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Arizona Republic - The shirt that won the West

Today's question:

Why do cowboy shirts have snap buttons?

Well, buckaroo, get down off that old cayuse and hunker down by the campfire and have some beans and I'll tell you all about it.

Actually, I didn't have any idea until you asked, and I was sort of surprised by what I found out.

I always figured that cowboy shirts — Western shirts — have always had snap buttons. I mean, Roy Rogers wore snap-button shirts, right? So cowboys must have been wearing them ever since there were cowboys.

It seems that is not the case, Apparently, the snap-button style dates back to the 1940s and was invented by a man named Jack Weil, who died in 2008 at the age of 107.

Weil wanted to design a shirt that was practical for cowboy work and distinctively Western.

His shirts were slim-fitting, as opposed to the usual sort of boxy work shirt. That meant they weren't as apt to get snagged on brush or a limb.

And that yoke across the shoulder reinforced the fabric and also made the cowboy look more broad-shouldered and studly.

As for the snap buttons, they're easy to use with one hand. (Your other hand is holding the reins.) And they are better at holding in small objects while a cowboy is ridin' and ropin' and all that stuff us cowboys do.

His secret was he loved his work. A true pioneer, he introduced the first western shirts with snaps, and also made the first commercially produced bolo ties. Many of his innovations are standards in the industry.

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