[DEEP DIVE] WESTERN SHIRT
Welcome back to "DEEP DIVE" where we take a look into the inspiration behind some of our favorite Engineered Garments pieces. In this installation, we are featuring the "Western Shirt", an enduring piece of both Americana and one of the oldest items in the Engineered Garments collection.
Lonesome figures, working long days through blistering sun and frigid rain, the cowboy is an everlasting symbol of the American West. Adapting their outfits from materials they could find in their surroundings while incorporating influence from the intricate Victorian styles so popular in the East, the garb of the cowboy is unmistakable, with the western shirt among the most iconic of these.
First made from animal skins, settlers switched to wool and cotton fabrics for their shirts as materials from the East became available. The signature pointed yoke is surmised to have come from vaqueros (Mexican cattle drivers) who sewed bandanas on their shirts for reinforcement and support. The length of the shirt was made long so that tails wouldn’t come loose while riding a horse. Breast pockets were added to hold the cowboy’s plethora of tools and sundries. A mix of embellishment and functional design, these shirts represented the wearer’s culture while protecting them from the elements.
Around the turn of the century, as the sun set on the Old West, cowboys left the plains and stepped into entertainment - starting with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in 1883. From the dawn of filmmaking, the cowboy featured a prominent role - as both hero and villain - beginning in 1903 with The Great Train Robbery, not to mention the countless serials and western flicks of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The iconic button snap found on most western shirts comes from this time, as simple buttons were used for a closure system during most of the 19th century.
The 20th century ushered in a host of manufacturers, such as Roper, H BAR C, and Rockmount Ranchwear (who claims to have been the first to place the snap on the western shirt). Accumulating know-how from generations of clothing manufacturing, these firms not only preserved the original cowboy look, but pioneered new and adventurous styles. Familiar with these brands, Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki took a bit of inspiration from each, but there may be no bigger influence on the Engineered Garments version than the shirts produced by Washington Dee-Cee, the western wear company based out of Nashville, Tennessee.
Naturally, the Engineered Garments Western Shirt features snap buttons. Three are placed on each cuff in a diamond formation with one also for a gauntlet button, and one apiece applied to the two breast pockets on the front of the shirt. The front buttons are all snap as well, making it a breeze to take the shirt on or off. The only exception is the neck, which is closed with a traditional button - a characteristic true to style for real western shirts. Another detail is the inexpensive Merrow overlock stitching (named after the Merrow sewing machines) along the hem of the shirt, placed on the shirt for authenticity. Although there are dressier or more expensive ways to close the hem, these shirts intentionally use this stitch, highlighting the Engineered Garments ethos: creative design is greater than common luxury.
An artifact of a bygone time, the Western Shirt represents the dreams of the frontier. An enduring piece of the American spirit, it contains just the right balance of usefulness and uncommon ingenuity.
The Western Shirt is available in the following fabrics:
- Black Alligator Polyester Taffeta
- Black w/Multi Color Floral Embroidery
- Green/Yellow Bandana P.W. Print
Available in-store and online at nepenthesny.com