The story of the Western button-up shirt is the story of the men and women who wore it: tough and rugged, unique, unapologetic, and stylish. Over the last two centuries, America's cowboys and cowboy-girls shaped this garment to their needs and formed it to their inimitable tastes.
Born in the early 19th century among the settlers steadily pushing west, this classic shirt fused rugged workwear with trends from cosmopolitan outposts, European counterparts, and nearby Native Americans.
The isolation of the new frontier meant traditional fabrics were difficult to find. Many settlers opted for hardy animal skins. While simpler than the collared and cuffed Western shirt, the influence of this born-of-necessity material choice can be seen today.
The advent of the transcontinental railroad meant settlers had increasing access to media and culture. During this time, a national love affair with the Western lifestyle spurred the iconization of the cowboy that still permeates pop culture to this day.
Buffalo Bill Cody launched his first Wild West show
Meanwhile, the evolution of the Western shirt occurred out of isolation and necessity. Tailors added longer tails that prevented it from pulling up while horseback, five-button cuffs gave the wearer freedom to roll sleeves up or down, and the signature pointed yoke across chest and shoulders reinforced the garment where it counted through long days of lifting, hauling, and riding through brush.
Cowboy movies debuted on the silver screen in the 1920s and the journey of the Western shirt from America's plains to the streets of her major cities was complete. The icons of Hollywood's Golden Age would forever carve the Western shirt into the psyche and imagination of American culture.