Country and western clothing is arguably the most distinctive American clothing style. The clothing style has its roots in parts of the country where immigrants moved to own land in a harsh climate and environment. The clothes developed to protect the wearer from the harsh environment and are functional as well as fashionable.
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Cowboy hats are perhaps the most recognisable accessory of country and western fashion. Indeed, they are recognised almost anywhere in the world and, as the cowboy adage goes, "they are the last thing you take off and the first thing that is noticed." John B. Stetson created the prototypical cowboy hat in 1865, when he was looking for a wider brimmed hat to protect his face from the sun. He sold his first cowboy hats for £3.
Chaps are another distinctive item in country and western clothing. Chaps were developed by the Spanish to protect their legs from brush and cactus. The English word chaps evolved from the Spanish word chaparehos, meaning leather breeches or leg of iron. Chaps were originally attached to the saddle and only tied around the leg. Today, chaps are generally attached to the waist and are tied around the back of the thigh.
Horse riders have used spurs as a way of training horses and fighting enemies. Archeologists have found spurs that date to 700 B.C. Spurs were commonly used in medieval times among higher-ranking warriors to urge their horses forward in battle. They were also used to attack foot soldiers. In American history, horse trainers used spurs to break in horses or to encourage them to sprint if needed. Spurs became a status symbol for cowboys who would not be seen outside without them.
Cuffs are another integral part of country and western attire. Cuffs weren't developed until the late 19th century, when they started to appear in western outfitter catalogues. The cuffs were based on military gauntlets and were made out of thick leather. Cowboys wore them to protect their wrists from the cattle's kicks when branding. They also wore them to protect the cuffs of their shirts from wear. Like spurs, they eventually became a status symbol and manufacturer's began stamping them or decorating them with pieces of silver.
The bolo tie is a relatively new addition to country and western fashion. Victor Cedarstaff, a silversmith, invented the bolo tie in the 1940s when he and a friend were riding in Arizona. Cedarstaff's hat blew off, so he tied his expensive hatband around his neck. When he received compliments on the style, he began manufacturing bolo ties. He named them bolo because the leather cord used to tie them was similar to the rope used by Argentine gauchos.
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