Western riding apparel is distinctly different from English tack. Western equipment is renowned for being decorative and visually appealing.
Over the years, Western clothing and tack have adopted a more modernised style. Some clothing items have been abandoned or modified during this movement. These changes are mainly owing to practicality and new equine laws within the sport. HQ chatted to Megan Coome-Heath from Western Shoppe about Western riding equipment.
The Cowboy hat
For many of us, the cowboy hat symbolises Western riding and was originally intended to be functional for ranch riders. The hat is aerodynamically designed, high-crowned and securely fastened under the chin with ‘stampede strings’, allowing riders to gallop around the ranch without their hats flying off. The most common cowboy hat is the Stetson, named after the designer John Batterson Stetson. It can be designed in an infinite number of brim and crown styles to accommodate all head types and personal tastes. Initially, the Stetson hat was offered in five different crease types: Montana, Cattleman, Pinch Front, Telescope and Tom Mix.
The Montana crease
A very basic design that originated in Montana. This hat became very popular among ranchers in the Montana area and surroundings. It is also called The Gus or the Montana Slope.
The Cattleman crease
Originally worn by cattle owners, it became a hat symbolic of status as you were considered to be wealthy if you could afford to buy and own cattle. Men mostly wore the hat, as it is suited to wider faces. The design has been revisited in recent years to suit women’s faces as well.
The Pinch Front crease
This hat was designed from a fashion perspective because it highlights the jaw line and makes the face look thinner. For this reason, it was commonly worn by women.
The Telescope crease
This hat originated from the Mexican cowboys. Its brim and crown design prevents the gathering of hot air and provides protection from the sun. The hat is popular in areas with very hot climates. It is also commonly known as the Gambler’s Hat.
The Tom Mix crease
This hat is named after the cowboy movie star, Tom Mix. The hat is stylish and was often worn to be fashionable rather than practical.
As riding has evolved, an emphasis has been placed on rider safety. For this reason, there has been a movement away from traditional cowboy hats toward the hard hat. It is compulsory for children and junior riders to wear a hard hat at all times. Wearing a hard hat is optional for adults over the age of 19, but it is strongly advised by the Western Riding Association to wear a hard hat, especially in competition. There are modern designs that combine the protection of a hard hat and the stylish look of the cowboy hat.