The National Western Stock Show gives “city slickers” a chance to compete with real ranchers, cowboys and representatives of the country lifestyle.
Once a year, they dust off their cowboy hats — which they probably bought in the 1980s, when the movie “Urban Cowboy” popularized ranch clothes.
Now it’s the popular TV show “Yellowstone” that is bringing back western wear.
The Denver Gazette gathered tips, tricks and insights from experts and attendees at the Stock Show, which runs through Jan. 22 at the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St, Denver.
Here’s what we learned about the clothes it takes to fit… or not.
From Kim Green, of The Mills’ Hollywood Cowgirl: There are several fashion tips for a woman’s wardrobe.
FRINGE: Whether it’s a handbag, scarf, vest or even a wedding dress, fringes are back and especially hot in western wear.
“Dig out that piece of fringe in the closet and show it,” Green said.
According to People magazine, searches for “dresses with fringe” increased by 225%.
HAIR-ON SCREEN: Called “skin hairs,” this expression translates to slapping a square of cowhide on anything. Spotted fur trim adds a western touch to belts, cowboy hats, boots and purses.
We even spied a cowhide fly swatter to keep the pests at bay on hot, lazy days. For more information visit Hair-on Hide Fly Swatter – Cattle Kate.
A unique twist on the homemade fly swatter, this hairy skin is cut in the shape of a horse’s head to fight those pesky insects. Comes on solid metal wire handles. Hair-on leather will vary in color. It’s a great gift! Made in Idaho.
AZTEC PATTERNS: A pop of color on an accessory can brighten up an otherwise understated western look.
TURQUOISE: Turquoise has never gone out of style as a western accessory, and vintage rings worn on two to three fingers of each hand are especially chic. Likewise, silver framed gourd flower necklaces worn over a dark turtleneck, the bigger the gem the better.
COWBOY HATS: For Green and many other observers of Western clothing, headgear is essential.
“The cowboy hat says it all,” she said. “The statement is in the shape and it’s in the material it’s made of.”
You can show up to the National Western Stock Show in the most expensive boots and jeans, but a shabby dime store straw hat with a cheap band will make you look like a fraud. Green says, “Don’t come to the show wearing the kind of straw hat you’d wear to a country music festival.”
CLOTHING DOES NOT HAVE:
Don’t wear leggings. They are not pants.
DO NOT pull out the brightly colored Wranglers that were all the rage twenty years ago. According to Western fan Green, they were all the rage at the turn of the century, but in 2023 they’re a beacon for uncool.
Some things never change and jeans are still the most acceptable leggings – but you need to know which brand is best. An informal poll showed that the deciding factor is who makes the jeans.
Of the three most popular stock show jeans, Levi’s, Cinch, and Wrangler were the most worn brands, according to an unofficial survey, with either Wrangler or Cinch being preferred overall (note: Cinch is a major sponsor of Denver’s National Western Stock Show).
The Denver Gazette compiled some valuable western wear advice from Steve Weil, third-generation owner and president of Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Co.
Rockmount shirts are worn by rock stars and wranglers alike. They are also featured on the aforementioned “Yellowstone” show, along with Rockmount’s custom silk scarves and shirts.
Weil’s top three western wear tips:
- Never wear a hat with more character than you have.
- Don’t look like all buckles and no cattle.
- Choose fabrics that will be comfortable for you to wear anytime, anywhere.
“Polyester is a bad start,” Weil said.
Weil reminds us that the cowboy boot is a defining article of clothing that can make or break your authenticity as a cowboy or girl.
“There are shoes made 20 years ago that should never see the pavement,” he said. “No silver linings.
Weil said that every year, Colorado politicians pull out their old western clothes that “do not pass the test.”
Unfortunately, he did not reveal the names, but said it was a shame that some of the dresses that politicians pull out of their closets at this time of year.
“Some of these guys need to get into the program,” said Weil, whose grandfather, Jack Weil, lived to be 107 and worked most days of his life.
The Rockmount store is located downtown at 1626 Wazee St.
Of course, not everyone cares how they watch the Stock Show.
Emily and Stephanie Gillis weren’t shy about admitting that they didn’t match their urban sunglasses, tiny zip-up shoulder bags and open-toe shoes.
Said Emily, “We’re just here for the yarn.”