By Kathryn Barkey

In June’s issue for Fashion Forward I decided to delve into the “Western Dress Code” our professional rodeo and western events require us to wear. Why do we have official dress code? Why is it important to our heritage? Why is it important to the past, present, and future of our industry?

For one, I love the western industry. I love everything about it- the culture, the people, and the events. However, mostly I love the clothing, the fashion, and the cowboy style. To me, western wear is completely 100% authentic American. It started here, it resides here, and the rest of the world imitates our western culture and style.

I’m from a farm and cattle ranch in Colorado, and I grew up showing horses. The next thing I knew, my show horses turned into barrel horses, and now my barrel horses have turned into rope horses! I still remember the long sleeve show shirts, western jeans, and black hats that we were required to show and compete in – even in the middle of July as we all had sweat pouring down our backs while in Reigning Class or the Key Hole Race. Why did we have to wear all these hot clothes? Why do we have to wear our cowboy hats? Why can’t I wear my cool new ball-cap and short sleeve shirt for the Barrel Race? Cowboy hats aren’t cool. Back then it was hard to understand, but now I have a deep appreciation for the adults and the rulebook that made us “suffer through it”(we were so dramatic). It not only taught us about discipline, it also taught us about professionalism. It might have made us a little tougher too.

I caught up with Kaci Riggs, Director of Product Development at Hatco, Inc., the company that designs and makes Resistol, Stetson, Wrangler and Charlie1Horse hats. Kaci has been with Hatco for 11 years, and in that time she has won the Hatty Award, appeared in magazines, and has made Charlie1Horse hats a force to be reckoned with. Kaci is the real-deal cowgirl, and you will never catch her without one of her hats on! She has a true passion for the western wear industry, and she had some great thoughts on “Western Dress”. Her passion for western wear resonates deep into its social significance, and the importance to not only live it, but also to be proud to be apart of it.

“It’s my belief that official dress codes are important to the future of our lifestyle and sport because of its rich history and heritage,” Kaci begins. “When we hang up the cowboy hat and no longer require it, [for professional events] our history is forgotten, leaving the future of our sport uncertain. That may seem a little extreme, but I believe it is real because our sport is viewed very differently from other sports. We are judged more harshly because our sport involves animals. It is our responsibility as cowboys and cowgirls to represent our sport and lifestyle in the most professional and upstanding manner possible.”

“I’m more concerned that people take pride in their look. I want them to be proud of the hat they wear and comfortable wearing it.” Kaci continues, “I don’t want people to buy hats because they have to be in dress code. My goal is to get people to buy hats because it fits their personality, serves a function, and completes their look.”

“No matter if we dress for fashion or function, our STYLE is what speaks volumes to the public about our lifestyle and our sport.” Kaci concludes, “It’s about inspiring others, representing a brand, and a lifestyle. It’s about being a cowgirl. A cowgirl really is a beautiful thing, and something to be deeply proud of.”

I know everyone one out there who is a part of this culture probably feels the same way as Kaci does.You have to admit, subconsciously you want to send a message of “who you are” and you do it through your clothing. Across all cultures and disciplines, clothing has had a social significance since the beginning of time. Our dress and style is a representation of our community, our values, and ourselves.

To read more, check out Live by the Code in June’s issue of Barrel Horse News!


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