Dressed for the Job - Fact & Opinion

Why do people wear uniforms? Athletes wear team colors and special emblems. Doctors, dentists, and nurses wear white. Hard hats and steel-toed boots protect construction workers from accidents with heavy equipment. Even the American cowboy of the late 1800s wore a type of uniform.

One of the most important items in the cowboy's wardrobe was his wide-brimmed hat. It kept him cool in the hot sun, helped with shooing away insects, fanning fires, and dipping into water for a cool drink. Most cowboys wore their hats at all times:at the dinner table, while they danced, and even to bed.

A bandanna is a square piece of cotton folded and tied around the cowboy's neck. The neckerchiefs had important functions. Used as a mask, they kept dust out of the cowboys lungs. Dampened, they kept the cowboy cool in the hot sun. It could also be used as a bandage for wounds, and a rag for wiping away sweat or a dripping nose.

The cowboy often wore a vest which kept him warm in the winter. The vest's deep pockets held a number of items such as a knife, money, or a pouch of tobacco.

Woolen pants protected the cowboy's legs even in summer. Chaps were worn over the pants for more leg protection. Chaps were seatless leather pants that kept the cowboy's legs safe from cattle horns, rough fences, thick shrub bush, and horse nibbles. In colder climates, hair pants (goat-hair chaps) gave cowboys extra warmth.

Boots were the most costly item for a cowboy. They were needed for safe riding. The tapered shape of the boot kept the cowboy's foot from getting stuck if he fell from his horse. The high heel kept the cowboy's foot from slipping in the stirrup while he was riding. Because of the costliness, the cowboy chose to ride, walk, and even sleep in his boots.

At the back of each boot were spurs to make a horse go faster. Spurs were not intended to injure a horse. In fact, good riders filed them down for the safety.

A cowboy's uniform helped him to do his job well.

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Moody Middle School
Richmond, VA

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