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Come visit a Colorado dude ranch, and one of the first things you’ll notice is that we don’t necessarily dress the way your friends and neighbors do. Most of the men and women you’ll find living and working on our ranches are dressed in traditional Western gear, and many of our guests decide to, as well.
First-time visitors tend to assume this is because we’re trying to create a certain look, and they’re partly right – dressing up in Western style is both fun and comfortable! But what they may not realize is that our clothing serves a purpose, too. The Western wear you see on a Colorado dude ranch isn’t just functional, it’s fitting in with our way of life.
Here are just some of the reasons our attire is so special…
Originally, settlers to the West wore all kinds of hats, including top hats, bowler hats, and even hats left over from the Civil War. Around the 1860s, though, Stetson introduced the iconic “Boss of the Plains” hat that really set the style that people know and associate with cowboys today. Inspired by Mexican style, it gave ranchers a way to protect their heads from the elements, carry water from a stream (either for themselves or a horse), and get the attention of others when waved around. Cowboy hats were and still are vital to the ranching way of life.
The Boots Made the Man
Some historians claim that the very first “cowboy boots” were worn by Genghis Khan. Through the centuries, the design was improved and perfected throughout Europe until it ended up in the American West. With no laces, slight heels, and long narrow designs, cowboy boots give someone on horseback more control and stability than a regular shoe would. They also provide protection from water, mud, and snakebites. Perhaps best of all, they can be slipped off easily in the event that a rider comes off his horse, although we’ll make sure that piece of history isn’t part of your ranch vacation.
As you can probably guess by now, the chaps worn by cowboys and cowgirls are there for a reason, too. When herding animals, hitting the dusty trail, or going through the brush, riders could encounter unexpected branches and thorns. Or, they could need to brush aside angry steers who would come at them waist high or lower. In each case, a little bit of extra leather and padding could go a long way towards reducing scrapes, bruises, and discomfort. Also, anyone who has worked on a ranch can tell you that it’s sometimes easier to slip off a pair of chaps than it is to find clean pants after working in a dusty pen all day.
Form, Function, and Fashion
You don’t have to know all of this to enjoy dressing up like a ranch hand, but you might find a little extra bit of appreciation for that dark hat and those dusty chaps when you realize just how much hard work they actually do. In the old West, iconic looks and fashion styles came in the form of answers to everyday problems. But to really see how Western wear looks, feels, and operates, you need to come visit a Colorado dude ranch for yourself!