Trail Tale of the Western Shirt
Posted: Mar 14 2019
Born from the frontier, glamorized in Wild West lore, and thrown on many a folk-music front man, the western shirt is the most accessible piece you could reach for if you are looking to tip a wide brimmed hat to America's Western Wear wave. Their snap buttons and shoulder yokes are as functional as they are stylish and have become an iconic look that is up there with blue jeans and leather motorcycle jackets.
Early settlers melded European style and Native American dress that they were seeing for the first time to produce some of the frontier's first work-wear using animal skins and hides. Ranch hands typically wore whatever they could make or afford, which wasn't much, without much thought to presentation. As they began to settle territories in the south they noticed the style of Mexican ranch hands. These Vaqueros (Spanish for cowboy) were sporting colorful serapes and knee high boots in territories from Tejas to California and they didn't go unnoticed. In the late 1800's the national railway system was up and running and manufactured goods and fabrics could zip around the country. The work shirts became more cut-n-sew than hunt-n-gather. The railway system also allowed Buffalo Bill Cody to take his first Wild West Show around for city slickers to take in. This spectacle of sharp shooting and fancy roping sparked the country's (still present) love affair with gun-slinging heroes. The romanticism of the West was injected into popular culture.
The western shirt as we know it began to form in the early 1900's with its now classic details just starting to be added. Regular buttons were swapped out for pearl snaps to provide a quick exit in case the shirt or cuff caught on something. The tails of the shirt were longer so they wouldn't come un-tucked while riding. A pointed yoke on the chest and shoulders was added as reinforcement for some extra durability. Hollywood would provide the stage for the new silhouette to become a coveted style piece. Westerns from "High Noon" to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" were flashing western garb to the masses and who wouldn't want to emulate Clint Eastwood?
Evolution of the Western shirt has taken it from original work-wear to a modern classic. It's an easy layer piece to throw over a tee or button up all the way with a pair of jeans. Gun-slinging and lasso skills welcome but not necessary.
Shop our selection of Western shirts here.