What is Western Wear? This is actually a more
complicated question than you might think at first glance. The
question really depends on where you live.
In the United States, we typically think of
Western Wear to be the sort of clothing worn by cowboys and cowgirls.
Such as cowboy hats and cowboy boots. This style of clothing can
include Stetson hats, large belt buckles, duster coats, etc.
Another well-known Western accessory is the bolo tie, which was a
pioneer invention reputedly made from an expensive hatband.
Western Wear refers to clothing
styles from countries from the West such as the United States, Canada or
parts of Europe.
The Western world or the West is a term
referring to different nations, depending on the context, most often
including at least part of Europe. There are many accepted definitions
about what they all have in common. The Western world is also known as
the Occident (from Latin: occidens "sunset, West", as contrasted with
its pendant the Orient). The term originally had a literal
geographic meaning. It contrasted Europe with the linked cultures and
civilizations of the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, Southeast
Asia and the remote Far East, which early-modern Europeans saw as the
East. In the contemporary cultural meaning, the phrase "Western
world" includes Europe, as well as many countries of European colonial
origin with substantial European ancestral populations in the Americas
The history of Western fashion is the story of the
changing fashions in clothing for men and women in Europe and other
countries under influence of the Western world, from the 12th century to
the present. Learn more
about the history of fashion.
The general definition
according to people that live in the USA would be that Western wear
is a category of men's and women's clothing which derives its unique
style from the clothes worn in the 19th-century American West. The
term has actually evolved to include modern day fashion as well.
It ranges from accurate historical reproductions of
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 '50s. Western wear can be very informal,
with a t-shirt and blue jeans forming a basic ensemble (similar to what
a rancher may wear on the farm or range), or it may consist of tailored
formal garments with western accents. It does not always, but generally
Western wear incorporates a cowboy hat, a leather belt, and cowboy
A Western shirt is a traditional item of
Western Wear characterized by a stylized
on the front and on the back. It is generally constructed of denim or
tartan fabric with long sleeves, and in modern form is sometimes seen
with snap pockets, patches made from bandana fabric, and fringe.
In the early days of the Old West it was the bowler
hat rather than the slouch hat, center crease (derived from the army
regulation Hardee hat), or sombrero that was the most popular among
cowboys as it was less likely to blow out off in the wind. By the
1870s, however, the
Stetson had become the most popular cowboy hat due to its use by
the Union Cavalry as an alternative to the regulation blue kepi.
Stampede strings were installed to prevent
the hat from being blown off when riding at speed. These long strings
were usually made from leather or horsehair. Typically, the string was
run half-way around the crown of a cowboy hat, and then through a hole
on each side with its ends knotted and then secured under the chin or
around the back of the head keeping the hat in place in windy conditions
or when riding a horse.
The tall white Ten gallon hats traditionally
worn by movie cowboys were of little use for the historical gunslinger
as they made him an easy target, hence the preference of lawmen like
Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson for low-crowned black
Originally part of the traditional Plains Indian
costume, coonskin caps were frequently worn by Mountain men like
Davy Crockett for their warmth and durability.
Frock coats and ponchos were popularized by Clint Eastwood's
Spaghetti Westerns, short Mexican jackets with silver embroidery, fringe
jackets popular among outlaw country, southern rock and 1980s heavy
metal bands, and Duster coats derived from originals worn in the
Wild West. More modern interpretations include leather waistcoats
inspired by the biker subculture and jackets with a design imitating the
piebald color of a cow. Women may wear bolero jackets derived
from the Civil War era zouave uniforms, shawls, denim jackets in a color
matching their skirt or dress, or a fringe jacket like Annie
For more formal occasions inhabitants of the West
might opt for a suit with "smile" pockets, a half-belt at the
rear, piping and a yoke similar to that on the Western shirts.
This can take the form of an Ike jacket, Leisure suit or three-button
sport coat. Country and Western singer Johnny Cash was known to wear an
all-black Western suit, in contrast to the elaborate Nudie suits worn by
stars like Elvis and Porter Waggoner. The most elaborate western
wear is the custom work created by rodeo tailors such as Nudie Cohn and
Manuel, which is characterized by elaborate embroidery and rhinestone
decoration. (learn about
fashion embellishment) This type of western wear, popularized by
country music performers, is the origin of the phrase rhinestone
In the early days of the Wild West trousers
were made out of wool. In summer canvas was sometimes used. This changed
during the Gold Rush of the 1840s when denim overalls became popular
among miners for their cheapness and breathability. Levi Strauss
improved the design by adding copper rivets and by the 1870s this design
was adopted by ranchers and cowboys. The original Levi's jeans were soon
followed by other makers including Wrangler jeans and Lee Cooper. These
were frequently accessorized with kippy belts featuring metal
conchos and large belt buckles.
Leather chaps were often worn to protect the
cowboy's legs from cactus spines and prevent the fabric from wearing
out. Two common types include the skintight shotgun chaps and
wide batwing chaps. The latter were sometimes made from hides retaining
their hair (known as "woolies") rather than tanned leather. They
appeared on the Great Plains somewhere around 1887.
Women wore knee-length prairie skirts, red
or blue gingham dresses or suede fringed skirts derived from Native
American dress. Saloon girls wore short red dresses with corsets, garter
belts and stockings. After World War II, many women, returning to the
home after working in the fields or factories while the men were
overseas, began to wear jeans like the men.
Again, there is more than one way to look at the
term Western Wear. It could be either fashion from the old West in
the USA, or it can reference clothing from Western world countries.
You may find the
Western Shirts Guide (from Langstons) to be helpful. Also, you
can read about the
Barstow Western Shirt from Levi's.
clothing from Europe.
If you own a fashion store that sells western style
clothes, you may want to visit our
westernwear wholesaler section to locate suppliers.