Western Shirts Glossary – A guide to commonly found elements in western shirts.
Western shirts come in many styles and designs. While some have taken on a more contemporary look, the hallmarks of a traditional western shirt remain the same. Below you will find a brief description of the elements that make up a western shirt. Whether it’s a vintage western shirt or one of more modern design, a true western shirt will generally have one or more of the follow elements.
The most common element found in western shirts, and one that often defines as shirt as being western, is the back yoke. The yoke is where the back and front shirt panels are stitched with the shoulder panel. A western yoke is curved and comes to one or more points, as opposed to a straight stitch commonly found on most contemporary shirts. Some western shirt yokes are more ornamental in design than others, especially on vintage western shirts.
Another traditional element of western shirts are snap closures down the front placket and at the cuffs. While many western shirts are open collars with no closure, you may occasionally find snap collars as well. Western snaps can range from the traditional pearl snap design to rhinestone studded diamonds and stars.
Piping is a raised piece of material that resembles a string and often incorporates contrasting colors to highlight the yoke design and the front placket as well as the cuffs and collars. Piping is a staple of vintage and vintage inspired western shirts.
Many western shirts incorporate an element of embroidery, or threaded decoration stitched into the shirt. Western embroidery comes in many styles and colors, from floral design to skulls and dice. It is often found above the front and back yokes, but it is not unusual for western shirts to have embroidery down the front, the entire back, on the sleeves, or at the cuffs.
Western shirts almost always have a cuff with snap or button closure. More often than not there is more than one closure, and it is not uncommon for their to be 5 or more snap or buttons on a western shirt cuff. Piping around the cuffs is often found on vintage western shirts.
Another element unique to western shirts are smile pockets, both of the faux and functional design. Smile pockets have a curved, usually angled, opening often defined by piping at its border that comes to a point resembling an arrow.
Saddle stitching is an overcastting method of stitching two pieces of shirt material together. The result is cross stitching look that is usually highlighted by the use of contrasting colors. Saddle stitching is often ornamental and can add a lot of character to any western shirt and some jeans.
In addition to smile pockets, many western shirts feature snap closure flap pockets. While smile pockets are mostly found on vintage western shirts, the flap snap pocket is found on both vintage and contemporary western shirts. The snap usually match the snap closure on the rest of the shirt.
Just as common as embroidered and piped shirts, are wallpaper prints. The wallpaper print western shirt has an “all-over” design, commonly floral or paisley.
Border prints feature a unique design across the chest area of the shirt. Borders prints often feature western inspired landscapes and designs. From images of running horses and cowboys to Aztec and Native American designs, border prints incorporate a lot of western heritage and themes right onto the shirt.
Western shirts are known for their embellishments. Rhinestones, fringe, and appliqués are all common on western shirts. Rhinestones are known to be used as for border design, decoration, and to embellish snap enclosures. Fringe appears most often at the front and back yokes and sometimes at the cuffs. Appliqués are often another way to add western themed images and design to western styled shirts.