Cowboy Clothing

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Cowboys weren’t rich men. So they only owned what they could transport on horseback and what they wore on their backs. During the trek, they had no opportunity to change their work clothes or to clean them, either for reasons of space or because of their limited financial resources. Only after the herds of cattle had been delivered to the cattle towns did they afford new clothes. At best, they had somewhat finer going-out clothes, which they kept in town, for dancing evenings in their free time after driving cattle.

The underwear

The cowboys’ underwear consisted of a mostly pink one-piece suit with a continuous button placket. This one-piece suit in particular was rarely changed during the trek. It was underwear and pajamas at the same time.

Shirt and Vest

The shirts were made of either cotton for summer or new wool for winter. They were simple garments with no collar and no decoration of any kind. They were either striped or checked.

Although the waistcoats kept you warm, they also had a practical use, since deep pockets were sewn into them, in which the cowboys could store smaller items such as wallets, tobacco pouches, pocket knives or pencils . There were also pockets in the trousers, but they were rarely used because it was difficult to get at them on horseback.

The Neckerchief

The scarf also had a mainly practical use. On the one hand, it served as protection against dust, which was used in particular by the so-called drag riders behind the herd so that they did not have to swallow the stirring dust, on the other hand it was used as a handkerchief, sweat towel, tourniquet, wound towel or sun protection. Since the neckerchief was only a practical item of clothing during the trek, it consisted only of a square piece of cotton. In their free time, the cowboys also wore brightly printed scarves, the so-called bandannas.

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The Cowboy Hat

One ​​of the most distinctive features of a cowboy in the Wild West was his cowboy hat. It evolved from the Mexican sombrero and was made of gray or brown fils. The wide brim protected the cowboy from rain and sun quite a bit. But the hat was also misused. It was used as a water trough for humans and animals, or as a fan for the campfire. Initially, however, the hats of the time could hardly cope with the harsh climate. Rain, in particular, deformed the hats to such an extent that they could hardly be used. Later, John Stetson – prospector in Colorado – experimented with numerous hat models. But it was not until he got lucky in his gold prospecting that he settled in Philadelphia in 1865 and rented a small room for $100. He also procured the equipment he needed for hat production. Over time, the typical cowboy hat with its wide brim, which looked like a gully and really protected the cowboy and gold digger from the rain, was created here.

The pants

The most famous pants worn by cowboys were the blue jeans made by the German Levi Strauss. He quickly realized that the Californian gold diggers needed durable trousers, since their cotton trousers were not very durable and quickly broke. The cowboys also wore cotton pants before they got to know jeans. So that the trousers did not wear through so quickly, they were reinforced with leather on the buttocks and thighs. They had to fit snugly around the hips, since the cowboys didn’t wear suspenders – they chafed their shoulders – or belts.

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The Chaps

The so-called chaps were often pulled over the pants. These were leather trousers without buttocks, which were supposed to protect the legs from the horns of cattle or thorn bushes. In addition to the narrow chaps, there were also wide chaps, which then additionally protected the horses’ flanks (see picture). In colder regions, cowboys wore goat hair chaps. However, these had the disadvantage that they soaked up water when it rained and became very heavy as a result. They also gave off a foul odor when wet.

The Cowboy Boots

Apart from the saddle, boots were the cowboy’s most prized possessions. A good pair of boots cost up to $30. While initially the heels were relatively flat, they became higher and higher in the mid-19th century. This had the advantage that it was not so easy to slip out of the stirrups while riding. The sole of the footwear was quite thin to allow the cowboy to feel the stirrups. In addition, the boots were pointed at the front. That too made sense. The cowboy was able to get in and out of the stirrups so quickly. The high shaft of the boots prevented dirt from falling into them. Since the boots – as mentioned above – were very expensive, some cowboys also slept in them, and many are said to have been buried in them, which also gave the cattle town cemeteries the name Boot Hill.


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