in The Shop: Why You Wear What You Wear
Nov 28, 2010
Much has been written about the practicality of cowboy garb, "back in the day." Elements of what is now "western style" clothing were born of the need for broad-brimmed hats to shade from sun and rain and pointed, high-heeled boots that slid easily into stirrups and stayed there. Cowboys didn't wear those clothes to be stylish--they wore them because they helped them do their job.
I've noticed there is a certain functionality to the wardrobes favored by farmers. You can tell a lot about what a farmer has been doing by the clothes he's wearing and how he has accessorized those clothes.
Bibbed overalls still find favor with a lot of farmers, especially those who find leather belts "restricting." Bibs have all sorts of nifty pockets for pens, seed corn notebooks, and more lately, cell phones. In the summer, bibs offer flow-through ventilation if the side buttons are left unbuttoned. Rural etiquette suggests those side-buttons be buttoned during trips to town for fencing supplies, livestock feed or morning coffee, though some rebels insist that comfort on hot summer days trumps social manners.
Leather plier pouches accessorize the waistlines of many farmers who choose to wear denim jeans held in place with leather belts. Current styles favor bedraggled, oil-stained pouches with the stitching torn out. Duct-taped pouches make the statement, "I'm too busy to buy a new plier pouch, and my wife didn't see me come to town wearing this."
Footwear is more individualized. It used to be farmers often wore lace-up boots with the shoe strings wrapped once or twice around the top to keep grain from getting inside their boot when shoveling corn, beans or wheat in a bin. Pull-on, round-toe boots were favored by many midwestern cattlemen because they and associated odors were easily left on the back porch.
I doubt historians will ever chronicle and analyze the wardrobes of farmers as much as they have chronicled and analyzed western wear. I doubt there will ever be "farmer bars" where city folks dress up like farmers and stomp around in clodhopper boots, plier pouches and seed corn hats in hopes of impressing girls. I doubt it because...it never worked for me.