Steve McQueen is a pretty good go-to for pretty much any style. He tended to wear pretty great, timeless stuff. Since it’s cold out, let’s take a look at what he’s wearing in Tom Horn. I’m going to go two routes with this. One, a less expensive, less warm version if you live someplace that isn’t terribly cold all the time. The other will set you back a little more but keep you so toasty you won’t even notice the cold.
Whether you call them longhandles, long johns, or a union suit, you’re going to need a good base layer to insulate you against the weather. Big Bend Saddlery has the classic union suit, the all red number with the butt flap. If you don’t want to go that route, there’s always your standard thermal underwear. It might sound a little frou-frou, but hear me out: silk really can’t be beat. It feels warm and dry even while retaining a significant amount of moisture, it’s less bulky than waffle-knit thermals and it insulates you something fierce. L.L. Bean, REI, and Cabela’s are all good places to find silk long handles.
Nothing feels as good on a cold day as a flannel shirt. Unless it’s really freezing out, when a wool shirt stops cold in it’s tracks. Pictured above is a Filson Seattle Shirt. Filson has been around a long time and their products are made to last. Pendleton also has classic wool shirts which are still made in the US. Wool can be expensive and you have to be careful about moths, but when the temperature really drops, you’ll be glad you have it.
Flannel shirts tend to be more inexpensive, softer, and more comfortable. Since they’re made of cotton, they don’t wick moisture away as well, but the thicker, fuzzier texture helps create a warm layer of air between you and your coat. Flannel shirts can be found almost anywhere at all kinds of price points. I’m fond of the “Big Yank” flannel workshirts that are easy to find in thrift stores. It was J.C. Penney’s workwear label and there’s something timeless and ideal about their flannels that makes them nice to have in your closet.
Sweaters can be tricky, especially if you’re out in thorny brush. One snag and you’re pretty much done. If you’re not going to be running around in mesquite thickets, here’s a couple of ideas.
On the left is an Old Navy sweater. It’s mostly cotton and some polyesther. Cotton sweaters let a lot of wind through, get soaked easily and stretch out of shape pretty quickly. You can take steps to mitigate most of that, but in really cold, wet weather, cotton isn’t going to help you much. That being said, if you’re someplace like the Southwest where the winters aren’t as wet and bitterly cold, they’re not so bad. They breathe well (since it can be warm in the sun and freezing cold in the shade) and you won’t be stomping around in driving snow. This one is currently going for about $30 bucks.
On the right is a wool sweater from a British company called Woolovers. Woolovers has started selling to the US fairly recently. Wool sweaters can be expensive, but they generally earn that price by being more resistant to moisture, warmer, and generally tougher than cotton. Big, thick wool sweaters were, and still are, workwear for sailors, farmers and gamekeepers. For good reason. Luckily, Woolovers is pretty reasonably priced and ships to the US. The shipping can be expensive, so shipping it back it doesn’t fit might not be cheap. That being said, I have a couple of these sweaters and they work really well for me. I normally wear a Large or Extra Large depending on the shoulders and the large pretty much swallowed me up. The wool, on the other hand, was soft and pliable and warm.
For both sweaters, I went with necks that open up so you can adjust the ventilation. The Woolovers version has suede patches on the shoulders and elbows to cut back on the wear and tear associated with work (and shooting).
Some Neckwear For The Cold
Silk wild rags are incredibly warm and keep the wind from blowing down your shirt. Even if you sweat into them, they’ll feel nice and warm and protect your neck from scratchy wool, too. Wild rags can be found at plenty of western stores and saddle shops. It’s also a nice little cottage industry for lots of ranch families. It’s not hard to find wild rags for sale on the internet made by regular folks out west.
Schaefer makes a sort of updated mackinaw coat not unlike the one Steve McQueen wears as Tom Horn. It’s kinda pricey, but it’s made in the U.S. and features real wool and sheepskin.
If you wanted to go full on old west, River Junction Trade Co. has a cotton duck (think the canvas Carhartt uses) mackinaw coat pretty close to what you would have seen in Montana in Tom Horn’s day.
Another option to consider is the plain old Navy surplus peacoat. They can be had on ebay, or military surplus stores. They’re durable as heck, relatively inexpensive and nice enough to wear out on the town.