You can ask someone what a cowboy wears, and they’re likely to have predictable answers. This isn’t a big surprise, as the very basics of western adornment haven’t changed much since the days of the old west. From the days of the old west, as surely as that man is sitting straight in the saddle, there are a pair of leather boots on his feet and a hat on the top of his head. More surely, though, is what he’s sitting on in that saddle, because while brands come and brands go, one particular maker of cowboy cut jeans has stayed the course: Wrangler.
I’m a clothes guy. Not being much on possessions in general, if the house was to catch fire, I might grab a few guitars on the way out, but my mind will definitely stray to the closet at some point. No, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that when it comes to material things, some of my favorite things are made from material, and while my shirts come from different makers, my hats all bear different labels, and there’s a varying logo pressed into the dirt with each new boot print I make, all my jeans say the same thing across the pockets, and I’m anything but alone.
You might say there’s something trendy in Wrangler jeans. After all, they’re being made in modern cuts and styles, and being worn by some of the biggest names in “rural entertainment”, but for all that there’s something undeniably classic about them, too. Technically reaching back to the end of the 19th century, the company we know as “the brand behind the patch” started down the western-wear path in 1947, offering cowboys the 13MWZ jean, intended to combine durability and comfort while riding. It was a novel idea, with technological innovations in design as well as the fabric itself, but in a period of economic recovery and some instability in the United States, a word from a trusted source was of more importance, so the company looked for someone America held in high regard to carry the Wrangler name to them. Their choice: Jim Shoulders — a man as well known to westerners in his era as Trevor Brazile is in our own, and a roughstock rider whose image was synonymous with both strength and success. From that point on, the Wrangler cowboy cut jean has become synonymous with the American cowboy. Cowboys tried them, and cowboys kept them. I guess that’s why I ended up wearing them.
There are good reasons why the only jeans I own are Wranglers. It isn’t easy finding jeans that fit me comfortably, last as long as a pair of jeans should, and look good in the process. (Actually, it’s hard enough to find a 29×40, period!) When I get dressed in the morning, it doesn’t really matter to me how long my clothes’ brand has been in business, or what celebrity is mimicking my style that day — I just want to have a nice pair of jeans. For outside work, I still stick with the 13MWZ, but for anything else I’ve become a big fan of the Strait and Aldean jeans for their low-waist fit that makes the most of my hipless form, and the slightly trendier appearance. There are black Wranglers for dressier events, brown or tan Wranglers to go with hunting camo, and a whole lot of blue to go with everything else. Patches might be leather, or synthetic, and the embroidered “W” might be straight and simple or stylized and complex. My favorite pair I’ve ever owned was a long, thin 8MWZ with “bullseye” rivets, but even the best things just don’t last forever, It’s nice to know overall, though, that I’m wearing the same basic pair of jeans that Jim Shoulders propelled into style when my dad was just a kid, so even though I like to be in front of style, no matter where I go, that patch is gonna stay right behind me.
As for the part where I enjoy why my wife wears Wrangler jeans, too… well, that will have to wait for another time.