When you think of the wild west, you think of, well, “wild” things: Wild animals, wilderness, wild outlaws, and wild clothing. One definition for wild is: without regulation or control
And clothing in the wild west certainly was without regulation. In fact, the clothing for American cowboys was based primarily on utility–not fashion. Cowboy boots, for example, weren’t a thing of style. In the beginning, they were a thing of utility! The heel fit firmly against a stirrup, the leather sole was solid for rugged terrain, and the high tops were built to help protect ankles and legs from nature’s unrelenting harshness. Today, though, cowboy boots are worn by men and women who have never settled into a saddle and whose only experience with cows is what they order from the menu at In-And-Out.
Denim jeans are another product of the American wild west. Levi Strauss designed the first pair at the request of someone who was tired of her husband’s pants falling apart so easily in the harsh mining environment during the California Gold Rush. What resulted was a booming empire for Strauss and a new way of making trousers for people on every populated continent!
Have you ever wondered why Wrangler jeans have the heavy seam on the outside of the pant leg, whereas, Levi jeans (and most other jeans) have the heavy seam on the inside of the pant leg. The answer, again, is one of utility. Wrangler jeans are often worn by cowboys who ride horses. If a heavy seam were on the inside of the pant leg, it would rub uncomfortably against the horse and against the leg of the rider. Therefore, the smooth seam is found on the inside of the pant leg for Wrangler jeans.
No cowboy wardrobe ensemble would be complete without a hat, and not just any hat, but a Stetson. And, yes, even the Stetson has a utilitarian purpose behind its design and popularity. American cowboys of the 19th century bought the “Boss of the Plains” Stetson hat because it was waterproof, rugged, and protected against the sun.
We no longer live in the “wild” days of the wild west. Yet, there seems to be no shortage of cowboys . . . or at least those who try to dress like cowboys. These “urban cowboys”, as I like to refer to them, are all hat and not cattle. I have not issue with that, though, for the same reason I have no issue with urban folks wearing Levi jeans, which were originally intended for gold miners. The only frustration I have with the urban cowbization of America is the steep price tag associated with it. What it really boils down to is this: If you can afford to wear “cowboy fashions” well, then, you’re probably not a real cowboy.