Learning how to dress like a cowboy is something of an art. The aim is to look rugged and practical, while the worry is that you’ll instead wind up looking like a poser (or a downright clown).
To help out, we’ve gathered some of the best, actionable advice to put together a western look that works. Whether you’re a true rancher or an East Coast urbanite looking for a new look, this advice should help you get that cool but practical look cowboys are known for.
The John Wayne Look Isn’t All There Is
When people imagine a western cowboy, they often imagine John Wayne and all of Hollywood’s other depictions of the cowboys of old. Putting aside the fact that many of the original cowboys dressed nothing like that, that “traditional” type cowboy look isn’t your only option.
There are plenty of ways to dress in a way that evokes a feeling of something western. We’ll review some more specific tips shortly but, for now, put aside the desire to jump right to a look identical to the duster-wearing, revolver-toting cowboys we often imagine when we hear that word.
That old-school approach has a place, and many people can pull it off, but younger folk often benefit from thinking a bit more outside the box. You can still achieve a cowboy look without always needing a bandana around the neck and a leather vest.
Cowboy Attire Has a Few Essentials
Even with the above in mind, we also can’t ignore the fact that for an outfit to feel “cowboy,” there are some musts (or at least some “probably shoulds,” since nothing in fashion is really definite).
The most obvious one is the hat. A cowboy hat is so iconically American, so associated with the West, that it’s hard (although maybe not impossible) to dress like a cowboy without one.
In fact, the cowboy hat is so iconic that even if you dressed the same but only wore a cowboy hat, many people on the street would still think you’re from the West and consider that a “cowboy look.” There are plenty of pockets in the United States where populations just don’t tend to wear them; to those folk, just the hat is enough for you to scream Western.
Alongside the hat as an essential are the boots! Every cowboy needs boots. (Finding the right boots can admittedly be tough, but CowboyBootsHub.com is a great place to start if you’re looking, offering options for plus-size cowboy boots and more.)
Cowboy Clothes Are Practical
We’ve talked about the essentials but now…why are they essentials? What makes something feel “western”? The core is, in large part, practicality.
The original cowboys dressed like they did because they were traveling, often multiple days, through an environment that was sunny, dry, and dusty. Chaps helped protect one’s legs from chaffing on horses. Clothes had a purpose.
If you live in a place where the conditions are similar, the traditional look may make sense for you. The clothes really do work well for dealing with hot, sunny days. However, if you’re on the East Coast or somewhere cold, things will have to change.
Boots are practical just about everywhere, and the hat is so iconic you can justify keeping it, especially if you want to visit the rodeo. But choices like dusters, vests, or light clothing may be odd if you’re somewhere cold.
A good modern solution if you live somewhere cold but want a Western look is to pay attention to your torso. You want a jacket that is warm enough you don’t look silly but also evokes a Western feel. A denim jacket is a popular choice, but there are plenty of heavier wool and leather coats that also manage to achieve a rugged feel that won’t break the look if you’re somewhere where you need serious warmth.
How to Dress Like a Cowboy Fast
Some people may read all of the above with dismay. Many people looking for a cowboy look are practical folk themselves. You may not want to take lots of time building the perfect outfit.
For you, we’ll give some rapid-fire advice on what sort of clothes can give you the cowboy look. The following will make you look like a cowboy, but should not be considered the only way to look like a cowboy:
- A cowboy hat that fits and isn’t too flashy
- Cowboy boots that are practical (and don’t have spurs, unless you actually need them for horseback riding)
- A flannel or dark-colored dress shirt, avoiding a short-sleeve dress shirt if you live somewhere cold
- Denim jeans, with most people preferring dark blue or black over lighter colors
- A belt with a medium-sized buckle, avoiding any gaudy designs
- A jacket that fits the rest of the look, if things are cold where you live
That’s about as far as most cowboys take it. It’s not too hard, and it works. For most outfits, the hat is the “loudest” part of the look and can easily be removed if you don’t like it or just don’t think it works for you.
Once you have your basics, it also makes experimenting easier. If something doesn’t seem to work, you have your bread and butter to return to. It’ll help you feel like less of a poser; you’ll have a muted, cowboy look that doesn’t make you look like a John Wayne or Woody wannabe.
Remember: Rugged and Practical
In the end, knowing how to dress like a cowboy is all about evoking the feelings most people have when they imagine a cowboy. You want that rugged, American look. If you can achieve that with the right pair of boots and/or a cowboy hat, you’ve got a look!
If you found this advice helpful, we’ve got plenty more. Explore our blog for advice on men’s fashion, women’s fashion, celebrity tips, and plenty of other useful content. No matter what look you’re aiming for, we can help.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2018. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.