Real Western > Cowboy Gear > The Proper Way of Wearing Today's Western Apparel
The Proper Way of Wearing Today's Western Apparel

Is Wearing Western Attire "Dressing in Costume"

There seems to be a certain hesitance with Japanese, and wearing or enjoying western apparel.  This seems rooted in the belief that western apparel is nothing more than the wearing of cloths which resemble the costumes of old Roy Rogers era westerns, even though in the US, western apparel has undergone significant changes and refinement, resulting in a more modern looking product.

It is not that I dislike western apparel of the late 1800's, however, here at Real Western for Cool Cowboys, I hope to distance from the old westerns, which in the end are just fictional, and instead introduce the clothing, apparel, and tools being worn and utilized today.

Retaining Functionality

Western Wear was born out of necessity and to be functional, therefore, if you want to wear western apparel well, then you want to make sure you retain a since of functionality and simplicity when doing so.  There is an enormous amount of different western clothes in the United States which are simple, and yet functional at the same time.

You don't always have to rely on a cowboy hat either.  The wearing of cowboy boots with jeans, a regular shirt or T-shirt and a buckle is perfectly acceptable, in fact, it is more common to see people dressed in this way in the States, than in the entire western ensemble.  Remember western wear was created to be functional, and you loose some of the functionality if you wear more than what is needed, therefore, in order to wear western apparel well, don't forget to wear only what is necessary.

Jeans & Boots

98 - 99% of Cowboys in the US wear Wrangler Jeans. Wranglers were designed for wear while riding horses, and that is one of the reasons they have become the most popular jeans amongst Cowboys (The fact that they are the Official jeans of the PRCA probably doesn't hurt either). As for further detail on Wranglers, I will discuss them further in another column (Sorry, column still under construction).

The basic style of Wranglers, the 13 MWZ (Which stands for: Men's With Zipper, style 13) are sold in Japan as well, however, the Slim Fit 936, which tends to give legs the appearance of being longer than they are, seem to look better on Japanese, who are often short-legged. Unfortunately, this style is rarely found in the average jean-shop in Japan, and as such, purchasing them from a western specialty store, or from overseas is the best method of acquirement for the time being.

No matter how good-looking you may think your boots are, the end of your jeans should be worn over your boots. Also, jeans should be worn a bit longer than normal; a length that just about catches the heel of your boot is perfect. In the case of 936's, the cuff can often be too narrow, and thus piles at the ankle. In such a case, you should go ahead and get your jeans extra long, and allow the cuff to fold-up and pile at the ankle, sort of like loose socks. This will prevent your jean-legs from riding-up your leg while you are horseback, creating a sore sight.

Placing glue on the inside of legs, followed by a hot iron to create pleats down the center of the legs is one way of wearing western jeans. I have heard some say, you can tell a real Cowboy from the round circle faded into his back-pocket from the can of Copenhagen (chewing tobacco) he carries there.


When speaking of western shirts in Japan, most people imagine floral-embroidered shirts with fringes, but it must be said that this is a very old style of western clothing.  The western shirts of today are very similar to other shirts, not only in style, but also in there use of plain colors or stripes.

Popularity exists even in western apparel, and it wasn't that long ago that shirts like those from Mo Betta with elaborate flames, or shirts with Stars & Stripes' motif were widely worn.  More recently, shirts with plain colors, strips, side stripes or checkered patterns seem to be worn more and more.  20X seems to have replaced Mo Betta as the brand of choice.

Personally, I prefer the striped, or mixed coloration shirts from Wrangler (Besides jeans, Wrangler also makes shirts, boots and hats).

The Hat

If at all possible, it is preferred you try to get a hold of a genuine hat, and not settle or be fooled by one of the imitations being sold on the streets in Japan.  You should try to acquire a 4X or better, at the least. Quality hats are thin yet tough, tightly woven, and are smooth to the touch.

There are many different styles of hats, however, this does not mean that any hat will do for just anyone.  Just like glasses or sunglasses, there are those that look well and those that don't, all dependant on the shape of your face.  When purchasing one at a store, try it on, and try to find the one that looks best with the shape of your face.

When wearing a hat though, DO NOT wear it so that the hat rests far back on your head, exposing much of your forehead!  This not the way cowboy hats were intended to be worn, and it looks VERY BAD!  This must be one of those things that was portrayed wrong in the movies, but was copied as the proper way to do it in real-life.  Draw-strings are also a no no.

Posture & Stride

A lot of people say that Japanese don't look good in western attire. This is most likely do to their misconception of western attire as being like that in the old westerns, but another reason may be posture.  Many Japanese walk with their shoulders stooped, and almost crouched over.  It is a given that western attire would not look good worn by someone with such a posture.

When wearing western clothing, shoulders should be pulled back, chest stuck forward.  Don't be overly concerned if your belly sticks-out either. Tuck your chin a bit too, causing your hat to almost hide your eyes.

When walking, you should be throwing your legs forward, not bending them much when they come down, but rather throwing your heel down like it's heavy.  Roll your foot to the ground so that the entire part of the bottom of your foot comes into contact with the ground.  As far as I have seen and observed, this is the manner in which Cowboys walk, and is the stride that best befits western attire.

Copyright © 1998-1999 Real Western All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized Reproduction and Copying Prohibited