Riding High - The Sundance Western Shirt

Like most kids born in early 1970s England, weekend television viewing wasn’t complete without a Sunday afternoon Spaghetti Western. Sat cross-legged on the carpet, open mouthed with excitement, as saloon doors burst open to a chorus of replica guns screaming, ‘peow! peow! peow!’. Those endless dusty landscapes and imposing mountain ranges were a far cry from the small coastal city I was brought up in – and the simplicity of the plots never felt tired or boring. In a world without the internet, those films were my introduction to the history of America and the beginning of an obsession with the styling of that genre.

Donkey rides on the beach were the closest we ever got to being on horseback, but that didn’t stop the 8-year-old me begging for a pair of 5-pocket Wrangler jeans and some box-fresh riding boots (my poor parents!).

Fast forward a decade and I was busy using Ennio Morricone soundtracks to ease my pounding hangovers and spending any free time wheel-spinning around supermarket car parks in my boyfriend’s compact 3-door motor. With corduroy bootcuts, sideburns thicker than my grandmother’s carpets and a penchant for vintage Western shirts, he was Yorkshire’s answer to Clint Eastwood.

He favoured the casual softness of heavily worn, second-hand, mid-weight denim, faded from another life with a previous owner. Occasionally sported buttoned-up to the top, but more frequently worn open with sleeves rolled to the elbow and a plain white tee-shirt underneath, it was an authentic look that never felt try-hard or phoney. For gigs, he’d go the full Lou Reed and team it with slender black leather pants and Cuban heels – accessorised with a pack of cigarettes poking from one chest pocket and a fresh strip of chewing gum nestled inside the other. Effortlessly cool.

Our long standing love affair with the Western Shirt can be attributed to a number of factors, but in my humble opinion, it’s the connotations of adventure, spirit and bravado that seem to ring most true. Once favoured by working miners and cattlemen, this pioneering wardrobe essential was born in the early 19th century, with the first incarnations made from animal hides and shaped to reflect a blend of native American and European dressing. When cotton and wool became readily available, leather swiftly took a back seat. Then, like all good workwear, there were tweaks to enhance functionality – shirt tails were elongated to help it stay neatly tucked into trousers, dual chest pocket flaps were added to keep belongings secure, snappers helped prevent rodeo rider’s sleeves from getting snagged on fences and yokes were reinforced to make the shoulders more durable.

Brought into the limelight by Buffalo Bill Cody in the 1880s, and then glamorized on the big silver screen in the 1920s, it wasn’t until the 1950s that it gained widespread appeal and mass production really took off. These days, you don’t need a Stetson and a lasso to feel the part. The persistent design details aren’t rooted in flamboyance, they simply romanticise its utilitarian charm.

Sundance Western Shirt

At Uncommon Man, their bestselling Sundance Western Shirt retains all the rugged details you’d expect with a fit and finish normally reserved for high-end dress shirts. With their distinctive house-point collar, stylized yoke and Mother of Pearl snap closures through the front placket, cuffs and chest pockets, this American staple is an ode to the South West. Made in Italy from super comfortable 100% cotton denim, this is a laid-back investment in multi-purpose dressing. Named after the inimitable, and superbly handsome Sundance Kid (wayward rogue partner of the infamous Butch Cassidy), there’s no wrong way to wear it; go full double denim, or pair it open with some tailored chinos and a simple tee-shirt. A versatile, practical perennial that will age brilliantly over time – it’s the natural choice for every cowboy.