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History & Doxology of the Wild Rag

It's an iconic symbol of the Wild, Wild, Wild West; a dapper accessory in floral or bright colors that stands out against the denim and leather uniform like a sunset over the plains: The big silk scarf tied around the cowboy's neck.

Although the kerchief is a real simple accessory, these little squares of cloth came in handy for many reasons, serving in a pinch as potholders, dusk masks, drinking water strainers, race flags, horse blinders, emergency saddle rigging, sunburn protection, tourniquets, tablecloth, dish towel, or gun cleaning rag. In fact, the wild rag might be just about the most versatile piece in a rancher's wardrobe.

Wild rags (also called bandanas, neck rags, neckerchiefs, buckaroo scarfs, mascadas) came into use around the mid-1800s, fashioned out of patterned flour sacks and used for added warmth and protection on the dusty trail. Eventually silk became the upgraded fabric of choice. Silk wicks well, stays warmer than cotton or wool, and (much like cowboys) gets softer with age.

The standard dimensions for wild rags is around 30-40" though they can be as large as 50". Styles vary by wearer; some prefer big and bold patterns like floral or paisley, others opt for solid colors or even black. Some tie their wild rag in a square knot (ends wrapped twice around the neck first) or an intricate buckaroo knot, Others prefer to fasten their wild rag with a sterling silver scarf slide or concho.

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You can buy your wild rag lots of places, from your local feed store to boutiques like Kit Santa Fe or Whipin' Wild Rags. And you simply can't have too many. Try a sterling silver scarf slide from Vogt Silversmiths to top it off.

The wild rag is for anyone with an adventurous spirit. Tag @BOYHOWDY in your wild rag shot to show us how you style it!


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