Wear Out West, or Why Cowmen Have Odd Tan Lines


           Odd tan lines are part and parcel of a very evolved practical western uniform.  Historical photographs record the romantic phase of ranch wear, c.1880-1930. Cowmen watered horses from ten-gallon hats and wore wooly angora chaps. In tight boots, tall under slung boot heels and lady leg spurs, cowmen looked as dashing as uptown S&M hookers. Yet no historian has explained why angora chaps aren’t worn today, or how the twelve beaver Stetson evolved into the baseball cap.


 While leather chaps protect cowmen from cactus, wooly chaps in the rain weigh 200 lbs. and smell of wet sheep, the main factor precipitating the cowmen- sheepherder wars.


   Tight boots and hats happen when boot leather and hat felt get wet. If it is raining, of what use is the expression ‘put out to dry’? Relief comes thanks to savvy forward thinking boot emporiums. Good boot salesmen notice when cowmen walk across the carpet as though they are hanging on to a saddle horn or barn rafters to aid forward momentum.


   “Sir, how long since your feet were measured?”


   “Haven’t ever, but these boots feel about right.”


   “Sir, try these. They may be more comfortable.”


    “Whoo-hoo. These feel great.”


   “Sir, two sizes larger, your proper size.”


   “No wonder I’ve never wanted to get off Buck to open the gate.”


   “Obliged to help.”


   “Say, I’ve had a headache…I thought it was from squinting at the sun….ya don’t suppose my hat…?”


    The West was ready for the adjustable size baseball, or  ‘gimme’ cap. Loggers found them first. Orange with a Stihl chainsaw on the front, the hat announced that the faller had a new chainsaw.


    “See you got a gimme”, said the crew.


    “Nah, the hat set me back seven hundred fifty. They threw in the saw”


   Truckers discovered the ‘gimmes’ next. Hats sporting Peterbuilt trucks rolled down the road. Soon cowmen displayed advertisements for Bull Semen on their foreheads. Truth is that cowmen seldom had taste in hats anyway, and most looked no worse in caps. Cowmen still had dark leather tanned faces from the eyes down and shining white foreheads and bald domes above the eyes without their hats. The big change was their bright red sun burned necks, from no hat brim for shade.


   While a cowman without his hat is sorry sight enough, add skinny white bow legs, a paunch like a glowing moon, a white chest attached to bright red sun burnt arms, and then say, “Hip Hooray for Levi Strauss and Fruit of the Loom”. Compared to a near nude cowman, an overweight sun baked beach bather in Florida is easy on the eyes.


    What right minded cowman would attempt to ride a horse, buck hay bales, crawl through a barb wire fence or mow the gopher mounds in the front yard with the lawn mower wearing beach attire? The Western cowman is a practical man. Think this over, the next time you grill a steak wearing beach shoes.