What Do Cowboys Wear Around Their Necks? (Answered!)

Have you ever considered the myriad of accessories that have defined eras, regions, and professions? Everyone knows that a pirate often wears an eyepatch or a chef wears a tall white hat. Yet, among these iconic images, a certain flair and style is unmistakably and intrinsically tied to the American Wild West: the adornments cowboys wear around their necks.

It’s more than just a piece of cloth or a protective garment; it’s a symbol of rugged individualism, a badge of toughness and resilience against the harsh terrains and wild outlaws.

This accessory has made an indelible mark from classic Western films to Today’s fashion-forward streets. Why? Because it tells a story—a tale of bravery, romance, and the unyielding spirit of the frontier.

Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast seeking inspiration, a history buff keen to dive deep, or someone simply curious about the style choices of these iconic horseback riders, saddle up! We’re about to journey into the heart of the Wild West to uncover the allure of what cowboys wore around their necks—and why it matters even Today.

What do cowboys wear around their necks?

Images of wide-brimmed hats, sturdy boots, and shiny spurs might come to mind when you think of cowboys. But another piece of their attire holds a special place in the classic cowboy ensemble: the neckerchief.

This simple cloth, often tied around the neck, is more than a fashion statement. The neckerchief served practical purposes for cowboys, like shielding them from dust and providing a makeshift mask during dusty rides.

It could also wipe sweat from the brow under the sweltering sun or offer protection against chilly winds. Over time, while it continued to serve its functional roles, the neckerchief also became a symbol of the cowboy’s identity—a blend of rugged practicality with a touch of personal flair.

Whether adorned with prints, dyed in rich colors, or kept in its raw, natural hue, the cowboy’s neckerchief is a testament to the life and style of the Wild West.

Also read: Do Cowboys Tuck in Their Shirts?

What Do Cowboys Wear Around Their Necks

The History of Cowboy Neckerchiefs:

Long before cowboys became icons of the Wild West, they understood the value of practical attire. Among their essential gear was the humble neckerchief, whose roots stretched centuries. Back in the early days of the American West, life was a battle against the relentless forces of nature.

Dust storms could appear without warning, the sun bore down unforgivingly, and gusty winds were another challenge on the open range. Enter the neckerchief.

This simple piece of cloth became a cowboy’s first line of defense, shielding him from the dust, protecting his skin from the sun’s harsh rays, and soaking up the sweat that would otherwise pour into his eyes.

But cowboys, known for their spirit and individualism, didn’t stop at mere practicality. They infused their personality into these neckerchiefs, turning them into canvases of expression. Bright hues, intricate patterns, and unique designs became the norm.

It was their way of setting themselves apart, of showing a bit of flair amidst the rough and tumble of cowboy life. In doing so, they turned a simple protective cloth into a lasting symbol of style and resilience.

What is the Purpose of Cowboy Neckerchiefs?

Even in Today’s world, where fashion and functionality often merge, the cowboy neckerchief stands out as a testament to its enduring relevance. Much like their predecessors in the 19th century, modern-day cowboys still rely on their trusted neckerchiefs for some good old practicality.

Battling the elements is a constant in the life of a cowboy. The neckerchief remains a reliable shield against the swirling dust, piercing sun, and unpredictable winds. Plus, amid hard work and under the relentless heat, it doubles as a sweatband, ensuring that no pesky droplets blur a cowboy’s vision.

But let’s remember the style aspect. The cowboy neckerchief is about more than just practicality. It’s also about panache. With its ability to add a Western zing to any outfit, the neckerchief isn’t limited to just days on the ranch.

Whether it’s a casual gathering or a night out, this piece of cloth, rich in history, effortlessly bridges the gap between the rugged and the refined. So, next time you spot one, remember: it’s not just an accessory; it’s a cowboy’s trusty sidekick.

What Do Cowboys Wear Around Their Necks

Types of Cowboy Neckerchiefs:

When delving into the world of cowboy neckwear, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s more than one way to wrap a scarf around a cowboy’s neck. Sure, the bandana is often the first that comes to mind. These square-shaped scarves, crafted chiefly from cotton or silk, boast a rainbow of colors and designs, offering flexibility in how they’re worn, tied, or flaunted.

Yet, the bandana is just the tip of the iceberg. Many cowboys turn to the trusty wild rag for those colder days or when more protection is desired. These are more substantial than your everyday bandana and are made of heavier materials, like flannel or wool. Fold them, tie them with a classic square knot, and you have warmth and style.

But the world of cowboy neckwear doesn’t stop there. Those nifty little jewelry pieces, Scarf slides hold neckerchiefs stylishly in place. For a dash of elegance and a sprinkle of Western charm, there’s the bolo tie, with its braided leather cord and eye-catching clasp.

And then there’s the ascot—a nod to a more sophisticated flair, made typically of silk or satin. Each type of neckerchief, in its way, captures a different facet of cowboy culture and style. Cowboys know how to make a statement with what they wear around their necks, whether for function, fashion, or a blend of both.

How to Choose a Cowboy Neckerchief?

So, you’re ready to dive into the world of cowboy neckerchiefs? Excellent choice! These timeless accessories can add a dash of Western charisma to any outfit. But how do you pick the perfect one for you? Let’s break it down:

First off, think about the material. Whether it’s the soft touch of cotton, the luxury of silk, the warmth of wool, or the coziness of flannel, selecting a material that feels right against your skin is crucial. Also, consider the weather and the purpose. For instance, a wool or flannel neckerchief might be your best friend if you’re gearing up for a winter rodeo.

Next, let’s talk about color and pattern. The beauty of neckerchiefs lies in their vast array of designs and hues. Are you feeling bold? A vibrant red or a striking way might suit you. Would you prefer something more subdued? Earth tones or simple patterns might be up your alley. Remember, this accessory is as much about expressing your personality as it complements your outfit.

Lastly, size does matter. You want a neckerchief that you can comfortably tie around your neck without feeling like you’re wrestling with a blanket. A good rule of thumb? Find one that’s easy to work with but still offers the coverage and style you seek.

There you have it! With these tips, you’re ready to find the cowboy neckerchief that’s just right for you. Happy hunting!

How to Wear a Cowboy Neckerchief:

I am stepping into the world of cowboy neckerchiefs and wondering how to flaunt it. Well, my friend, you’re in luck! Let’s delve into some classic ways to rock that Western charm:

Bandana lovers:

Fold your bandana diagonally to form a triangle. Lay it across your neck, letting the triangle’s tip sit centered in front. Now, tie the two ends snugly behind your neck with a neat square knot. Voilà, classic cowboy style achieved!

Wild Rag:

Fold it in half lengthwise. Drape it gracefully over your neck, ensuring both ends are even. Securely tie them behind your neck with that trusty square knot.

Scarf Slide:

Slide your scarf through this nifty accessory. You can adjust the slide to your desired position once you’ve tied those scarf ends in a square knot behind your neck.

Bolo Tie:

It’s pretty straightforward. The braided leather cord goes through its ornamental slide or clasp. Adjust to your liking, and you’ve got an instant style upgrade!


Drape it elegantly over your neck, ensuring even ends. A square knot tied behind secures it in place. And just like that, you’re donning an old-world charm.

With these methods in your style arsenal, you’re ready to sport your cowboy neckerchief with flair and finesse. Go on and turn some heads!


Cowboy neckerchiefs, far from just a nod to the Wild West, have cemented their place as timeless pieces in fashion and function.

Their versatility shines through, allowing wearers to transition effortlessly from a day at the ranch to an evening outing, all while making a bold statement. It’s an accessory that pays homage to its rugged roots and effortlessly fits into modern-day styles.

Choosing the right neckerchief might seem daunting, but it’s all about finding what resonates with you. The material you select ensures your comfort and protection. Cotton, silk, wool, or flannel?

Your choice ultimately boils down to your preference and the setting you’re wearing it in. Moreover, with the myriad of colors and patterns available, a neckerchief perfectly encapsulates your unique style and personality.

The cowboy neckerchief is more than just fabric tied around the neck; it’s a piece of history, a symbol of individualism, and a testament to adaptability. As you wear or choose your next neckerchief, remember its rich legacy and wear it with pride.

Whether you’re channeling your inner cowboy or just looking for that stylish accessory to complete your look, the cowboy neckerchief has got you covered, quite literally!


1. Why did cowboys start wearing neckerchiefs in the first place?

Initially, the primary purpose of the neckerchief was functional rather than fashionable. Cowboys wore them to protect against the harsh elements of the American West, like dust, wind, and the blazing sun. Neckerchiefs were handy for wiping away sweat, covering the mouth and nose from dust storms, and even as makeshift slings or tourniquets in emergencies.

2. Are neckerchiefs only for men?

Not! While the cowboy image is often male-centric, women of the Wild West, known as cowgirls, also wore neckerchiefs. Today, men and women don these versatile accessories for practical purposes on the ranch or as a stylish statement piece.

3. How do I care for and clean my cowboy neckerchief?

It largely depends on the material. Cotton and flannel neckerchiefs can typically be machine-washed in cold water and then air-dried to prevent shrinkage. Hand washing or dry cleaning is often recommended for silk or wool variants. Always check the care label or consult the manufacturer’s guidelines.

4. Can I wear a cowboy neckerchief even if I’m not a cowboy or cowgirl?

Of course! Cowboy neckerchiefs have transcended their Western roots and can be spotted in various fashion scenes worldwide. They’re versatile and can be paired with numerous casual and semi-formal outfits.

5. Are there modern variations of the cowboy neckerchief available?

Yes, the cowboy neckerchief has inspired many contemporary takes. Today, you can find them in various fabrics, patterns, and styles, including those with modern prints or made from sustainable materials. Designers sometimes incorporate elements of the traditional cowboy neckerchief into contemporary fashion collections, proving its enduring appeal.

My name is Brandon J. Nava, and I consider myself an expert on the cowboy lifestyle. I regularly attend events at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) am I am a member of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA). I've participated in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo or the Pendleton Round-Up and I aspire to be awarded by the American Horse Council or the United States Equestrian Federation in the near future. In addition I've visited lectures and educational programs at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.