northern climates, shelter and insulation from the heat and cold.


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