While some events for the National Western Stock Show get underway in coming days, the official opening day for the annual gathering isn’t until later this week, on Saturday, January 9. So get ready for plenty of cowboy hats, boots, and denim in our fine city establishments. But don’t assume that’s how cowboys really dressed in the 1800s. In Texas, they likely wore battered, floppy hats and loose pants made of wool or canvas. In the Rockies, they might have worn tighter denim and a red sash—or maybe had no fashion sense at all, says Don Reeves, a curator at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. “They looked more like refugees than cowboys,” Reeves tells the Colorado Springs Gazette. Today’s well-dressed cowboys and cowgirls wear clean hats with carefully creased crowns in styles called “Cattleman” (pictured) or “Montana” or “Gus.” They might also wear a brightly colored shirt and heavily starched jeans.
If one of the original Colorado cowboys of the 1800s stumbled into the Stock Show, would he recognize anybody? “He wouldn’t even recognize the cows,” says Steve Weil, president of Denver’s Rockmount Ranch Wear in LoDo.