Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dressing Cowboy

Correct western apparel is a mixed bag. In fact, down here it doesn’t much matter what you wear, and on occasion, whether you wear anything at all. There’s the case of ranch residents who used to get on their ATVs au naturale and merrily ride around the ranch. They stopped traffic and shocked tourists and no doubt got sunburned in places "the sun don’t usely go". But most folks do wear something.

If you’re coming to West Texas and want to look cowboy, here’s what you’ll need: a pair of boots (cowboy boots that is). Don’t make them too fancy, like lizard skin or ostrich, the real working cowboys can’t afford boots like that and if they could they wouldn’t wear them for ridin’, ropin’ and hootin’. Well, maybe for hootin’. Go simple, not fancy carved or dyed.

Then you’ll need some genuine Levi’s jeans, well worn and maybe just a little long in the leg. And they need to be tight, tight enough so the Skoal can in your back pocket really stands out. Ramblin’ Jack Elliot says you got to take your new jeans, run a rope down one leg and up the other, tie ‘em to a tree and chuck ‘em in a fast-runnin’ stream for a few days to kinda loosen ‘em up. Those are "good blue jeans".

The belt is a very important piece of gear. You need a wide leather belt, preferably with your name or nickname carved out in the back (so someone following can say, "hey, Smokey has a Skoal can in his back pocket"). The buckle must be very large and if possible should have something to do with the rodeo - a rodeo champion buckle is, of course, ideal - these are usually huge. You may find one in a pawn shop but most cowboys go to their graves with their championship buckle - that and their saddle.

Next is a pearl snaps cowboy shirt. This doesn’t have buttons, it has snaps that are faced with mother of pearl. It snaps up the front and at the sleeves and is really slick. Get one ordinary and one fancy one with a white collar and colored body for those barn dances.

For non-working wear you’ll have to get a bolo tie. This is a braided piece of leather with silver "tassels" that loops around your neck. It’s held together by some ornamental piece that slides up and down the "tie". The ornamental part should be turquoise and silver or some rodeo momento, though the latter would likely be too big.

The crowning piece of cowboy gear is, obviously, the cowboy hat. If it’s not a Stetson then it must be handmade. It has to have your name inside on a flap. It can be most any size and shape but it should be black or gray, except for very special occasions when you can wear a white one. White is not practical for daily ridin’, ropin’ and hootin’. Well, maybe for hootin’. The hat must, except for your special hat, be well broken it - bent, sweated up and with telltale signs of cattle dung clinging to it. A bullet hole also adds a nice touch. Your hat is even more important than your belt buckle. Somebody swipes your buckle you’ll have to "work ‘em over". Somebody steals your hat you’re "gonna have to kill that boy".

What can’t you wear if you’re a cowboy? A t-shirt, except under your snap down shirt. Shorts, except undershorts. Flip-flops - no real range-rider would be caught dead in flip-flops. A real tie, except perhaps at your mother’s funeral - and then it must be that 40 year old 5 inch wide tie your daddy wore at his mother’s funeral. A baseball cap - that’s for sissies and crackheads (the crackheads wear theirs backwards, as do some unknowing sissies). Polyester slacks - need I elaborate? And last, cowboys should NEVER wear an earring, nose ring or any kind of ring that goes anywhere besides on a finger (and those are optional).


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