Maybe the most important item you will buy, so don’t buy something you’ll never wear again. The cowboy hat takes on the country around it – in windy areas, like Yellowstone country, the brim is narrow. In the desert, the brim is wide to shield the sun. We recommend either silver belly or black, nothing less than a 4X, about a three-inch brim, and, unless your head will hold ten gallons, a smaller crown. Buy a brand you can trust. A hat should fit snugly, but not too tight.
These are pants, partner, and John Wayne had them all wrong. There is one word in pants, and that is denim. Wrangler and Levi’s are what the real cowboys wear, and the most common error is buying them too short in the legs, or too tight in the crotch. A good pair of jeans will highlight your physique, but leave you room to shake a leg. If your inseam is 32, buy a pant with a 34. They should slouch a little over your boots.
Buy a pair that feels good. For many, that means a walking heel, and even a shoe last instead of a boot last. Men should look for a solid colored boot with a rounded toe – ropers or lace-up ropers are great. Avoid pointy toes, pastel colors, and stitching.
For men, that would be “the shirt,” and we love the basics. Long sleeves are mandatory. Button-down, loose collar, snaps or buttons are optional. The real cowboys wear heavier cotton, and the best-looking western shirts are usually made that way. The main thing is to pick a shirt (or top) that is comfortable and looks good. In the summer months, you can sometimes find them growing wild on chairs and barstools late at night.
Something to Hold it Together
There are two parts to this challenge, the belt, and the buckle. We recommend a great belt, with a simple buckle. If you don’t ride bulls, don’t buy some flashy bull-rider buckle. You won’t fool anyone. Instead, look for belts that include flashes of silver, braided horsehair or rawhide, and buckles that can become a keepsake. The classic buckle is a tongue-and-groove made of silver and gold, with matching tip for the other end of the belt. This is a great place to invest some cash – the belt will be around longer than you, pilgrim.
Before you buy things like spurs and chaps, make sure you will either use them, or want them as a decoration. The classic accessory would be a vest, an item with functional history, and classic function. Again, keep it simple and classic – leather is OK, but wool or canvas are more common. The reason cowboys wear a vest is the pockets. Get the right one and you will never take it off. The other classic is the slicker, either yellow plastic, or the great oilskins from Australia (out here, those are considered formal wear). And, think about a hatband. Just keep it small and narrow, something that you feel connected with; we like braided horsehair, beads, or rawhide, without tassels and attitude. Pure class.
Bob Budd is a lifelong Wyoming resident who wears everything he writes about here.