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Cowboy Clothes 1800s

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Cowboy Clothes 1800s: This article provides the description, purpose and History of Cowboy Clothes 1800s.

Definition and Summary of the Cowboy Clothes 1800s
Summary and definition:
The golden age of the Cowboys was between 1865 and 1885. Their iconic style of clothing is one of the identifying features of the American Wild West and recognized the world over. We take the clothes and attire of cowboys for granted but every single item and article of clothing worn by the cowboys had a practical purpose. Read about the history of cowboy clothes in the 1800's. 

Cowboy Clothes 1800s for Kids: Cowboy Clothes
The legends and image of the Cowboy Clothes 1800s are made memorable by the Cowboy clothes they wore - see the picture on your right.. Cowboy clothes had to be hard wearing and highly practical. The cowboy's jobs involved riding on horses for hundreds of miles and their clothes had to be suitable for withstanding all types of weather conditions.

Cowboy Clothes 1800s for Kids: Cheap Cowboy Clothes
At the end of the Civil War, the south was suffering from severe economic hardship, and former soldiers moved west seeking work. Many wore items of clothing from their old, hard wearing military uniforms. The majority of clothes worn by cowboys were very cheap or second-hand. The cowboy clothes gradually changed over the years as cheap, mass-produced clothing was made in factories making cowboy clothes more accessible and less expensive. The different types of apparel used in authentic cowboy clothes are fully detailed below together with history of Cowboy Clothes of the 1800's. For additional history, facts and information about the life of the cowboys refer to Cowboys of the Old West.

Authentic Cowboy Clothes: Description, History and Facts

Cowboy Hats: At first there was no standard cowboy hat - most wore old Civil War hats but second hand top hats and derbies were also a common sight until the custom-made cowboy hat called the Stetson was introduced.

  • The Hats used by cowboys were highly practical and could be shaped according to taste or modified according to weather conditions, shielding their eyes from the heat or glare of the sun.
  • Hats were made of soft felt and a plain hatband was fitted to adjust to the head size.
  • The brims could be turned down as protection against the rain. Styles of hats changed according to the conditions in the area
  • A tall crown provided insulation, a wide brim provided shade
  • In the Southwest, their hats had tall crowns and wide brims as protection from the sun. In the North, brims were narrow and crowns lower so they would not blow away in the wind
  • The hats worn by cowboys were also used to gesture to other cowboys on a cattle drive, as a form of communication
The Stetson: John Batterson Stetson (1830 - 1906) invented the Stetson hat. The first real cowboy hat was named the "Boss of the Plains" and manufactured by Stetson in 1865. The Stetson was creased right down the center of the crown with a dent on each side making it easy to remove by grasping the hat by the crown rather than the brim. It was immediately popular and became the iconic image of the Cowboys Old West.

Cowboy pants: Military uniforms were first used as pants or alternatively woolen trousers were worn as standard items of clothing. Blue jeans were not available to a cowboy in the mid-1800s. Levi Strauss introduced jeans to miners in 1868. The jeans were durable pants made of canvas with rivets to hold them together. The first jeans were died brown, not blue, and this type of clothing only became available to the cowboy in the mid 1870's

Cowboy Shirts: Old Military shirts, or those purchased second hand from old soldiers or traders. Other shirts were always long sleeved and the winter clothing was made of fabrics such as wool, linsey-woolsey, cotton or hickory. The shirts used by cowboys included a striped ‘hickory’ shirt, or gingham shirt or a checked calico shirt in a variety of colors.

Cowboy Vests: The vests used by cowboys were a practical addition to his clothes. Riding on a horse made it difficult to reach into pants or trouser pockets. The vest was added with deep pockets that were easily accessible and prevented stuff from falling out.

Cowboy Jackets: Heavy canvas jackets were added as protection against the weather and thorn and cactus spines for riding through desert terrains.

Cowboy Coats: Military great coats were put into use or knee-length coats made from sheepskin or wool. These items were added to the bedroll tied to the horse.  Blanket coats, a long garment made of heavy brown canvas lined with flannel were also worn.

Cowboy Raincoats: Raincoats used by cowboys were called 'Slickers' and were made of weather proof oilskin

Cowboy Underwear: Underwear worn by cowboys consisted of a flannel shirt and drawers but no undershirt

The Bandana: The bandana handkerchief, or scarf, was made of silk or cotton and tied around the neck in a hard knot at the front and could be lifted to cover mouth and nose from the dust,  a common feature of the cattle drives. But there were also many other reasons that made the bandanna an important item of cowboy clothes. The bandana came in a variety of bright colors, but usually red, making the cowboy more visible in bad weather, they prevented sunburn and they were used to mop the sweat from the brow. Additional uses of the bandana were as  washcloths and tourniquets.

Chaps: Chaps, or Chaparejos, were long leggings worn over pants for protection against thorns and cactus. The first type of chaps, called "Shotguns", were straight leather pants, flared at the bottom, that could be stepped into. The "Shotguns" were replaced by the batwing versions of chaps which were leather leggings without a seat, joined by a belt and often had flared outer flaps. Types of chaps varied according to the region they were worn. In the Southwest, chaps made of smooth leather whereas in the North they were made of wool or fur. 

Cowboy Boots: The boots used by cowboys were highly practical riding boots. The boots feature two inch high Cuban heels in order to rest the boots in the stirrups or to dig into the ground while roping a calf. Cowboy boots were not made for walking. The boot was designed the boot to allow for easy insertion and removal of the foot into the stirrup of the saddle, the toe was rounded and a bit narrowed to make it easier to insert. Pants were generally worn tucked into the boot to avoid snagging from thorns and cactus spines. A pair of mule ear flaps at the top of some boots helped with pulling them on. The stylish decorations of the boot were reminiscent of the highly decorative Spanish boots worn by the Vaqueros.

Cowboy Gloves: The horsemen of the Old West often wore riding gloves or mittens. They were made of the finest weather-proof buckskin to protect from the cold and rain. The gloves were usually tanned white and cut with a deep cuff or gauntlet, sometimes decorated with a fringe

Cowboy Gun Belt: The wide, heavy leather belt used by cowboys was not worn to hold up pants or trousers. The belt was designed to carry his gun holster. The belt was not buckled about his waist,  it was worn loose and hung low on the hip. The belt had loops for about 50 cartridges and, with the gun, weighed several pounds.

Cowboy Gun: The most popular gun used by cowboys was the Colt Peace Maker (aka Colt 45), a deadly revolver capable of carrying six shots. It was a single action gun that required the shooter to cock the hammer before pulling the trigger to fire. The length of the gun barrel was eight inches and bullets were 45 caliber which could kill with one shot.

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