Western Shirts Style Guide

Posted by Pinto Ranch on May 24th 2021

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Western Shirts Style Guide

Western shirts trace their roots back to the days of the cowboys herding cattle through the American West. It has become a unique style trend that has captivated people for generations. In this article, we will take a look at the various types of western-style shirts and the advantages of infusing western wear into your wardrobe.

The Humble Beginnings of the Western Yoke Shirt

Since the beginning of the 19th century, cowboys have realized the advantages of western shirts, especially their durability for long days at the ranch. However, due to their casual appeal and stylish western embellishments, they have been adopted as a modern fashion trend for both men and women.

Many consumers may not be able to distinguish men's western shirts from ordinary button-downs. The main differences include pearl snap buttons, western embellishments, smile pockets and the type of fabric used. Keep reading to learn more about these distinguishing features, so you can be well informed when putting together your next western outfit.


Western Shirts vs. Button-Downs

As we've touched on, there are a variety of elements that differentiate western shirts from regular button-downs. One distinguishing factor of western shirt styles is their sturdy feel, as cowboys need durable clothing to withstand the rigid demands of the ranch.

In addition to a western shirt, western wear often includes denim jeans, wide-brimmed hats and pointed cowboy boots. The impact western wear has had on fashion trends is evident by its popularity throughout the country, even in the 21st century.

Let’s go over a few of the most distinguishing characteristics of western shirts.

Western Yokes

The western yoke is one of the most distinctive elements of western shirts. What is a yoke, you ask? A western yoke is when the front and back fabric of the shirt come together, often in a unique design or pattern.

Western yokes on both men's and women's shirts are often curved and located on the back of the shirt. Regular button-down shirts often have the yoke stitched on the shoulder.

Western Embellishments

Some western wear will include various embellishments, like fringe or rhinestones. Although not necessary for working long days at the ranch, they are sure to turn heads at the rodeo!

Cowboys would dress in western wear adorned with embellishments to attract crowds at the rodeo and add more excitement and thrill to the event. These rodeo cowboys embellished each and every part of their western shirts, such as the front, back, cuffs and yoke.

The more western embellishments, the more attention they attract at the rodeo. These embellishments are a welcome addition to any western wardrobe, for both men and women alike.

Pearl Snaps

Pearl snaps are another popular way to distinguish between regular button-down shirts and western shirts. Most button-down shirts have buttons inserted through the lapel to keep them in place. However, cowboys typically want western shirts adorned with beautiful buttons that snap together, often with pearl detailing — hence the name, pearl snaps! Many cowboys, especially those at the rodeo, want additional flair to complement their already trendy wardrobe, as regular buttons don't always cut it.


The trend of fashionable western wear continues with embroidery. Western shirts are usually decorated with intricate stitching to create stunning embroidered designs. These designs are true works of art and one of the truly distinguishing features of authentic western wear.

This unique stitching can consist of flowers, horseshoes, animals and pretty much any other design under the sun. If you are interested in getting some western gear, remember it must have embroidery to be truly called western.

Smile Pockets

Every cowboy needs a set of smile pockets to keep their belongings safe. This distinct element has been a staple of western wear for generations. Smile pockets are small openings on the front of the shirt in the shape of a smile. One of the unique features of these western pockets is the pointed ends that take the shape of an arrow. It is common to decorate them in a bright color to stand out.

Initially, these smile pockets were strictly functional. However, as the western fashion trend became more commonplace, some types of shirt pockets were stitched onto the shirt and were included simply for aesthetic purposes.

Fabric and Fit

Western clothes often use very different materials than regular button-downs. Typically, materials used in western shirts consist of denim, chambray or tartan fabric. Western shirts often fit much differently than regular shirts, as they are tighter fitting due to the more rugged materials used.

Without the western embellishments, yokes and smile pockets, western shirts offer a more simplistic style, making them great candidates to create a more personalized look. If the shirts do have a design prior to adding embellishments, it is often a plaid pattern.

Discover the Finest Western Wear and More at Pinto Ranch

Western clothes are a significant style trend for those that want to stand out from the crowd. Are you interested in spicing up your wardrobe? At Pinto Ranch, we're proud to offer our customers an extensive selection of premium western wear. Find women's western shirts, men's jackets & vests and more, all from brands you know and love — only at Pinto Ranch.

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