Cattle Showmanship Attire

rhdRHD Blog

This blog was written in 2012 by Rachel Cutrer.

The topic of  “What is proper showring attire” is one that’s been around for decades.  Everyone has different opinions on what is acceptable or unacceptable, but this blog is my opinion (strictly opinion) as to what is acceptable or not.

Back in my day as a junior showman, no one ever thought of me as a fashion trendsetter 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 the StockShowWonka memes, (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. The brand name is not important. Skinny jeans are not acceptable. Limit the bling on your jeans (see below). If you are a boy, don’t wear bling jeans at all. Starched or neatly ironed jeans with a crease 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. So to me, Wranglers are just fine for guys, and even girls, especially in open shows.

A great ladies showmanship outfit – Kendall Bauman






2. A collared shirt, preferably button down, and in showmanship, consider 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, especially in the south where it can be over 100 degrees on show days. But,  others are adamant that long sleeves are a requirement no matter what time of year. If you know the personal preference of the judge you might take that into consideration.

Some people say a solid color shirt is best, others think a really cool print/pattern shirt is best. To me this doesn’t matter, as the most important thing is cleanliness, the shirt being wrinkle-free, and being tucked in.

If you’ve been fitting and working all morning, you can always change into your “show shirt” just a few minutes before you go in the ring.

Make sure your shirt tail is long enough to stay tucked in throughout the show. This is important for young ladies, since our shirt tails tend to more easily come un-tucked in the back. 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, cardigan or sweater vest worn over a button down shirt also looks very nice.

A very nice young man’s showmanship attire.


3. Boots / Shoes. 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. There are some other options to consider that are the western type shoes, IDK what they are called, but similar to like Doc Martens in the old day. I think these are fine too. The main point being that the shoes are a dark color (brown or black) and a western style. No tennis shoes, unless your name is Chad Wilson, and no flip flops.


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 waistline.  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? Cowboy hats are certainly acceptable, for both young men and young ladies, especially in the south 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 while you show. 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 showmanship. For ladies, your makeup should also be done tastefully.


7. 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.

Two very professionally dressed young ladies in the show ring.

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 judges who may tend to dress a little more flashier themselves, you could probably get away with more bling.

My typical show outfit.

Differences in Body Type

Over the years, especially for us ladies, our body type may change and those favorite jeans we wore as a 13 year old may not be as easy to fit into. Or, button down shirts may be ill-fitting throughout the chest area or waist area. Or, the thought of having to tuck your shirt into jeans and try to wear a belt buckle terrifies you. Hey, this is life and this is perfectly okay if you choose to alter your show attire to fit YOUR style. The bottom line is, wear something you are comfortable and confident in. If you know a button-down shirt isn’t the most flattering for your body type, choose a shirt with a cardigan. Or, put a longer jacket/blazer/sweater vest over your shirt. The most important thing is looking clean, wearing clothes without stains or wrinkles, and looking professional.

Just my opinion…

Some might say my opinion on proper showring attire is dull and boring. Some might even say that I personally dress dull and boring. I’m not a fashionista or makeup expert by any means. This blog is solely my opinion, backed by my own success in the show ring, for what it’s worth. My overall premise is that when showing cattle, you should look the part of a showman. And by showman, I mean a cattlewoman or a cattleman. A show is not a concert, a workout, or the prom. If western attire or conservative attire isn’t your style – that’s totally cool. 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 trust me, as both a judge and a former exhibitor – first impressions in the show ring are often made based on your attire, poise, and confidence. Make this work to your advantage.