It’s summer and summertime is rodeo time across the rural west. Dressing for a rodeo can be a tricky matter, because you don’t want to look like a poseur or tourist. How do you dress for America’s Original Sport? Mix well worn items with fancier pieces for a studied, casual appearance.
Wear you favorite pair of jeans, provided they fit well (not baggy and saggy or so tight they endanger your family life) and stack over boots. You want to be comfortable (you’ll be sitting awhile and there’s usually a dance afterwards) and not look like you’re trying too hard or bought clothes just for the occasion.
You want to look presentable, but not too fancy because there’s hot dogs and beer at these things. Go with a mostly white shirt, something in a plaid or check. Rodeo are patriotic affairs, so try to find something close to the colors on the flag. Long sleeves if you’re indoors, short sleeves (or roll ’em up a bit) if you’re outdoors. On the higher end, I’d go with something like this patriotic number from Gitman Bros. Mid-range, try something like this George Strait shirt. If you live somewhere where western shirts are hard to find, this shirt from Target has enough interesting details and is affordable enough that buying it just for the occasion won’t break the bank. It’ll also work out of a western context, so hey, it’s like two shirts! (You can’t wash it half as often as you wear it though).
Belt and boots
Wear your trusty belt and good boots. A pair of ropers is perfect for the rodeo. If you have a trophy buckle from your past, now’s a good time to bring it out. If not, a fancy belt buckle won’t hurt. Rodeos are about showing off a little bit. On the other hand, if you didn’t win the buckle or yourself or if it’s huge, you might look jealous or overcompensating. Avoid something the size of dinner plate or overly extravagant. That huge belt buckle you saw at the truck stop with a bald eagle landing on a mountaintop with a flag in it’s beak? Save that for the bar next weekend. It’s like taking your science fair medal to the Olympics.
Irony is overrated. Maybe just leave this one at the truck stop all together.
A plain, silver oval belt buckle. Provided it’s smaller than your fist, this will look good on everyone, never go out of style or get you confused for a member of a Freebyrds, the eagle-themed Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band.
Wear your daily driver straw hat or a ball cap (especially if it’s from a local feed store, sports team or agricultural concern. Don’t wear a Yankees cap to a ball game. Don’t wear a cowboy hat to a Yankees game. You’re trying to look presentable, not stand out like a sore thumb.)
The no-feathers rule extends to hatbands. A single turkey feather in your hat band can be cool. Killing a pigeon to do this makes you look like you’re a groupie for Freebyrds, the eagle-themed Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band that may or may not exist.
You want to look and feel comfortable at this rodeo without looking like you’re sitting on the bench waiting to sub in just in case. You’re a spectator and you don’t want to draw attention from the athletes competing for buckles. The best way to do this is to mix you most worn items like jeans, hats and belts with stuff you’d save for nicer occasions, your nice shirt and boots. It presents a studied, but casual image. Like it’s not your first rodeo (see what I did there). Keep in mind you’ll be sitting close to people, so maybe ease up on the cologne or aftershave. Everything’s going to smell like dust and manure anyway. Go, watch the barrel racers and team ropers. See bulls knock bullfighters around. Have a hot dog, relax, and enjoy one of the oldest sports America has to offer.