The Denver Post - Western Dress Suits Everyone

Western Dress Suits Everyone

January 7, 2008          

By William Porter

Denver Post Columnist


Late Friday morning, and Geary Sheridan was fresh off a plane from Southern California. It was Vail or bust.

But first: Hit the trail to Rockmount Ranch Wear, the venerable Western outfitter at 1626 Wazee St.

When I crossed paths with Sheridan, he was trying on a cream- colored shirt with purple piping and embroidered flowers at the shoulders.

So how many cowboy shirts does a guy with a Malibu Beach address need?

"Well, I was thinking about three," Sheridan said. "But I think I'll wind up with seven."

This is how it is in January at Rockmount, thanks to the happy-trails confluence of ski season and the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo, which opens Saturday.

Everyone gets to channel their inner cowpoke.

You get rough-stock cowboys needing buckskin gloves and hats that soon will be stained with sweat. And you get pilgrims from out East who wonder why horseshoes don't have shoelaces. But they pine for a pair of hand-tooled boots.

Chamber of commerce-types tear their hair out to convince people that Denver is a cosmopolitan city, not a cow town. Sorry, but at Rockmount, the bandanna still dry-gulches the power tie.

"It's part of our legacy in the West," said Steve Weil. "The reason this has endured is that we manufacture these shirts as part of a lifestyle, not as a costume."

At 50 he is president and designer at the store, which his granddad Jack — still CEO at age 106 — opened in 1946.

Walk Rockmount's aisles, and it's like a cross between a bunkhouse and the wardrobe room for a Broadway show. Say, "Shane: The Musical."

Some clothes are made for bona-fide ranch hands, such as roper-style boots destined to be caked in stable muck. Then there are duds so fancy they would make Roy Rogers look like a broken-down saddle tramp.

If you can pony up $1,100 for the caiman-skin Lucchese boots, all the better.

Pam Wilson of Fort Collins took a day off to look at shirts and skirts. She's never been on a horse in her life, but she's a big rodeo fan.

"I just like the style and the heritage," she said of the clothes. "And I think the cut is flattering."

She eyed a yellow shirt embroidered with green cactuses and wagon wheels. "I wonder if a cowboy would like this."

Mike and Kathy Wrage flew in from Tampa, Fla., for some ski days in Steamboat Springs with their kids.

He sported a denim shirt with flap pockets and Rockmount's trademark diamond-shaped snap buttons. I asked him about its appeal.

"A shirt like this just has authenticity," Mike said. "Some are more drugstore cowboy, but this is just a good working shirt."

Truth be told, he's not one of those Floridians who can't be pried out of shorts and sandals with a crowbar. He's a native Cornhusker whose forebears homesteaded in Cherry County, Neb. "God's own cattle country," Mike said.

And these days? He grinned. "I'm all hat and no cattle."

His wife, Kathy, checked out a rack of fancy shirts. "I think the cool thing is that now you don't have to live in the West to wear this."

As Jack Weil once said, there's no Westerner like an Easterner.

William Porter's column appears twice a week. Reach him at 303-954-19


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