cowboys, rodeo, style

How to Not Look Like a Clown at the Summer Rodeo

Stamford Texas Cowboy Reunion–One of my favorite summer rodeos. I rode a bull there in 1994, and competed in the ranch bronc riding in 1998. Photo by

Planning to attend a rodeo this summer? Maybe even get lucky at the rodeo dance afterwards? It’s best to dress comfortably and in your normal clothes. But, if you must try to look like a cowboy, here are some tips to keep you from looking like a clown and getting laughed at.

  1. Be careful with the hat.

A cowboy hat is a tricky thing, and anyone in cow country can spot a fake from a section away. If you usually don’t wear one, the safest bet is not to try. But if you do, get one from a real dealer in the area you are going (not the travel center or souvenir shop), ask him to shape it like his own, and don’t add a fancy hat band. Real cowboys generally leave the thin, black ribbon the hat comes with on the hat.

Jeremiah is breaking the hat-band rule, but he’s never followed the rules. If you can ride like Jeremiah, you can break the rules, too.

Remember—straw for summer and felt for winter. Ranchers and rodeo cowboys can break this rule, but you should not. Also, hat styles are regional. I can tell by a hat whether a man is from East Texas or the Panhandle. So don’t bring your Piney Woods coon hunting hat to the Dalhart Rodeo.

  1. Be careful with the boots.

Again, if you don’t usually wear them, you might be best without. But, if you do…

No pointed toes—round or square are acceptable. No metal anywhere on the boot (unless they are steel-toed work boots). Brown and black are the only acceptable colors, but brown is safest. And if you can’t spend $100 for real leather, wear your tennis shoes.

  1. Mind the jeans.

This is much more important than you realize. Levi’s and wranglers are safest, but you can pull off other brands if you choose wisely—I rode many bulls in Old Navy jeans. They need to be straight leg or boot cut, and they need not have fancy designs on your butt. They also need to be long enough for boots. What does that mean? When you are standing, if there isn’t at least a small bit of bunching, they are too short. Yes, that goes against normal “fashion” advice—sorry fashion boy—but you aren’t in New York. When you’re sitting, the bottoms of the jeans should cover the boot tops.

  1. Plain belt, no big buckle.

If you haven’t won a trophy buckle, don’t wear one. The plain buckle that the belt comes with looks best. Nothing says wanna be like a store-bought “western” buckle. After a certain age, even men who won buckles when they were younger begin to follow this rule. By the way, how can you tell a cowboy from a cattleman? A cowboy wears a buckle over his belly, and a cattleman wears a belly over his buckle. Ugh, that was horrible.

  1. Leave your Roy Rogers shirt at home.

Don’t try to wear a “western” shirt. A plain, long-sleeved oxford will look best, especially if it’s white or light blue. These are often the top picks of rodeo and ranch cowboys. If you must have a western shirt, something plain by Wrangler or Ely is safest—a solid, bland color is best. Snaps are fine if you’ve followed the other rules. But again, buy it locally and not at the airport.

If you want an example of what a real rodeo cowboy looks like, Google “George Strait” or “Chris Ledoux.” Although they are famous, they are still both real cowboys from ranch country who know how to dress. Do not look to any other western singer, especially ones from Nashville. No, Garth Brooks is not a cowboy.

  1. Do not wear any gear.

If you think wearing chaps, spurs, or bandanas to the rodeo is cute or cool, you’d better just stay home. Even the competitors leave their garb in their gear bags until time to get on.

  1. Watch your language.

Don’t call the bulls “cows,” and don’t call the horses “pretty horsey.” Don’t ask the ropers if you can ride their horses, don’t flirt with the barrel racers, and don’t ask the bull riders if they’ve ever been hurt. That’s like asking a baseball player if he’s ever caught a pop-fly. Don’t say “howdy.” And, unless you’re a bronc or bull-rider, don’t call the ropers “twine twirlers.”

If you follow these tips, you should blend in just fine, not be laughed at, and have a good chance of avoiding an ass whooping.

About Nowhere Tribune

A husband and daddy, striving to love his neighbors and be kind to his pets. I love good food, good beer, and a few good friends. My other interests are hiking, taking walks, lifting weights, reading books by manly authors like Hemingway and Twain, and splitting fire wood with my bare hands.


7 thoughts on “How to Not Look Like a Clown at the Summer Rodeo

  1. Pleeease please don’t support rodeos! We need those animals adopted out of the industry and put in sanctuaries

    Posted by Amanda | June 27, 2018, 8:56 am
  2. Great writing and advice! I got a chuckle here and there. I’m no expert but I’ve been around just enough to recognize the truth in your words. Well done 😊

    Posted by ellie894 | June 27, 2018, 8:08 pm
    • Spoken like a true Texan! I went to a lot of East Texas rodeos back in the day, too.

      Posted by John | June 27, 2018, 9:31 pm
      • I’ve been to the big one in Houston but I like the small ones best.

        Posted by ellie894 | June 27, 2018, 9:33 pm
      • Me too, and those are the ones I went to. I can remember riding in Maybank, Athens, Longview, Mesquite, Canton, and several other little towns over there. The boy in the picture–Jeremiah–was from Waxahachie. He was my East Texas travelling buddy.

        Posted by John | June 27, 2018, 9:42 pm
      • I’ve not been to all of those rodeos but I’ve been to all those towns. Wonderful little places. Sounds like you made some good memories. P. S. – thanks for the compliment, true Texan. Takes one to know one 😊

        Posted by ellie894 | June 28, 2018, 5:32 am
  3. Ah yes… there are those things that should be avoided when attempting to look like a cowboy. 😉 Funny thing, all my life in Texas, the dressing western thing has never been my jam.

    Posted by Sassyfitnesschick | July 2, 2018, 8:03 pm

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