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Western wear is a category of men's and women's clothing which derives its unique style from the clothes worn in the 19th-century American West. It ranges from accurate historical reproductions of pioneer, mountain man, Civil War, cowboy and vaquero clothing to the stylized garments popularized by singing cowboys such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers in the 1940s and '50s. Western wear can be very informal, with a t-shirt and blue jeans forming a basic ensemble, or it may consist of tailored formal garments with western accents. At minimum, western wear generally incorporates a cowboy hat, a leather belt, and cowboy boots.
In the early days of the Wild West pants were made out of wool. In summer canvas was sometimes used. This changed during the Gold Rush of the 1840s when denim overalls became popular among miners for their cheapness and breathability. Levi Strauss improved the design by adding copper rivets and by the 1870s this design was adopted by ranchers and cowboys. The original Levi's jeans were soon followed by other makers including Wrangler jeans and Lee Cooper. These were frequently accessorized with Kippy belts featuring metal conchos and large belt buckles.
Leather chaps were often worn to protect the cowboy's legs from cactus spines and prevent the fabric from wearing out. Two common types include the skintight shotgun chaps and wide batwing chaps. The latter were sometimes made from hides retaining their hair (known as "woolies") rather than tanned leather. They appeared on the Great Plains somewhere around 1887.
Women wore knee-length prairie skirts, red or blue gingham dresses or suede fringed skirts derived from Native American dress. Saloon girls wore short red dresses with corsets, garter belts and stockings. After World War II, many women, returning to the home after working in the fields or factories while the men were overseas, began to wear jeans like the men.
A Western shirt is a traditional item of Western Wear characterized by a stylized yoke in front and in back. It is generally constructed of denim or tartan fabric with long sleeves, and in modern form is sometimes seen with snap pockets, patches made from bandana fabric, and fringe.
A Western dress shirt is often elaborately decorated with piping, embroidered roses and a contrasting yoke. In the 1950s these were frequently worn by movie cowboys like Roy Rogers or Clayton Moore's Lone Ranger. Derived from the elaborate Mexican vaquero costumes like the Guayabera and the battleshirts worn by many Confederate soldiers, these were worn at rodeos so the cowboy could be easily identifiable. Buffalo Bill was known to wear them with a buckskin fringe jacket during his Wild West shows and they were fashionable for teenagers in the 1970s and late 2000s.
Another common type of Western shirt is the shield-front shirt worn by many US Cavalry troopers during the American Civil War but originally derived from a red shirt issued to prewar firefighters. The cavalry shirt was made of blue wool with yellow piping and brass buttons and was invented by the flamboyant George Armstrong Custer. In recent times this shield-front shirt was popularized by John Wayne in Fort Apache and was also worn by rockabilly musicians like the Stray Cats.