The Stampede, Calgary’s annual rodeo/party, is a great time of the year.
There are parties, cowboys and cowgirls, the aforementioned rodeo, and a healthy dose of debauchery. If one is going to debauch correctly, then one must have to correct attire to accompany such behaviour.
While there is no exhaustive guide to dressing properly for the Stampede or any other western event, we feel that there are certain things one must do to properly ingratiate themselves to the crowd.
Now, this doesn’t mean one has to have their spurs on at all times, nor does it mean one has to wear a freshly starched shirt in order to be taken seriously, but there are a few musts. We thought we would tackle the must haves to Stampede properly, and some pratfalls that should be avoided along the way. With that in mind, here is our guide to dressing properly for the Stampede, or any old western event in the near future.
An absolute must is to wear cowboy boots. Since we consider ourselves to be gentlemen, this means wearing cowboy boots unadorned by patent leather, bold colours, and tactless embroidery. A man’s cowboy boot should be a simple model in brown or black, nothing too pointy, in leather or suede. We’re okay with a little embroidery, but in a muted tone. Simple and classic is the right way to go here. The occasional two-tone is fine too, but again, nothing too loud. Statement boots should be left to today’s country stars. A good rule of thumb here: would Johnny Cash have worn them? If not, then you shouldn’t either.
A hard-wearing pair of jeans is another staple of the cowboy diet. In keeping with the traditionalist’s mentality, there is never anything wrong with a pair of tight-fitting, high-waisted Wranglers. They make pairs that are relatively slim too, in order to properly hug the cowboy boots that inevitably will be worn with them. These jeans aren’t for everyone, but for those looking to adhere to classic western styling there is no other option.
If a high-waisted jean isn’t in the cards, then we recommend a good old pair of Levi’s. Levi’s too are steeped in tradition, yet they make a more modern, and some may argue, comfortable fit. Keep ‘em dark and slim, as you need them to fit properly over your cowboy boots. We always recommend the classic 501, but the 513 is a nice option as well if something skinnier is in order.
A cowboy hat can be a tricky piece for some, as there are so many options out there. Luckily, so few of them are proper, so it narrows the field quite quickly. We like, again, something classic and simple in black. Be sure to get one in wool or felt, and stay as far away as possible from the straw freebies floating around out there. There’s no better way to get laughed out of a honky-tonk than wearing a cheap hat that came with a case of beer.
Remember not to wear something too ostentatious and large. Hats like this are good for the likes of Garth Brooks, not the once a year cowboys who frequent the Stampede. Keep them relatively unadorned as well. A leather rope or medallion is fine, but anything more than that is instantly too much.
Thus far the look we’ve compiled is fairly flat, and that’s where the shirt comes in. The western shirt is the best opportunity to spice things up. We are quite fond of any shirt that includes an animal on it, the larger and more fearsome the better. Bold colours and patterns are fun as well. Since the rest of the look compiled is muted, the shirt is an opportunity to get zesty. Try and find something unique and original, which shouldn’t be too hard given the options out there. Have some fun with it. A loud shirt can be the perfect ice breaker to a cowgirl who’s been noticing the moxie emanating from that perfectly executed buck shirt.
Finally, there are a few other ways to separate from the pack. We are big fans of western accessories, which certainly doesn’t sound like a thing, but I can assure you it is. First off, should I be so bold, throw on a bolo tie or a neckerchief. Classic western staples that can add a certain degree of flair to even the blandest outfit.
When the night falls and a there’s a chill in the air, we have a couple interesting ways to combat that too. The denim jacket is a great staple and an easy piece to throw over top of a western kit. If that’s a little flat, however, try a western style jacket. It’s similar in nature to a sport jacket, but with a few added pieces of fabric to elevate it to the next level. This is a strong cowboy move, and not one for the faint of heart.
Lastly, a belt buckle should be worn. There’s no reason to throw on something subtle, but it can’t be overdone. Anything of a reasonable size, preferably vintage (something from a ranch or rodeo will beget extra style points). Stay away from rhinestones and anything of the like.
That’s not gentlemanly, nor will it look good.
Always remember the Johnny Cash rule before heading out the door. Also remember to have fun and enjoy all the things the Stampede has to offer.
Here is a little infographic to show you how it's done!
Content curated graciously by Behn Watson at Duck Soup Style. Behn Watson is the founder of the men’s fashion blog DuckSoupStyle.com. Prior to starting Duck Soup Style, he worked at a local high end men’s fashion retailer as a consultant. For more style inspiration, check out Behn’s instagram account @behn_watson