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Smile, Pockets! Your Guide to Western Style Shirts

Smile, Pockets! Your Guide to Western Style Shirts

Spring is in the air, and you know what that means-- rodeo season is about to start up again. What better way to show your pride than with Western-style shirts for the entire family?

Cowboys and cowgirls have been wearing these country staples since the 1800s. Western shirts are sturdy, stylish, and perfectly capable of standing up to a weekend at the local livestock show or spending a day working in the fields.  

Yet, as you head out shopping for new shirts for the whole family, you start to wonder: what exactly makes a Western shirt different from a regular button-down? We've got your back with this guide to the traditional meaning of Western-style shirt.

Ready to find out which shirts you should wrangle up this spring and which ones you should leave in the back pasture? Keep reading for everything you need to know.

5 Defining Features of Western-Style Shirts

Western-style clothing has a long history in America. The American cowboy first made it popular in the early 1800s. These rough riders chose the Western style because they needed clothes sturdy enough to last through a day's work or stand up to a long ride. 

When you're choosing clothes for your Western wardrobe, think denim jeans and big-buckled belts. Don't forget your cowboy boots, wide-brimmed hats, and thick plaid shirts. 

Today, the Old West style is worn by men and women across the country. It's even made its way into the mainstream, with fashion designers showcasing contrast piping on shirts and cowboy boots on the runway.

Western-style shirts are a staple for your wardrobe. So, without further ado, here are the five features that are must-haves for any true Western shirt. 

Western Yoke

If a shirt has a Western yoke, you can guarantee it'll fit in with your family's style. That's because Western yokes are the #1 defining feature of a Western-style shirt. 

What are we talking about? The yoke is the back of the shirt, where the front panel of fabric and the back one come together. Most traditional shirts have yokes stitched at the shoulder or straight across on the back. 

That's not a Western shirt. Western shirts' yokes are curved and often feature embellishments, which we'll talk about next. 


From rhinestones to lace to fringe, Western shirts are never short on eye-catching embellishments. This trend comes straight from the arena, where show cowboys dress in flamboyant outfits to attract the attention of the crowds.

That's right: embellishment on Western-style shirts isn't just for the ladies. While women love bedazzling the front, back, sleeves, cuffs, and yoke, men will appreciate the fringe details often found on the sleeves of men's shirts.

Plus, don't forget the kids! Here at Cowboy Hardware, we recognize the demand for embellished shirts and specialize in creating them for your little ones, too. 

Pearl Snaps

More traditional shirts use regular buttons that slide through a hole in the lapel. Western-style shirts are different. That's because these shirts showcase beautiful buttons that snap together and feature a pearl detail on the button itself. 

You'll find pearl buttons at the cuffs and collars of Western shirts, too. 

If your family prefers a little sparkle, you can also find shirts with rhinestone, diamond, or star-studded snaps. That way, your family can show off their personal style with unique Western shirts this season. 


Even if you do find a regular shirt with pearl snaps, embellishment, and a Western yoke, it still ain't Western without some good old fashioned embroidery. Traditional shirts don't feature beautiful threading decoration, unique stitching, and embroidery.

On a Western-style shirt, you'll find embroidery on the cuffs, sleeves, yoke, front, and back. It's usually in contrast stitching so no one will miss it. 

Western-style embroidery usually features stars, paisleys, and even crosses. You can also find swirling designs that resemble the hills and valleys of your back pasture. Or the embroidery might be on the pocket, like a smile pocket. 

Smile Pockets

Smile pockets are a type of embroidery that's 100% unique to the Western-style shirt. They are what they sound like-- stitched openings on the front of your shirt. These openings lead into a pocket and are shaped like-- you guessed it-- a smile. 

This type of pocket comes in two forms: faux or functional. That means the pocket is either stitched closed or fully functional. 

Another defining feature of this kind of pocket is that each end of the curved "smile" ends in little arrowheads. The stitching is usually in a bright color that contrasts the material of the shirt. Everyone will recognize your cowboy or cowgirl status from a mile away.

The Western-Style Fit

Here's another thing you may not know about Western-style shirts: they fit differently than regular shirts. 

For men, that means a slimmer fit to show off your physique after hauling hay bales all winter long. If you prefer a more workman style, choose a shirt with a long tail for tucking and a larger fit common in many ranch-style shirts.

Women's Western shirts typically feature a tight fit. They also come in longer lengths so you can tuck your Western shirt into your favorite low-rise jeans. You'll find women's shirts in feminine colors and floral patterns, too.

Where to Find Western Shirts for the Whole Family

Have you been searching for the perfect Western-style shirts that'll suit everyone in the family? Well, look no further than Cowboy Hardware. Browse our selection of Western shirts and more to find matching Western wear that'll draw eyes this rodeo season!

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