This Cowboy’s Shirt

Along the lines of “why cowboys dress like they do,” I have discovered a number of interesting facts pertaining to cowboy shirts. In the early 1800s, most vaqueros wore shirts that were hand-me-downs, or homemade from linen, a fabric made from flax. A pioneer family would have been able to weave their own cloth from the fiber grown in only a quarter of an acre of flax. The reason that they did not use cotton was that, though cotton was grown in Texas, it was required to be shipped to England where the cotton was manufactured into cloth and shipped back to America, causing it to be too expensive for the use of common folk, whose motto was “frugality, hard work and self-denial! “

After the War Between the States, many former soldiers moved into the west and participated in the great cattle drives from Texas to the new rail lines in Kansas, wearing old uniform shirts. These were mostly made from wool, which in Texas summers must have given new meaning to the term “beastly”. Around the turn of the century, a tailor named Jack Weil, living in Denver, Colorado, began making cotton shirts. These were long sleeved, with western cut double yokes, and pearl snaps. He called his company Rocky Mountain Ranch Wear, and he is credited with producing the first modern cowboy shirt. His original model has been endlessly modified since that time, but cowboy shirts are still predominantly cotton shirts with double yokes, and pearl snaps.

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