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Apr 18, 2015

The Western (or Cowboy) Shirt -- YEA or NAY?



Readers, it didn't dawn on me till I was halfway through the chambray shirt I'm making that it's really a modified cowboy shirt.



In the United States, cowboy (also known as Western or frontier) shirts have been popular for decades, especially in the Southwest.  Although not nearly as ubiquitous as blue jeans, cowboy shirts can be worn far from the rodeo without feeling like you're playing dress-up.

Or can they?

Cowboy shirts became popular men's garments in the 1930's, I believe, with the rise of movie cowboys and Western-themed films.  During the 1940's, singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry added a layer of gloss (and wholesomeness) to the look.  As families had more leisure time in the 1950's, cowboy shirts were the kind of thing a dad might wear to a backyard barbecue.  And in the early decades of TV, cowboys and Western themed shows like Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, and Bonanza ruled the airwaves.  (This list knocked my socks off.)







Remember Ty Hardin in Bronco?

Sewing patterns for men's Western shirts are always in print.  Some of the most beautiful date from the late 1930's through the 1950's.  They include all kinds of fancy details like fringe, embroidery (embroidery transfer included!), piping, and fancy cuffs.  These patterns are easy to find on eBay and Etsy; I own at least five myself!









Feast your eyes, cowboy shirt fans!





















They weren't just for men, either.





A few more peeks at my shirt, which is coming together nicely.





Friends, what do you think of cowboy shirts?

Are they best reserved for the rodeo and community theater productions of Oklahoma!?

Do you -- or someone you love -- have a few hanging in the closet?  

Western (or cowboy) shirts -- YEA or NAY?


49 comments:

  1. Yea! Absolutely, yea! I can't wait to see the finished product!

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  2. Yippee-Yi Yea! I own only one and as a genre garment I think they can be overdone but a shirt with a contrasting Western-style yoke and snaps with two front pockets with prominent fold-over flaps? Very stylish. The yokes accentuate a guy's V-shaped torso and I happen to like shirts made from printed fabric featuring little scenes of cowboys, horses, etc. I guess this all stems from my very similar pajamas as a kid. Although I prefer the more subtle examples, I think it's a great look, very American, and perhaps not on the radar of the fashion tastemakers.

    And I'd like to add that I think guys wearing embroidered shirts is a very cool thing -- Western, bowling, Hawaiian, whatever. It's one way to make a shirt unique and your very own. I'd like to learn embroidery at some point, hand as well as machine.

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  3. Cowboy/girl shirts are a great love of mine, as I have expressed many times on the blog. That was the inspiration for my ridiculous-shirt!

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  4. look up Nudie Cohn's "Nudie Suits" -- and rock on with your awesome shirt! http://nudiesuits.tumblr.com/

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  5. I can't pull it off at this age. I'd look like Aunt Eller.

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  6. Definite yea! I picked up a great plaid one for my boyfriend at the vintage store I manage. Since then, he has pick up more for himself.
    I think they are very flattering.

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  7. I live in Idaho. They are standard issue.

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  8. I live in Montana. I love them! I have and wear 2. They aren't embroidered but have the front yoke ,pearl snaps and flap pockets. I would love to make more and sure I will. I love a nice paisley on men.

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  9. Everyday wear around here in Arizona. I love them.

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  10. Love them--especially with piping.

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  11. I love the look of a nicely made western shirt, especially the 40's versions. Love the piping and the pearl snaps. I don't wear them anymore, but grew up in them (in the west, on a ranch). My grandmother started a tradition of having her kids and grandkids professionally photographed at age 6 in full western garb. It is very cute at 6.

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  12. Love your patterns and can't wait to see your finished shirt. I found a ladies western shirt pattern a few years ago at the thrift shop now I am inspired to use it. Gail G.

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  13. I live in West Texas, and I see working cowboys every day.
    Western shirts are quite popular, with the yoke and snaps and western pockets, but I've never seen a man here wear one of the decorated ones. (Sometimes a woman will, for a special occasion.) I really like the shape, cut, and details of western shirts. Personally, I think the decorated ones are kind of awesome, though not very practical.

    A funny thing happened to my husband and me about twenty years ago: we were in Switzerland, went to bed in a small mountain town and woke up in....I don't know how to describe it. Everyone in the town, and I mean EVERYONE, was dressed like Roy Rogers or Dale Evans. Red satin shirts, fringe, the whole works. It was so bizarre. It took us a while to figure out what was going on (we don't speak much German). It was a yearly cowboy festival, apparently, and they went all out, in a 1940s or 50s Hollywood movie kind of way. We joked that if we'd only known, we could have brought some boots and hats from home and made a fortune.

    Anyway, I think your shirt is going to look great. It's an American classic, really. Hard to go wrong.

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  14. My Dad used to have a business trip to Dallas every year and he brought back shirts for my brother and me one year.

    The look is very much on trend:

    http://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/540786?cm_mmc=ProductSearch-_-us-_-Dresses-_-Two-tone&gclid=CjwKEAjwgcipBRDgxK_3ztrBty8SJACRuv4d5WS9Ji1bLPQ5IiRcbWGmQ9rE9IcWgxZPnAkzDFY15xoCUZTw_wcB

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  15. As someone who grew up on the (inland) west coast, I say nay. The only people I knew who wore them were from the East coast. It's mostly from the movies, I think.

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    Replies
    1. Though the Portland Hipsters seem to have taken to them.

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  16. I'm from the Netherlands, Europe. To me, western shirts belong in the fancy dress box. And maybe at the rodeo, I don't know because we don't have those here.

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  17. love it all - Oklahoma a pretty good musical (with a song like 'I'm just a girl who cant say no' whats not to like), my own dress style is relatively conservative, but I also like to mix it up - my kimono top with snakeskin boots etc, I think if you can't have fun with clothes whats the point...........as doris would say...... whip crack away....

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  18. Yea! I'm an American expat, but I have two western shirts I break out now and then. I generally avoid wearing them with my cowboy boots though, that feels like a little too much! ;)

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  19. I don't like them but if you feel good in them, by all means, wear them. But embroidered? No! Anne-Marie

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  20. I love them, love to wear them and the fancier they are the better. The piping, the snaps, the embroidery - I adore all of it. Decades of Style has a cowgirl shirt pattern with embroidery transfers that has been on my list for a while.

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  21. I think they are neat, and yours looks great.

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  22. YES!! Evidence: http://sentfrommyiron.blogspot.co.nz/2013/01/introducingthe-shirt.html

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  23. "You'll never find one in my wardrobe," said the prairie gal. But I am intrigued by that sneak peak at the contrasting hem finish and can't wait to see the finished project. I'm sure it looks great, all your shirts are perfectly constructed.

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  24. It also didn't occur to me that you were basically sewing a cowboy shirt until you mentioned it, probably because I grew up in South Texas were a lot of non-cowboys wear them unironically in everyday wear.

    I think the cowboy shirt can be overdone with embroidery, snaps, piping, etc, but it looks best with some simple contrasting. I'm a big ole yay in this one. Your's is turning out so lovely, can't wait to see it done!

    http://raptureunexampled.blogspot.com/

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  25. Go for it for sure. Popular in my parts (Texas). I see them every day on those good lookin cowboys--some that run cattle and some that just like the shirts!

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  26. I live in rodeo country but I'm not a horse person so I don't wear western garb. There is a saying here about city folk who wear cowboy cloths: he's all boots but no cattle.

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    1. How funny--the Texas version is "all hat and no cattle." It means the same thing, but it can also mean someone who is pretentious and pretends to be something they're not.

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  27. Despite being from Texas, and spending a fair bit of time out in the country, I can't remember many people wearing a lot of the really flamboyant ones. Still, if it pleases your heart, go for it. Also, Peter, when are you getting a pair of cowboy boots? I have lots of cowboy boot shopping advice!

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  28. Your shirt is looking great Peter, very professional. The contrasting fabric makes it very special.

    A standard western shirt is fine, with snap buttons. The others with embroidery, nah, wouldn't be caught dead in those. Cowboys and Indians, for adults, don't think so.

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  29. Love them! Hubby has always worn them to work and loves them! Big Yeah! OH and we live in So CA inland and he's an engineer -they pretty much wear whatever they want :)

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  30. I love them, too. I made one for my husband many years ago. We divorced and he gave it to our daughter, who wore it out! It was turquoise corduroy with black yoke, cuffs and collar, and pearl gripper snaps. I'd wear one if I could find one, but don't think I'm up for making one anymore. Yours is lovely.

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  31. I think they are gorgeous, especially the embroidered ones. I hesitate to encourage you to make one, though, because you might take to embroidery like you apparently took to sewing, and then there wouldn't be anything but counted-thread, crewel and cross stitch on this blog ...

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  32. I am from the UK. No one would wear them here, a denim shirt, yes, but not with cowboy yokes. But I think the simple ones look really nice, and your colour selection is lovely, I think it is a look that you will wear well, so YAY.

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  33. As a born and bred Albertan, I say yea all the way. I am as left-wing urban as they come, especially in this part of the world, but no matter. Out here it's a garment that spans political views, professions, ages, genders, races-even recent immigrants to the province like western shirts. Doesn't matter who you are, there is nothing silly about wearing a western shirt. I agree with the above commenter that they are always stylish. They provide great opportunities to play with colour-blocking, yoke shapes, piping, embroidery. What's not to love???? Also, I issue you a challenge, Peter: make a western-style suit jacket to go with your western shirt! Please!

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  34. Nice going for the shirt and go western all the way.
    Next point-whoever put the price tag on the Simplicity 6693 should be roped to a cactus plant!

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  35. Not "yeah" - HELL YEAH! I own the women's McCall pattern above. Here on the the gulf coast of Texas, western shirts are always appropriate. For rodeo. For date night. For being on a horse. For a formal occasion. For natives. For foreigners. If you want to keep it discrete and subdued with just pearl snaps and a little detail, or if you will go full-on embroidery- hell yeah.

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  36. I am a huge lover of the cowboy shirt and try to force my husband in them at every chance. I can't wait to see yours!! love that hem!

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  37. I say YAY/YEA

    My Husbie and a few friends have a few that I've made... not sewing the obvious two toned yokes though... They're surprisingly easy... but the collars are hard for me!

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  38. Love it! I found one for men in a new set of patterns I acquired from a friend cleaning out her mom's stash. I may list it as I would never have time to do justice to it!

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  39. I think it will be grand on you. I usually equate those shirts with tons of piping very artfully done. You always style your makes very well. So I don't think you'll look like Clifton Webb on a dude ranch although he wore it well too.
    Can't wait to see it

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  40. This example of the cultural and social implications of clothing here are fascinating. Great material for social scientists.

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  41. Yet another vintage example of the good old days when guys didn't have to be bulging with muscles to be considered sexy.

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  42. Hey, whatever happened to the "urban cowboy" ?

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  43. I actually made my own Western shirt from Simplicity 6693 when it came out during the Disco '70's. It was my first enthusiastic, but rather crude, attempt at my first shirt. The main pieces were cut from a medium weight unbleached muslin, and all the contrast pieces were from a brown and natural gingham. I thought I was stylin' when I hit the local dance club in my cowboy shirt, jeans, and boots. After asking six young ladies to dance, and getting turned down by everyone of them, I decided it was time to call it a night, head home, and retire my shirt !

    John in Seattle

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  44. Banana Republic sells mens "Western shirts". I think they're purveyors of good taste so I say yes to western shirts! The decorated vintage variety are more suitable for young hipsters. For us 40 years olds who are still young at heart - a simpler version is more suitable. Don't want to look like we're headed to a costume party.

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  45. Meh. Im from Arizona, and the fancy ones are "movie cowboy shirts", not real cowboy shirts. Dressed up cowboys just have clean shirts. LoL

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  46. I agree with Leigh; when i lived in Indiana, we wore the fancy ones to be fasionable. Now that i live in Texas, not many people go for the roy rogers type of shirt.

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