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Black Angus McPherson

Fringe on cowboy clothes - Why?

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My wife asked me a couple questions I did not know the answer for.  So I'm back to the collective mind of you cowboys, who, I know, have the answer to everything.  ;)

 

1 - Did frontiersmen really have fringe/strings hanging off their shirts and pants?  Yes.  I've seen enough pictures to know the answer to this one.

 

2 - Why did frontiersmen and cowboys have fringe/strings hanging off their shirts and pants?  Ummm, it was the lastest style in frontiersman wear?  She got me on this one.  Why DID frontiersmen and cowboys have fringe/strings hanging off their shirts and pants?  Is it reasonable to assume that Indians of the time were similarly adorned?

 

Thanks,

 

Angus

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For leather garments the fringes helped the garment dry quicker when wet.

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This is from Wikipedia.

"Fringe is an ornamental textile trim applied to an edge of a textile item, such as drapery, a flag, or epaulettes. Fringe originated as a way of preventing a cut piece of fabric from unraveling when a hemming was not used." and "Buckskins are often trimmed with a fringe – originally a functional detail, to allow the garment to shed rain, and to dry faster when wet because the fringe acted as a series of wicks to disperse the water – or quills. Buckskins derive from deerskin clothing worn by Native Americans."

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Just now, Chantry said:

For leather garments the fringes helped the garment dry quicker when wet.

+1  little deeper explanation:  To allow the garment to shed rain, and to dry faster when wet because the fringe acted as a series of wicks to disperse the water – or quills  A buckskin jacket or “buskin” would originally have had fringes to do exactly the same thing. They were often “caped”, meaning that the shoulder area was double thickness and the “cape” extended some way down the back. This meant that the area that was most likely to get wet from rain was thicker than the rest of the jacket and as such would take longer to wet through. The edge of the cape would have been fringed, to lead water away from the body of the jacket and encourage water to run off. If the fringes ran to a point at the lowest part of the cape it would act exactly like a leaf drip tip leading water away from the body of the jacket to drip harmlessly off the back.  Additionally, each individual fringe would help the jacket to dry faster by increasing the surface area of the wetted part, enabling air circulation to ensure it dried a little quicker.

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Also high boots kept manure off of your pants and kept them from getting torn.  The fringe also scared flies away as the cows, horses, and cowboys attracted many flies to their wonderful odors

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I would add that it was also the style expected of western plainsmen. If you look at the photos of Hickock, Cody, Custer, and others, they all were going for a look that folks expected of western heros. So while the original purpose was utilitarian, the fringe look attracted the eyes of the women and the general public. Native Americans and westerners often went to great lengths to look exotic and flamboyant.

I have a pair of elkskin drop-front paints with fringe that I wear to shoots in cooler weather and they most definitely get the looks. It seemed weird to me at first at how many men would come up to me and comment how good I looked. I also have a fringed leather jacket I wear on rare occasions to none-shooting events and I have had folks I don't know tell me how good I look. I know I eat it up so I know Hickock, Cody, Custer, and the others craved the attention it brought.

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7 hours ago, Irish-Pat said:

Also high boots kept manure off of your pants and kept them from getting torn.  The fringe also scared flies away as the cows, horses, and cowboys attracted many flies to their wonderful odors

Were them circle flies???

 

Texas Lizard

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18 minutes ago, Cholla said:

I would add that it was also the style expected of western plainsmen. If you look at the photos of Hickock, Cody, Custer, and others, they all were going for a look that folks expected of western heros. So while the original purpose was utilitarian, the fringe look attracted the eyes of the women and the general public. Native Americans and westerners often went to great lengths to look exotic and flamboyant.

I have a pair of elkskin drop-front paints with fringe that I wear to shoots in cooler weather and they most definitely get the looks. It seemed weird to me at first at how many men would come up to me and comment how good I looked. I also have a fringed leather jacket I wear on rare occasions to none-shooting events and I have had folks I don't know tell me how good I look. I know I eat it up so I know Hickock, Cody, Custer, and the others craved the attention it brought.

 

Got me curious.

 

Pictures?

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13 minutes ago, Dantankerous said:

 

Got me curious.

 

Pictures?

Well... I'm getting a little long in the tooth, but my wife does like taking photos of me at shoots. I don't do the clothes justice. Just remember, you asked for this! Keep in mind pants didn't have pockets until the mid-1800s so I have to wear a wool pocket, as seen in the photo.

IMG_3877.jpg

IMG_3196.JPG

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Cholla,

 

GREAT look! Well done!

 

:D

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Also to add....original functional fringe was ridiculously long...hunters/trappers would start off their journey with fresh skins with fringe 18"+ long, and use the fringe as cordage as needed through the journey...these guys would go out on a trap/hunt away from civilization for months at a time...

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20 hours ago, Rafe Conager SASS #56958 said:

Fringe helps drain water off the garment when wet, also provides a strip when you need to tie things off and lastly great decoration.

Rafe

 

Rafe hit it on the nose.

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Don’t recall where, but I remember reading that fringe was also supposed to make it harder for someone to accurately aim at you. 

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50 minutes ago, Ozark Huckleberry said:

Don’t recall where, but I remember reading that fringe was also supposed to make it harder for someone to accurately aim at you. 

Yep.  One of the original purposes of fringe was to break up your silhouette or outline while hunting.  Early millitias utilized fringe for this purpose, as well as the early mountain men and trappers.

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6 hours ago, Lunger Dan said:

Also to add....original functional fringe was ridiculously long...hunters/trappers would start off their journey with fresh skins with fringe 18"+ long, and use the fringe as cordage as needed through the journey...these guys would go out on a trap/hunt away from civilization for months at a time...

Yes, I thought they used them for ties as well.  I remember somebody doing that in some movie.  He cut it or pulled it off and fixed something with it.

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Very interesting info, many thanks to all for posting. Didn't know the purpose and functionality of fringes before.

 

At this very moment a pair of chaps are beeing shipped to me. Based on this picture of real cowboys I found in the internet, I ordered them with fringes to be periodically accurate (and for the looks, of course :))

 

 shotgun-chaps_old-west.jpg.f18ce4f28dbb217682f0e7b1d8528ede.jpg

 

Equanimous

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