The National Western Stock Show gives “city slickers” a chance to rub elbows with real ranchers, cowboys and rural lifestyle representatives.
Once a year, they dust off their cowboy hats — which they likely bought in the 1980s when the movie “Urban Cowboy” popularized ranch wear.
Now it’s the popular television show “Yellowstone” bringing Western wear back.
The Gazette compiled tips, tricks and observations 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 clothing it takes to fit in … or not.
From Kim Green, of The Mills’ Hollywood Cowgirl: There are several pieces of fashion advice for a woman’s closet.
Fringe: Whether it’s a handbag, a scarf, a vest, or even a wedding dress, fringe is back and especially hot in Western wear.
“Dig out that piece of fringe in your closet and show it off,” Green said.
According to People Magazine searches for “fringe dress outfits” are up by 225%.
Hair-on-hide: Called “hair-on hide,” the term translates to slapping a square of cowhide on anything. Spotted, course fur trim adds a Western touch to belts, cowboy hats, boots and purses.
We even spied a cowhide flyswatter to keep the pests away on hot, lazy days. For more, visit Hair-on Hide Fly Swatter — Cattle Kate.
A unique twist on the household flyswatter, this hair-on hide is cut into a horse head shape to fight those pesky insects. Comes on a sturdy metal wire handle. The Hair-on hide will vary in color. Makes a great gift! Made in Idaho.
Aztec patterns: A show of color on an accessory can brighten an otherwise subtle Western look.
Turquoise: Turquoise never went out of style as a Western accessory, and vintage rings worn on two-three fingers of each hand is especially chic. So are silver-framed squash blossom necklaces worn over a dark turtleneck, the bigger the gem the better.
Cowboy hats: For Green, and many other Western wear watchers, headwear 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 out of.”
A person can show up at the National Western Stock Show in the most expensive boots and jeans, but a wilted straw hat from a dime store with a cheap band will out you as an imposter. Says Green:
“Don’t come to the stock show in the type of straw hat you’d wear to a country music festival.”
Do not wear leggings. They are not pants.
Do NOT drag out the brightly colored Wranglers, which were in fashion 20 years ago. According to Western aficionado Green, they were all the rage at the turn of the 21st century, but they are a beacon for uncool in 2023.
Some things never change, and jeans are still the most acceptable legwear — but you have to know which brand is the coolest. An informal poll showed that who makes the jean is crucial.
Of the three most popular stock show jeans, according to the anecdotal poll, Levi’s, Cinch and Wrangler are the most-worn brands and there was an overall preference for either Wrangler or Cinch (caveat: Cinch is a major sponsor of Denver’s National Western Stock Show).
The Gazette compiled some valuable Western wear advice from Steve Weil, the third-generation owner and president of Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Co.
Rockmount’s shirts are worn by rock stars and wranglers alike. They’re also featured on the aforementioned “Yellowstone” show along with Rockmount’s custom silk scarves and snap shirts.
Weil’s three most valuable Western wear tips
Never wear a hat with more character than you have.
Don’t look like all buckle and no cattle.
Go with fabrics you’re comfortable wearing anytime and anywhere.
“Polyester is a bad start,” said Weil.
Weil reminds us that the cowboy boot is a defining clothing article which can make or break your authenticity as a cowboy or girl.
“There are boots made that were made 20 years ago that should never see the pavement,” he said. “No silver tips.”
Weil said that every year, Colorado politicians drag out their old Western wear that doesn’t “pass the test.”
Unfortunately, he would not divulge names, but he did say it’s shameful some of the clothes politicians drag out of their closets this time of year.
“Some of these guys need to get with the program,” said Weil, whose grandfather Jack Weil lived to 107 and worked most days of his life.
The Rockmount store is downtown at 1626 Wazee St., Denver.
Of course, not everyone gives a darn about how they look at the Stock Show.
Emily and Stephanie Gillis were not embarrassed to admit they did not fit in with their city sunglasses, tiny over-the-shoulder zipper bags and open-toed shoes.
Said Emily: “We’re just here for the yarn.”