“This isn’t my first rodeo,” or at least you won’t look like it is! We know rodeo participants are dressed functionally for competition, but spectators are often wondering how to dress for a rodeo. This is an especially difficult task for those that are not involved in western disciplines or have no involvement with horses/ranch communities. We’ve broken down some key aspects of rodeos to help you look the part.
Tips to Know How to Dress for a Rodeo
Not only does venue matter, but some rodeos are held indoors! Just like any other spectator sport or entertainment, it’s important to dress weather (or indoor) appropriately. Some rodeos are held at major commercial event halls. These are typically made with spectators in mind, showcasing the most exciting events. These rodeos are likely to be more “dress to impress” than your standard outdoor arena setup. Main events sure to thrill the crowd will run, while the audience normally misses out on “slack” runs. Slack is the overflow of rodeo contestants- usually, a limited number of contestants will actually ride or compete in the main night’s performance.
Western wear can be very relaxed, or more formal. Evening rodeos, particularly indoors, will result in a clean-cut western look. Many daytime or slack runs will have friends, family, and other contestants in their riding attire.
Smaller rodeos typically draw smaller crowds, naturally. However, the larger and more “famous” the rodeo, the more western flair you will see in spectators. This is typical because these large rodeos have higher operating budgets, and will feature many vendors. This can be a shopping mecca for tack and other western items. Vendors alone can be a draw for rodeo tickets at large events like Cheyenne Frontier Days. For example, Cowboy Christmas is the official “gift” show at the Wrangler NFR. This vendor event is the shopping-retreat of a lifetime for the horse, ranch, or western wear lover. The NFR draws in over 250,000 spectators alone (not including contestants).
The NFR and other rodeos with social media presence often showcase audience fashions. The term “NFR Fashion” refers to over-the-top trendy female western wear. It often includes serape prints, real furs/hides, fringe, custom silverwork, and beautiful western jewelry options. Even with the great variation among rodeo fashion divas- it is still a “western” look usually completed with a pair of cowboy boots. Smaller rodeos with more local contestants are likely to be more relaxed, but will still use rodeo wear basics.
Comfort In Rodeo Wear – How to Dress for a Rodeo
Comfort is a key factor when dressing for a rodeo. Whether you’re outdoors and having to walk great distances, or indoors perusing major vendors- it is a western heritage sporting event, not a Broadway show. Spectators should be able to move around comfortably, climb bleachers, or leave their seats to grab a beer. Many rodeos use spectator interaction, and invite folks into the arena for calf scrambles or skits.
Many people love rodeos because they get to wear western wear. We recommend checking out your local hat shop or perusing economical cowboy hats rather than grabbing a cowboy-knockoff costume hat. A quality hat will last a lifetime and will look sharp among the seasoned cowboys riding in the rodeo. At the end of the day, make sure you’re comfortable and your clothes reflect your love of western heritage and rodeo events!
- Cowboy boots (comfortable!)
- Western collared shirt for men, such as a pearl snap
- Jacket or sweater (for night time rodeos or air-conditioned venues)
- Leather belt
- Statement jewelry for women (show off those squash blossoms!)
- Statement scarves or silk Wild Rag
- Cowboy hat
- Short skirts or dresses that may be difficult to move in
- Chaps or other contestant-specific gear
- Bulky bags or backpacks
- Formal clothing
- Dry clean-only apparel
- Derby-style women’s hats
Closing Thoughts- How to Dress for a Rodeo
Whether it’s your “first rodeo” or fifth, follow the guidelines above and you certainly won’t look like a rodeo rookie. If you’re unsure about the size of the event, you can utilize social media to see what prior years’ guests wore. In fact, “NFRFASHION” is one of the highest searched hashtags on Instagram! This is a great tag for ladies to draw inspiration from. We urge everyone to visit the cowboy hate etiquette article linked above if you will be sporting a hat. There are distinct practices for people wearing cowboy hats, both social and for hat-care purposes. Remember to dress comfortably, and have fun!
Spring rodeos will be starting up again soon- be sure to share this article with your friends!