Popping bubble wrap. Parallel parking your car in one try. Sinking a trash can toss from a respectable distance. For me, none of these immensely satisfying feelings compares with opening a snap-front shirt. The resistance and release, the sound of each snap in succession, the immediate freedom of being significantly undressed in about a second, flat.
Getting out of a snap-front shirt is remarkably fun, as far as undressing goes. (And sexy too, honk honk!) But first thing’s first—let’s get you in one! A pillar of traditional western wear, the snap-front shirt has been co-opted by the menswear set in a big way recently thanks to Saint Laurent and Calvin Klein. But if elaborate embroidery and colorful satin feel like a bridge too far into the wild west—I’m with you.
The snap-front western shirt styles we’re after right now are inspired by and in some cases, made specifically for, actual cowboys. (What up, Wrangler?) The best ones come in classic denim, breezy linen and even luxurious sherpa-lined sheepskin.
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Wrangler—whose first pair of jeans was designed in 1947 by a “celebrity tailor” literally called Rodeo Ben— has an absolutely massive selection of snap-front western shirts. My favorite is a retro printed jacquard that looks like something Zack Morris would have worn on a crossover episode of Saved By The Bell and Hey Dude. Wear it with black jeans, white sneakers and your favorite sherpa-lined jacket to make the extremely 90s print look modern and fresh.
Levi’s Barstow Western Shirt, $50-$70
No surprise here, but Levi’s, the OG heritage denim brand, makes one hell of a western shirt. The Barstow comes in eight denim washes, some in 100 cotton denim, some with a touch (2%) of Elastane for stretch. The ‘Red Cast’ wash shirts are my favorite of the bunch, and can be worn just like your go-to chambray shirt with everything from chinos and cords to joggers or a contrasting pair of jeans. Then again, you could just go full Johnny Cash and rock the black wash with your black jeans… I wouldn’t be mad at that at all.
While it might not technically feel “close,” spring is coming. And when it arrives, I want you to don this linen fancy-ish take on the snap-front shirt from Proper Cloth. (If you’re unfamiliar, they do custom menswear through a blessedly easy-to-use online platform.) There’s just something so appealing about mixing the rugged good looks of a western shirt with the breezy appeal of a cotton-linen blend; and it’s a combo I haven’t seen anywhere else. This shirt also comes in navy, but the white looks particularly fresh and unique.
A British brand making distinctly American western shirts? What the? I know it sounds a little crazy (and perhaps unpatriotic) to go across the pond for this style, but hear me out. Think of Belstaff’s western shirt like a cowboy with an English accent: Surprising, sure, but also just a hair more sophisticated than the original. It’s cut from soft, stone-washed indigo denim in a super-slim fit and finished with authentic mother-of-pearl snaps—a luxurious callback to the shirt’s old timey rodeo origins.
Okay, a little wild card for you. You might have noticed that there’s a lot of lavender out there in the menswear market right now. This western shirt from Isabel Marant is a rich, kind of surprisingly wild shade of purple, like if lavender decided to go out one night and take a couple tequila shots. It’s bold and fun and I am here for it! (Plus, it’s corduroy so you know I’m already on board.) This unexpected color is actually not very hard to wear—I’d rock this with easy neutrals like black jeans and a camel jacket.
Allow us to end this calm, collected round up of western shirts with an absolutely bonkers, smoke show piece of outerwear from Ralph Lauren. Look at this shirt jacket! Have you ever seen a more handsome, make-you-wanna-go-into-massive-debt-just-to-cop-it piece of clothing in your life?! Team SG is ready to start a new religion based on worshipping this sheepskin-and-leather masterpiece. It ticks all the boxes of a traditional western shirt from the stitching to the snaps while somehow being so much more than the sum of its parts. Marry me, convert me, wrap me in your buttery, sherpa-lined softness until I’m dead in the ground.