Monday, July 2, 2012

Proper Cattle Showmanship Attire

Over the past 3 days I have heard more discussion on "What is proper showring attire" than I have heard in the past 3 years. This is mostly due to the creation of Stock Show Wonka...a new twitter handle that is dead-on as far as writing hilarious, but often very true, comments about stock shows.

Back in my day as a junior showman, no one ever thought of me as a fashion trendsetter, or even one of the "hottest" girls on the junior show circuit by any means. But they did think of me as a darn good showman, and I'm proud to say I won multiple national showmanship titles in two breeds (Brahman & Shorthorn). I think Blake Bloomberg can top me and say he was champion showman of three breeds, but I don't think there are many other people out there who can claim those honors. 

So what is proper showring attire? According to StockShowWonka, (whoever that is) it isn't Wranglers, isn't a cowboy hat, isn't Miss Me Jeans, isn't bling, and it isn't Sperrys. Some of that I agree with, some I disagree with.

So, here is my opinion of what is appropriate showring attire:

1. Dark jeans that are boot cut and proper length. Skinny jeans are not acceptable. Limit the bling on your jeans (see below). If you are a boy, don't wear bling jeans. Starched or neatly pressed jeans look best. Jeans should be long enough to avoid being "high waters" but should not be dragging the ground either. Here in the south, we still show in Wranglers, a lot. So to me, Wranglers are just fine for guys, especially in open shows.

A great ladies showmanship outfit - Kendall Bauman
2. A collared shirt, preferably button down, and in showmanship, preferably long sleeve. Different schools of thought say you have to wear long sleeve all the time, but that is a preference. I personally do not think long sleeves are required in the summer. But others out there are adamant that long sleeves are a requirement in showmanship no matter what time of year. Make sure your shirt tail is long enough to stay tucked in throughout the show. A trick my grandma taught me is that you can get those press on velcro strips and use them stuck to the shirt-tail of your shirt and the inside of your jeans if you need it. A starched or neatly pressed shirt look best. In the winter, a solid color sweater or sweater vest worn over a button down shirt also looks very nice.

A great young men's showmanship outfit - Jake Bloomberg
3. Boots. In my opinion boots are also a requirement, and casual shoes like Sperrys are not acceptable at all.  The boots should be dark colored, and not too flashy. Do not ever tuck your jeans into your boots, no matter what.

4. A Belt. A western-type belt such as a plain leather belt, or hand-tooled leather belt always look professional. The belt should go through your belt loops. If you have a concho belt, sometimes this is not possible because the conchos are too big, and that's okay as long as the belt is at your waist. However the fashion belts that fit snugly over your ribcage are not acceptable in the ring. If you want to have some bling, the belt is the best place to do it. More people down south tend to wear belt buckles, but up north it seems belt buckles are not as common.

Cowboy hats and Wrangler jeans are still
very popular in open shows
5. A cowboy hat? Yes or no? This is certainly acceptable, especially the further south you go or if you compete in open shows. A rule of thumb we use here in Texas is that you start wearing your felt hat around Dallas (State fair of Texas - early October) and you start wearing your straw hat sometime after Houston (late March). This is important, you don't want to wear a felt hat in the summer and look out of place. Cowboy hats are almost a staple in the show ring for men at some of the more traditional western stock shows like Denver or Fort Worth. 

6. Hair and Makeup. Hair for ladies should be pulled back out of your face, either in a pony tail, or partially pinned back so that your hair isn't constantly getting in your eyes and distracting you. Guys, hair should be neatly cut and at a proper length. If you like to grow your hair out longer, but you have a big show coming up, unfortunately you're going to need to get that hair cut! No respected judge is going to use someone with a Justin Bieber haircut in the showring, especially not in showmanship. For ladies, your makeup should also be done tastefully.

Proper equipment is just as important as your outfit in showmanship. Your show halter should have a lead strap of preferably 3-4 feet or longer. Never show with a lead strap that is 6 inches. It doesn't make you look cool. This is fine if your calf is gentle, but even the gentlest calf can get spooked and in that case, you are going to need the extra lead strap.

Your showstick should be solid in color. You might like a pink zebra print showstick, or a camo bling showstick, and that is fine, but use a different showstick in showmanship if that's the case. Obviously a guy would not want to use a bling showstick, but girls should avoid this too. Seriously, can you picture Christy Collins (or Shirley Watts for us Brahman people) showing with a bling zebra showstick? HA. Definitely not.
These ladies have very tasteful outfits, and both have
won their fair share of showmanship competitions.

And finally...Limit the bling. A little bling is just fine, for example a flashy concho belt or a tastefully bling-y belt. Limit the bling on your jeans. If you are a boy, don't wear bling jeans. Ladies, careful when wearing extremely large hoop earrings or chandelier earrings, both for safety and professionalism. You don't want your jewelry to be distracting, you want it to complement your outfit and your calf. 

Bling on your show halter or show harness can be done if done tastefully. I say as a good rule of thumb, if you have more than 6 gems of bling anywhere on your equipment or your body, that is too much. (A bling belt counts for 1 piece of bling.) You might get away with one or two rhinestones on your harness, or maybe even one or two on your show halter. 

For me, I prefer no bling at all, other than a concho belt. But, I'm probably no-bling-extreme. Here's a tip, get to know your showmanship judge and their preference. Obviously if a lady like me, Deb Core, or Christy Collins is judging, you would tone down the bling. Most older, male judges who are real-life cattleman also tend to think negatively of all the bling. But, if your judge is a college age judge or those judges who may tend to dress a little more flashier themselves, you could probably get away with more bling. 

My typical outfit for any stock show is usually the same,
whether I'm just attending or showing. 
Some might say my opinion on proper showring attire is dull and boring. Some might even say that I personally dress dull and boring, which is probably true because my standard outfit is usually Silver jeans or 7 jeans, a starched solid color button down Ralph Lauren shirt, a leather cowboy belt and belt buckle, and Rios of Mercedes boots. So no, I'm not a fashionista by any means of the word. But in showing cattle, you should look the part of a showman, and by showman, I mean a cattlewoman or a cattleman. Go change back into your normal outfits as soon as you get out of the ring, but when you're showing cattle, you need to look the part of a stockman.

And, I love you @StockShowWonka , but I'm curious to know how many showmanship contests have YOU won? :)


  1. Jennifer Ann SmithJuly 2, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Great article, Rachel! I agree with all of your tips! I definitely enjoy wearing some bling outside of the show arena, but in the show ring I am a member of the no-bling extreme club as well!
    I'm also interested in how many showmanship contests @StockShowWonka has won! :)


  2. Thanks JAS! You're also one of the great young female showman and I'm glad to hear you agree.

  3. Great pointers from a classy and accomplished showman! I hope young exhibitors take your pointers to heart--especially the parts about the tucked in, collared shirts and bling--two of my biggest pet peeves! Thanks for sharing your expertise with others!

  4. Excellent article Rachel... Obviously your opinions, thoughts and ideals are right on track... your wisdom and work ethic both in and out of the ring sould be embraced by young cattlemen and women alike.

  5. Alaina Burleigh PierretJuly 2, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    I could not agree more!!! I am not one to post comments but have watched the fashion trend in the showring get progressively worse over the years. I too have won showmanship on all levels with two breeds (Santa Gertrudis and Brahman) and could not imagine ever going in a showring dressed like some today! I personally believe every time you walk in a ring, you should treat it like showmanship, as your job is to present that animal to its best. I love reading your blogs.


  6. Great article! I love my bling, but there is a time and place and that is outside of the showring for me. Great tips for those just starting out or those who have been in the ring for years. I am glad to see that I am not "old fashioned" when it comes to nice, clean-cut, show attire.

  7. So true, but for the record, you were stylish, even as a kid. :)

  8. I can't agree with your points more, Rachel! You and I were raised in similar fashion; our skills should speak louder than our clothes. The more often that I'm photographing in the ring, the more I think that philosophy needs resurrected. In regards to the hats, dad always told my brother that you could wear a cowboy hat in the ring if the judge was wearing a hat. That was a rule of thumb around our house, but it only applied to cowboy hats, never caps.

  9. Right on the money! Classic advice that has always been in style and will not go out!

  10. You are right on Rachel. Just my opinion, bling belongs in the cheerleader section, along with fake smiles, busts and plaster. I probably looked my worst when I show cattle, because I am more worried about how my cattle looked than myself. Agree, boots, proper jeans, long sleeve shirt, a simple show stick that fits your arm and your hair out of your face.

  11. Great blog, Rachel! Hope LOTS of young people read and take heed!

  12. Great post! I can't tell you how often I am asked about "the bling issue" in shows. I think it can be proportional to how old the showman is. My rule of thumb is if you're young enough to pull off pig tails... you can pull off some extra sparkle. Or conversely... if you are old enough to be receiving social security checks, far be it from me to take away your sequins! Everyone in between should aim for a classically attractive and professional look.

  13. These are the same standards as when I showed cattle in the early 60's. But we didn't know what bling was.

  14. Theresa PritchardJuly 3, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Great write-up Rachel. Proud to be a member of your 2 breed national jr. showmanship winners club (Hereford & Limousin). Totally agree with everything you said, plus even more emphasis on proper attire. Even at summer shows the contests kids are attending is a stock show...not a who can show the most skin show. There are just some things no one wants to see. Also, truely appreciated your comments on bling,show equipement and boots too! Hope everyone reads your blog and takes at least some of your points t heart, if not all. Keep up the good fight!!

  15. I couldn't agree with you more Rach! I have always been a blingy person but 1 bling belt in showmanship at Angus Jr Nationals cost me, I ended up 5th that year! I hope some of the younger generation reads this and don't end up in the same boat I was in! I still wear one in the ring but I never wore one in showmanship again!