Cowboy Shirts That Fit

I can still remember the shirt my husband wore on our first date like it was yesterday. That’s because he was wearing it yesterday.

Upon close examination of the long-sleeved western shirts that hang in a cowboy’s closet, one might see how ranching cowboys’ (different from PRCA rodeo cowboys in my opinion) loyalty to things of importance could be measured by their devotion to the shirts they wear. When they find something that works well, they intend to keep it. Take me for instance. My husband’s hung onto me for fifteen years so he must think I work well tending cattle, doing chores, cobbling fence together and handling cow-related wrecks. And he hasn’t had me near as long as the shirts he’s been wearing since before we were dating.

Long-sleeved western shirt advocates favor this particular style because it’s a snap to wear them for any occasion. An all-season, utility-type shirt equipped with pockets that a guy can stow his chew can, record book, pen, and wallet in, these functional items of clothing also shield men from the scorching summer sun (a cowboys’ alternative to greasy sunscreen), scratchy hay, barb wire, chilly breezes, and welding slag, to name a few.

Ranch cowboys don’t wear shirts to impress people. Instead, they wear them to look proper for weddings, funerals, going out or to get work done. Style and trendiness or for that matter, getting greasy, muddy, manurey and grass stained, isn’t a concern.

Instead of wasting money by frequently buying new duds, these cowboys utilize their current wardrobe the way people used to wear clothes—for the lasting durability and to get the goody out of every fiber until it looks like cheesecloth. I can tell which decade my husband’s shirts came from according to the style and brand of each one and some of them are approaching their silver anniversary.

Just because a shirt starts to show a little age, signs of wear, or is considered ugly by a ranching cowboy’s standards doesn’t justify giving up on it or getting rid of it. These guys are fair and impartial to all their clothing no matter what their likeability for a shirt is or how they ended up with it. Each one is given a chance to do its part in a cowboy’s world at one time or another.

Cowboys don’t want to detract friends and neighbors from approaching them by wearing a “loud” or unsightly shirt when they go to town for an outing. To most of these men, sharp contrasting, bold, and brightly colored or scenic shirts act as insect repellant in public and are saved especially for dressing up for work. Disliked shirts are worn driving to work in a dusty tractor or windrower, to meetings with cows, on fencing projects, for daily work, and places where a cowboy’s likely to be spending time alone.

Plain and simple western shirts are more likely to be worn when going out. The less complicated the patterns and colors, the more camouflaged he is for blending into the public environment. Basic western shirts allow cowboys to mix well with others. Ranching cowboys always look their sharpest wearing an expensive brand new shirt but the ones that seem fit them the best are those that last a long time. 

Column originally published October 4-10, 2009

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