Once upon a time, before tech, adventure, and weed stole the headlines, Denver was just a cow town. That Old West heritage made Denver the Queen City of the Plains, and for those who want to embrace that Mile High legacy, we’re lucky to have the annual National Western Stock Show—also known as the “Super Bowl of Cattle Shows”—which has been a signature event for the city since 1906. If you’re planning on attending the 113th stock show, which runs from January 12–27, just how much cowboy style should you adapt? Keep reading for a roundup of clothing and accessories that anyone can wear—even the Western novice.
Cry Baby Ranch store owner Roxanne Thurman suggests adding just a few Western elements to a classic white shirt and jeans look, instead of purchasing a head-to-toe outfit; this way, you’re more apt to incorporate these pieces into your everyday wardrobe and not feel like you’re going to a costume party. Although Cry Baby carries standout items like a fringed cardigan by Tasha Polizzi and Wyoming Traders’ silk bandanas, it’s Thurman’s stunning collection of sterling silver Native American conch belts, bead ball necklaces, and turquoise cuffs that will make any outfit chic and sophisticated. Since skilled artisans handcraft these pieces, they’re definitely an investment; expect prices to start around $160 for basic Navajo pearls and around $300 for bead work (pictured above). Editor’s note: Thurman points out that buyers should always ask about the origins of any Native American jewelry they’re interested in purchasing, since much of it is either illegally produced or sold. If you need additional guidance, check out the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. Cry Baby Ranch, 1421 Larimer St.; 303-623-3979; crybabyranch.com
If you’re headed to the stock show, you’ll need a cowboy hat. There’s probably no company more recognized in Western headwear than Stetson. Founded in 1865 by New Jersey native John Batterson Stetson, the now famous hat maker decided to head West to recuperate from tuberculosis; once recovered, he developed a hat prototype while mining around Pikes Peak (the high crown and broad brim were probably inspired by the hats of the Mexican vaqueros). Fast-forward to today, and Stetson’s fur felt, wool, and straw cowboy hats are known for their quality and rugged good looks. Their wide range of neutral shades means they carry something for every taste, but some of the prettiest ones currently in the Denver store are in caramel and winter white. Regardless of what color hat you buy, plan on heading to Stetson beginning on January 18, when one of their expert steamers will be on hand to shape and contour your hat to your particular head and face shape (check with store for hours). Bonus: All boots and hats will be 15 percent off January 10–27. Prices start at $105 for straw cowboy hats and go up from there; Stetson, 1430 Larimer St.; 303-534-2367; stetson.com
Denim is a no-brainer to wear to the stock show, and a denim jacket can easily be thrown over a plain cotton or even an embroidered Western shirt. This version by Able—an ethical fashion brand that creates products made by women, with the aim of ending generational poverty—has a slightly dropped shoulder, a relaxed fit through the torso and a distressed wash, giving it a vintage tomboy feel. $148; Dragonfly Apparel, 3615 W. 32nd Ave.; 303-433-6331; facebook.com/DragonflyApparel
If you’re still wearing skinny jeans, it’s time to update your wardrobe. The last couple of seasons have seen the resurgence of bootcut denim—a perfect style choice for the stock show. If you’ve forgotten why anyone wore boot cut jeans in the first place, here’s the answer: Legs. Pair this style with a pointed-toe high heel boot or stiletto, and your legs will look long and lean. My current favorite is Mother’s the Slant Pocket Drama with contrast pink trim on the front pockets, providing just enough detail to make these jeans more than just a basic. $232; Rebel, Cherry Hills Marketplace, 5910 S. University Blvd.; 720-283-1004
Need to cushion those stock show stadium seats or carry an extra layer to keep warm? Instead of just throwing on your favorite fleece (so not Western looking), try bringing something a bit more stylish along, like one of Pendleton’s signature wool blankets. Known for their rich color palettes and original, double-sided designs, their Native American-inspired patterns like Chief Joseph and Pagosa Springs would look perfect in a stock show setting. Or choose a blanket from Pendleton’s American Indian College Fund series, and a portion of the proceeds from your purchase will go toward scholarships that help Native American students attend and stay in college. Prices start at $269 each; Pendleton, 1425 Larimer St.; 303-623-0411; pendleton-usa.com
Premium cowboy boots can easily cost upwards of $500 (especially if they’re made from or incorporate exotic skins), but Tecovas hopes to change that. Because the company sells direct to consumers and cuts out the middlemen, they’re able to give customers the best possible price on their handmade boots. Crafted in Leon, Mexico, by a third-generation bootmaker, Tecovas keeps their silhouettes and designs clean and uncluttered. The Jamie is perfect example, with its classic cowgirl shape that hits slightly below mid-calf, making it ideal for wearing with jeans or midi-length prairie dresses and skirts. $235; tecovas.com