Yippee-ki-yi-o! Get along li’l doggies, it’s another cowboy blog!
I’ve always believed that the clothes make the man—and when it came to cowboys, that’s the absolute truth. Here are ten things that made the man so easy to recognize:
* Stetson, John B., Sombrero. There’s an old saying that most folks get dressed from the bottom up, but the cowboy dressed from the top down. No matter what he called it, this was the first thing he put on upon wakening. It was a “Stetson” whether or not it truly was, and it was more likely to be called a sombrero in the southwest, and a hat in the Northwest.
* Boots. From the top to the bottom—no, I don’t really know if this is what he put on next, but this would be the thing, next to his hat and his horse, he cherished most. At least two months salary would go into his boots, and no matter how uncomfortable they might have been, he wore them with pride. Boots made with pull-on straps at the tops were called “mule ears”, shorter boots that came up to the ankle were called “peewees.” But mostly he just called them “custom mades.”
* Spurs. Necessary when riding a horse—and practically a social requirement when not. They were as essential to controlling the horse as the reins. They were held in place by a chain passing under the instep and a broad, crescent-shaped strip of leather called spur leather. Also known as hooks, gut hooks, galves, grappling irons – or tin belly, if they were of inferior quality. Pear-shaped pendants knows as danglers or jingle-bobs were added to the spur rowel (a curved piece added to the frame of the spur) and gave him that musical sound when he walked.
* Chaps (or chivarras). An abbreviated version of the Spanish word chaparejos, which means leather breeches or overalls. These protected legs from injury when thrown or dragged through brush, and also provided protection from rain and snow.
* Britches. They were never pants, or trousers. Always britches. California pants were also common on the range—also known as Levis’ after the San Francisco overall manufacturer, Levi Strauss.
* Plunder and poke. He carried his personal effects in his “war bag”, or as it was known in the Northwest, his poke. Also known as parfleshes or “porfleshes”, a version of the word “parfleche.” The personal belongings in the bag—his “doo dads” and “ditties”—were called plunder.
* Slicker. This oil skin coat was sometimes called a “fish” and was usually found rolled in a bundle behind the cantle of the saddle. Sometimes he also wore a “poncha” – a covering made by cutting a hole for his head through the middle of a blanket.
* Wipes. Also known as his neckerchief.
* Gloves. These were worn as protection against the cold, from rope burns and from injury. But many cowboys turned their noses up at gloves, claiming it was “cheaper to grow skin” than to buy it.