Cowboy style glasses and other accessories: from the 1800s to 2023

Ever since the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and 70s, cowboys have been cool. While these stylized figures may not have been the most authentic representations of vintage old Wild West cowboys, they captured the public’s imagination, propelling actors such as Clint Eastwood to ongoing mega-stardom.

The cowboy look has gone in an out of fashion over time, with cowboy boots, retro cowboy-style sunglasses, and ponchos trending regularly in the last few decades. But how similar are some of the accessories we most associate with authentic cowboys to their real counterparts? We find out more below.

Authentic cowboy glasses

Back in the 1800s, there were many risks involved in being a cowboy. Not least of these were the hazards of working in harsh, desert-like terrain all day. The relentless sun could easily bring on heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Being outside in the glaring sunshine all day could also risk damaging the eyes. Due to this, even back in the early 19th century, cowboys would sometimes wear store-bought sunglasses. Back in those days, the lenses tended to be dark blue, black, or green, and the thin metal frames could be round or even hexagon or octagonal. These early sunglasses weren’t worn with an eye (excuse the pun) on fashion – they were purely practical tools to help cowboys get on with their tasks more comfortably.

When store-bought sunglasses weren’t available, it was common for cowboys to fashion their own DIY eye protection using broken glass from medicine or beer bottles.

Modern cowboy glasses for 2023

Today, the ‘cowboy’ look has evolved, and this includes eyewear, which has come a long way since the days of cobbling it together with broken beer bottles! Now, cowboy styles of glasses tend to refer to aviator-style frames with metal rims and a distinctive double bar bridge, making for a stylish, classic look that’s a little different from other types of eyewear.

This style usually features narrow arms and a durable metal frame and incorporates clear plastic nose pads. They’re also widely available as sunglasses, and a wide range of tinted (as well as prescription) lenses can be set into cowboy-style frames. Have a look at the Glasses USA website for a range of retro cowboy-look frames and other classic styles.

In general, this type of frame incorporates lenses that are about two to three times the size of the wearer’s eye socket, have hooked temples behind the ears, and a curve that roughly follows the shape of the wearer’s cheekbones.

Will cowboy-style glasses suit me?

This type of frame is teardrop-shaped, like aviator sunglasses, meaning that it’ll suit most face shapes, but will look particularly great on those with angular face shapes, such as square, diamond, and triangle.

Those with round or heart-shaped face shapes can still find frames in this style to suit them; however: look for a version that features temple tips or any additional element that adds an angle to the frames. In general, the type of glasses that’ll best suit your face shape are those that contrast with the shape of your face rather than mirror it.

Did cowboys really wear bandanas?

As well as the synonymous boots and wide-brimmed hat, cowboys from the old Wild West are always represented as wearing a bandana. Did they really sport this accessory? And why?

The answer is yes! For cowboys in the Wild West, bandanas formed part of regular, day-to-day wear; but this didn’t have anything to do with making a fashion statement. Bandanas actually formed a vital part of their survival kit. The humble bandana had many uses, from forming a makeshift tourniquet in the event of an injury to being used to clean a firearm. Cowboys also used bandanas to gauge wind direction, hobble a pack animal, or even as a DIY filter to make a rough and ready sort of coffee.

What about chaps?

Yep, real-life cowboys wore these, too. Given that they spent the majority of their days outside and on horseback, cowboys needed protection for their legs which could withstand pretty much anything! Chaps first appeared all the way back in the 1500s, when the Spanish began to drive cattle regularly up through modern-day Mexico.

The word chaps originates from the Spanish term ‘chaparreras,’ which translates roughly as ‘for the brush.’

Getting the 2023 cowboy look

While you may not be herding cattle on the high planes for a living, there are plenty of ways to adopt both the vintage cowboy style and that made famous by stars such as Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns of the 70s.

A great-fitting pair of blue denim jeans is your foundation. Team the jeans with a simple shirt in a neutral shade, and add some minimalist accessories made from natural materials, like a leather thong bracelet or necklace, or a shaped stone pendant. If you’re feeling brave, add a pair of cowboy boots to your outfit!

It’s the glasses that will really finish the look: opt for either aviator or the similarly-styled ‘cowboy’ frames, which feature a double bridge bar and thin metal rims, for perfect vintage cowboy styling with a contemporary twist!