Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Wednesday Western - Clothes do Make a Cowboy

My historical westerns are set in the late 1800's. Because of this, I've spent hours reading books on proper clothing for the time and the area. People who lived in large cities tended to dress differently than those who were eking out a living in the untamed land of the west.

I like to dress my male characters in flannel. It's soft feeling when the heroine can't resist any longer and puts her hands on him. ;) It was also warm in the winter and made of cotton so it wicked away perspiration. But contrary to what many think the pants were not all denim. In fact, they wore mostly duck, wool, corduroy or cotton jeaning, when is now called denim. And Cowboys mostly wore wool. No wonder they wore long flannels underneath! I can't imagine riding for hours on end with your body encased in wool. I'd have to have a barrier between my skin and the rough, itchy fabric.

Depending on what part of the West a cowboy worked determined how he dressed. The common clothing items were a hat, coat or slicker, two shirts and  two pairs of pants and boots.

Boots for the time period had stovepipe uppers, square toes, and low heels. While "Cowboy" boots were being made at this time, most bought standard work boots sold from the Montgomery Ward and Company catalog for $2.75. A pair made with hardwood pegs holding the upper to the sole cost more. They ranged from $7 to $15 a pair and were measured to fit the person foot. In the 1870's the higher heel and narrower boot was made to fit in the new narrower stirrup. The higher heel was needed to keep the foot from sliding through the stirrup. This is also when the V cut appeared and the leather loops o the side to pull the boots on. The boots were mostly black. IN the 1880's the fancy stitching started appearing on cowboy boots.

Coats were made of canvas, duck, or jeaning and often had blanket liners. Coats were sold through Montgomery Ward or Carhartt.  Canvas and buckskin waist or hip length coats were worn by Southwestern cowboys. This material worked best at protecting them from mesquite thorns and brush. Northern cowboys wore a long wool coat that resembled a suit coat.  In 1881 rain gear for cowboys was developed by Abner J. Tower. It was a slicker in black or yellow that had a long slit in the back to fit over a horse and saddle. Cowboys would waterproof the slickers with linseed oil. The slickers had red flannel liners and cost $3.50.

Vest were worn under the slickers or coats for an added layer of warmth. But mostly they were worn because they had four small pockets to hold personal items like: a watch, tobaccos and cigarette makings, a tally book or other small items the cowboy needed. They liked the warmth of the vest with the missing sleeves to allow more movement of their arms.

Gloves were worn to protect their hands from the rough work and the weather.'

Scarves or bandannas were worn around their necks. They could be pulled over their noses to keep out dust when following a herd, tied around their hat to keep the hat on and their ears warm and wrapped around their necks to keep them warm. They also made wash rags, bandages, and tourniquets

This is just a brief glimpse at some of the clothing a cowboy wore. Is there a piece of clothing you've wondered about? Why they
wore it or what it was made of?


bn100 said...

Wasn't really sure about the purpose of chaps

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Paty Jager said...

They do have a purpose, mainly to keep pants from wearing out so fast.