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Why Do Cowboys Wear Snap Shirts? 7 Best Western Riding Shirts

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Cowboys are an iconic symbol of the American West, and their clothing has come to be synonymous with rugged individualism. One of the most distinguishing features of a cowboy’s wardrobe is the snap shirt. But why do cowboys wear snap shirts?

First, snap shirts are very practical. They allow a cowboy to easily grab an item from their shirt pocket without having to fiddle with buttons and are easy to take off if they get tangled on something. In addition, snap shirts often have stylish Western details like yokes and pearl snaps.

Cowboys (and cowgirls) have been wearing western shirts with snaps since the 1940s. In this guide, we will talk about the history of western snap shirts and also list 7 of the best western snap shirts on the market.

Picture of cowboys wearing western snap shirts.

History of the Snap Shirt

Today’s cowboy can thank Hollywood designers for the shirt on his back. Of course, cowboys have always been dandies. While on the range, real cowboys in the early 1900s wore deary shirts – something their wives or girlfriends had stitched, Hollywood stars preferred to sport something more flamboyant. Soon cowboys started imitating art and Hollywood and rodeo stars. 

The Western snap shirt was first made in 1939 when Jack A. Weil – the founder and CEO of a Denver-based Western clothing company – saw a Chinese tailor in San Francisco putting glove snaps on shirts. He decided to use similar but better ones in his designs. 

Weil believed that the snaps would make the shirts safer for rodeo riders and could prevent them from getting snagged on fences. He even acquired Gripper Fasteners from the Scovill Manufacturing Company in Connecticut to finalize the snap design. Thus was born the Western shirt with snaps.

By the 1950s, Hollywood made the western snap shirts even more famous. Western classics like The Good The Bad The Ugly started a crazy demand for western-inspired shirts. In 1978, when Urban Cowboy hit the screen, it was like a wildfire catapulting the western shirt from niche market to mass market.

Soon designers were adding their special touches to the traditional western shirt. Some used fabrics other than denim and wool, while others added detailing like patterns and embroidery on the snap shirts. 

Before the early 1970s, almost 90% of the shirts that were sold were western snaps. Most of them were in plaid, stripes, or solids and displayed a “biased-Z’ formation where the flaps, the pockets, and the yoke all angled in such a way that they formed the letter ‘Z’.

When Wrangler did some market research, they discovered that most young Americans were buying their boots, jeans, and cowboy hats at western retail stores but for shirts, they were flocking elsewhere.

This is when their designers started shifting the classic western snap shirt to contemporary designs, fabrics, silhouettes, and colors – all the while keeping the western influence (flap pockets, cavalry bibs, yokes, and piping) intact.

Some of these changes included extra-long tails and the fusion of casual-formal elements so that the shirt could be even worn to work and formal events. Early western shirts were influenced by the Great Depression and Second World War.

Some of the earliest western shirts used heavy suit materials including wool, wool gabardine, and rayons. Later, as demand increased, companies started using their own fabrics for their western collection. 

The snap shirt was designed to be durable and comfortable, with a number of large pockets for storing tools and supplies. The snap buttons were also an important functional detail, as they prevented the shirt from flapping in the wind and getting caught on things.

Over the years, the snap shirt has been adopted by a number of different subcultures, including surfers, skaters, and punk rockers. Today, the snap shirt is a fashion staple that can be found in almost any store.

However, its origins as a practical work shirt are still reflected in its design, making it a truly unique article of western clothing. Let’s now look at some of the best-selling western snap shirts on the market.

Picture of a man wearing a western shirt.
IRON HEART IHSH w/ pearl snaps

Best Western Shirts – 2022 Top 7 Picks

Western shirts are a timeless style that can be dressed up or down. They typically feature a pointed collar, yoke detailing, and pearl snaps. The best ones are made with high-quality materials and construction, so they’ll last you for years to come.

Whether you’re looking for a ranch shirt to wear when you’re working with your horse or a dressier option for a night out, we have you covered. So why not add a western shirt with snaps to your wardrobe? You’ll be glad you did.

Wrangler Mens Sport Western Basic Two Pocket Long Sleeve Snap Shirt, Black, Small

Winner – Wrangler Men’s Sport Western Basic Two Pocket Long Sleeve Snap Shirt

This Wrangler snap shirt, available in black and white, is a tried and true classic. It has all the iconic western elements like pearl snaps, authentic western front, pointed back yoke, and three-snap western cuffs. It also features two front pockets with flaps and pearl snap closures for easy storage.

The classic western shirt is made with a durable cotton blend that will keep you cool and comfortable in the saddle. This sporty shirt is also constructed with a classic fit in the shoulders and torso.

Features

  • Made with cotton blend
  • Available in 10 sizes and 2 colors
  • 5 pockets, 3-snap cuffs, 2-front pockets with flaps, back yokes, and authentic western front.

Pros

  • Great-looking shirt for casual events
  • Fits true to size
  • Snap closures are strong
  • Lightweight – ideal for warmer weather.

Cons

  • The white shirt is see-through.

How it compares

Wrangler’s western snap shirt will help you channel your inner cowboy. It is ideal for warm weather riding, hiking, camping, or dancing and is formal enough for weddings and work. Wrangler western snap shirts are stylish, elegant, and a true western classic. The sporty shirt has an excellent fit in the arms and torso and its durable cotton blend is cool and comfortable.

COEVALS CLUB Men's Western Cowboy Long Sleeve Pearl Snap Casual Plaid Work Shirts (Black & Blue #19 S)

Best Summer Snap Shirts – COEVALS CLUB Men’s Western Cowboy Long Sleeve Pearl Snap Casual Work Shirts

COEVALS CLUB is raising the bar for functional, elegant, yet sporty men’s shirts made from high-end fabric. Available in 40 different styles and colors, you will never be at a loss for what to wear to those hiking trips, backyard cookouts, dance nights, and even a wedding!

Features

  • Lightweight, high-quality fabric – 40% cotton, 60% polyester
  • 2 front pockets with pearl snap closures
  • 3 pearl snap cuffs
  • 40 print choices and 6 sizes

Pros

  • Easy to care for – no shrinking, no fading
  • Wrinkle-free
  • True to size
  • Multiple colors, print, and size choices
  • All-season shirt

Cons

  • The buttonholes in the sleeves that hold the pear snaps are too small.

How they compare

Coevals Club is redefining the simple, classic, and fashionable western snap shirt. Its lightweight, all-year-round polyester-cotton blend ensures fewer wrinkles. It is also durable enough for work, horse-riding, and daily life. Multiple size choices and patterns will keep you coming back for more! The price of this cowboy snap shirt is also reasonable.

Legendary Whitetails Men's Standard Shotgun Western Flannel Shirt, Desperado Plaid, Small

Best Winter Snap Shirts – Legendary Whitetails Men’s Shotgun Western Flannel Shirt 

Need a warmer shirt for those chilly winter riding sessions? Then you’ll love the Legendary Whitetails Flannel shirts which retain their authentic cowboy style through front pockets, snap buttons, and iconic western yokes.

Features

  • 100% soft flannel construction
  • Corduroy cuffs and collars
  • Twin chest pockets
  • Triple-needle stitching
  • Available in 11 colors and 13 sizes.

Pros

  • Wash well, wrinkle-free
  • Warm and comfortable
  • Easy on/off due to snap buttons

Cons

  • Snaps do not stay put – tend to come off.

How it compares

These iconic western cowboy snap shirts from Legendary Whitetails consist of warm flannel material. They are well made and ideal for cold-weather riding. They also wash well without shrinking. Legendary Whitetails Flannel shirts retain their authentic cowboy style through the use of various western elements. The corduroy in their collar and cuffs adds stability in addition to being a fashion statement.

Western Shirts for Men with Snap Buttons Regular Fit Plaid Mens Long Sleeve Shirts Casual,Blue White 009, X-Large

Best Budget – Double Pump Men’s Western Shirt with Snaps

Channel your inner cowboy and look stylish in these western shirts with snap closures. The button-down cowboy western shirts from Double Pump are also suitable for various occasions like work, vacations, and even weddings.

Double Pump brand is obsessed with quality, so you expect superior craftsmanship, fabrics, buttons, and threads. These shirts also fit well and are available in multiple sizes and color/print choices.

Features

  • 100% cotton
  • Available in 28 colors and 7 true American sizes

Pros

  • Suitable for work and casual outings
  • Variable-length for tucking in or leaving out
  • Attractive plaid prints with modern designs
  • Comfortable
  • True to size fit

Cons

  • Fabric is stiff and needs ironing after washing.

How does it compare

Double Pump snap shirts are ideal for those with limited mobility or who are unable to wear shirts with buttons. The snap closures make these easy to wear. Most shirts washed well but a few were crumpled and needed ironing after washing. These affordable shirts are available in many colors and print options. You also get various ‘true-American’ sizes. Their price is affordable too.

Mens Cowboy Cut Embroidered Western Long Sleeve Snap Button Down Shirt

Best Authentic Cowboy Snap Shirt- Flash Apparel Cowboy Cut Embroidered Western Long Sleeve Snap Button-Down Shirt

Flash Apparel’s authentic cowboy shirts with pearl snap buttons will prevent riders from being pulled off their horses if their shirt snags on a branch. This shirt features the classic cowboy embroidery on the shoulder yoke and its high-quality microfiber blend keeps it wrinkle-free.

Features

  • Classic embroidered western long-sleeved pearl snap shirt in authentic cowboy style
  • Made with a microfiber blend
  • Pockets in the front for storage
  • Available in 5 sizes and 19 beautiful colors

Pros

  • Versatile, stylish, elegant shirt
  • Fits true to size

Cons

  • Price is on the higher side

How it compares

Flash Apparel shirts are priced higher than our other entries in this list but they provide value for the money. The beautiful traditional embroidery and authentic cowboy style are ideal for dress-up events, weddings, and daily life. The microfiber fabric keeps the shirts wrinkle-free and easy to care for.

Stetson Men's Solid Oxford Snap Long Sleeve Western Shirt Black Small

Best Premium – Stetson Men’s Solid Oxford Snap Long Sleeve Western Shirt

Stetson brand needs no introduction and you can trust it to deliver the best quality in western apparel.

Features

  • 100% premium cotton
  • Snaps on front flaps, pockets, and cuffs
  • Handsome spread collar
  • Available in 2 colors and 6 sizes

Pros

  • Prime cotton, smooth style
  • Perfect for the summer months

Cons

  • Limited color choices

How it compares

Men for whom good grooming is both an instinct and rule of life choose Stetson. These shirts are made with the finest cotton and their cut and tailoring are superior. The price is on the higher side, but these hard-wearing shirts are totally worth it.

COOFANDY Men's Western Cowboy Embroidered Cotton Long Sleeve Button Down Shirt

Best New Retro-Style Western Snap Shirt- COOFANDY Men’s Embroidered Western Snap Shirt

COOFANDY’s casual men’s cowboy snap shirts embody the western and vintage cowboy style. Their classic exquisite embroidery will help you channel your cowboy for those dress-up events or when you ride on weekends.

Features

  • Classic spread collar
  • Retro embroidery
  • Sleeve cuffs
  • 98% cotton, 2% polyester
  • Available in 25 colors and 5 sizes

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Giftable
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Tend to shrink, so hand wash them.

How they compare

Available in vibrant colors, COOFANDY retro, cowboy-inspired snap shirts won’t disappoint. They are sure to earn you many compliments. These shirts fit well and have a slim, straight-cut style that helps reduce the appearance of a beer belly.

Picture of horses

Why Do Cowboys Wear Pearl Snap Shirts?  

Cowboys are symbols of the American West- rugged, independent men who tamed a frontier. Part of that image is their style of dress, which includes pearl snap shirts. But why do they wear these shirts?

There are a few reasons. First, pearl snap shirts are comfortable in hot weather. The snaps allow cowboys to easily open their shirts to stay cool, and the cotton fabric is typically light and breathable.

Moreover, they are easy to remove quickly in case the shirt gets caught on wire or branches – ensuring that the cowboy would not get pulled off the horse. 

Pearl snap shirts are durable, they can stand up to long days spent working on the ranch, and don’t easily break. In addition, pearl snap shirts are stylish and look great when paired with a cowboy hat and boots.

As a result, they have become an essential part of the cowboy wardrobe. Rodeo competitors prefer snap shirts for the same reasons, especially their ease of removal – should the shirt snag on the bull’s horns. 

Of course, most rodeo riders also want to be recognized as ‘cowboys’ and these shirts give them that identity.  

Picture of a pearl snap western shirt.
BUFFALO WESTERN SHIRT – BLUE CHAMBRAY

Are Pearl Snap Shirts in Style?

Pearl snap shirts are very much in vogue and will remain so for years to come. Hollywood movies like Hell or High Water, No Country for Old Men, and Brokeback Mountain have fuelled the demand for this style. I believe that the cowboy shirt is not going anywhere which implies that the pearl snap shirts will also remain.

As far as men’s dressing goes, there isn’t much choice; one only gets to choose from shirts, T-shirts, or polos. The pearl snap shirt offers an interesting option. They are available in casual and formal styles.

The ones in solid colors can be worn to work or formal events like weddings. Plaid and other interesting patterns make ideal choices for riding, hiking, and camping. 

Pearl snap shirts are also versatile. Youngsters like pairing them with Wrangler jeans and boots. Middle-aged men and the elderly can wear them with blazers or suits for work, weddings, or church. The versatile pearl snap shirt is even the uniform for band members.

The way the pearl snap shirts are designed also contributes to their resurgence. They are built to fit and have a straight and slimming style that hides a beer belly. 

In short, the Pearl Snap shirt is a timeless classic and is a staple ‘must have’ in every fashion-forward man’s closet. 

Picture of a man wearing a western shirt.
Corlection “The Flathead”

How to Wear a Western Shirt?

You need not be garish or overly flamboyant when it comes to dressing the western way. The key is to keep things simple. You can wear a western shirt in a number of ways. The most important thing is to find the right fit.

Western shirts are generally fitted through the body and have full sleeves. Once you’ve found a shirt that fits well, there are a few different ways to wear it. You can wear it buttoned up all the way with the sleeves rolled up, or you can leave a few buttons undone at the top for a more relaxed look.

You can also wear it open over a tank top or t-shirt. If you’re wearing it open, you can choose to wear a belt or not. If you do wear a belt, make sure it’s in proportion to the shirt – too small and it will look out of place, too big and

You can pair your western shirt with blue jeans and a pair of comfortable cowboy boots. In cold weather, you can add a light jacket that lets those pearl snaps be seen. If needed, you can use a large belt with a buckle, but that is also optional. It is always better to choose one or two western elements instead of going all out.

Picture of a cowboy wearing jeans.

How and Why Do Cowboys Keep Their Shirts Tucked In?

Cowboys do a lot of physical work on ranches and in the barns. Having an untucked shirt is inconvenient and it could get in the way of those chores. It can also be dangerous if the untucked tails are caught in machinery or on sharp objects. 

Western cowboy shirts are designed with longer tails that enable them to remain tucked in. We also must not forget the fact that cowboys are inherently very neat and tidy. They would not dream of being caught ‘shirtless’ – so in addition to the safety issue, it is also an issue of pride and showmanship.

Rodeo winners often get buckles as prizes and these have the time and place of their win inscribed on them. To show off those buckles worn in their belts, they have to keep their shirts tucked in. 

And finally, no self-respecting cowboy would want the inconvenience of reaching for his gun belt and gun under an untucked shirt.

Key Takeaways –  Why Do Cowboys Wear Snap Shirts? 

Cowboys wear western snap shirts because of their excellent fit, long tails, and snap closures. The latter allows the shirt to be removed quickly should it get caught in something sharp while riding or doing barn chores. The shirts come with thick yokes on the front and back that enhance the durability of the shirt and impart stability to the rest of the fabric.

Pearl snap shirts will always remain in vogue – they are versatile, functional, and stylish. They are ideal for men who can’t button their shirts due to injury or illness.

I recommend this Wrangler’s western snap shirt as it is ideal for warm weather riding, hiking, camping, and dancing. It is stylish and elegant and a true western classic. The sporty shirt has an excellent fit in the arms and torso and its durable cotton blend is sure to keep you cool and comfortable.

Check out my other recommendations and the YouTube video below to learn how to wear shirts with pearl snaps.