How To Dress For A Rodeo

Last Updated on February 11, 2022

“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.

Tips to Know How to Dress for a Rodeo - Venue

Rodeo Size

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.

Wrangler Women’s Long Sleeve Western Top

How to Dress for a Rodeo - Wrangler Women's Long Sleeve Western Top Black X-Small

Rodeo Basics

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!


  • Denim
  • 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

Find The Most Comfortable Men’s Cowboy Boots For Men


  • Heels
  • 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

You can learn more about Cowboy Hat Etiquette, or check out our Top Picks for Cowboy 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!

What should I wear to the Fort Worth rodeo?

Fort Worth rodeo is a huge event, and every year it attracts a larger crowd. It’s also known as “Western fashion week” and people who attend really dress up for the occasion. Some of the traditional colors, such as black, silver, and steel gray are used for traditional felt hats. Jeans and starched pearl-snap shirts are very popular choice but if you really want to stand out you can wear an exotic leather dress and cowboy boots made from caiman or ostrich leather.

What do you do at a rodeo?

Some of the popular rodeo events are bareback riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing, steer roping and bull riding. The events are staged in arenas that vary in size from a few hundred to over 20,000 seats. The rodeos are usually held on weekends during the summer months, and often on holiday weekends. Rodeo events have been a part of rodeo culture since the late 1800s. The National Finals Rodeo (NFR) was started in 1905 by brothers Joe and Frank Wright as a way to determine the best cowboy in the country. The NFR is the most prestigious rodeo event in the world, and is held in Las Vegas every November.

What jeans do rodeo cowboys wear?

In the American West, cowboys work on the range and in the rodeo arena. This means they have to be able to work in all types of weather and terrain, including the sun, the rain, and the snow. They need to be able to handle the heat and the cold, and they need to be able to perform well in the rodeo arena. This is why cowboys and cowgirl wear jeans and why the right jeans is so important. They need to be comfortable, durable, and versatile. There are hundreds of brands on the market nowadays with Wrangler and Levi Strauss still being one of the most popular choices.

Do you have to wear boots to a rodeo?

Many would say yes, you should wear cowboy boots to a rodeo. Some people will tell you they wear them because it is a tradition. It is part of the western heritage and a cowboy is proud to wear them. In fact, the rodeo arena is a place where a cowboy is proud to show his or her character through the outfit.
But if you are just going to a rodeo, do you really need to wear boots? The short answer is no, you don’t need to wear boots to a rodeo. Cowboy boots aren’t worn on the grounds of a rodeo, so that means you can go to a rodeo and not wear cowboy boots.

Why do rodeo cowboys wear long sleeve shirts?

Rodeo cowboys are not often exposed to the sun, or other adverse weather conditions. But it’s not just about protecting the skin from sunburn, it also protects the skin from blisters, chaffing, and skin abrasions. A long sleeve shirt can be worn as an outer layer when the weather is hot, cold, windy or rainy. A long sleeve shirt can also be worn under a vest or jacket to provide additional protection from the elements. It’s also a fashion statement. Either way, a long sleeve shirt is an important part of a cowboy’s wardrobe and can be worn in a variety of situations.