The sales of Western shirts have increased 500% in the last year," says Marvin Pooley of H Bar C Ranch-wear, "even though 80% of the men buying them have never been near a horse." But such illogic doesn't seem to matter; a lot of men who wear polo shirts wouldn't know a mallet from a mashie. For whatever reason, Western shirts are loose upon the land, perhaps proving the old suspicion that there is a little bit of cowboy in everybody. One of the newest designers in the game has a whole lot of cowboy in him: last March, Larry Mahan, six-time World Champion All-Around Cowboy, got together with the Madman Shirt Company in Los Angeles to whip up 30 shirts that will be called Larry Mahan's Wild West. "They are authentic," he insists. "To stay tucked in, they have extra-long shirttails and they have seven buttons instead of six. We put them through the cowboy's torture test, even got them hung up on some bulls. Chances are that you can break up your body—but at least your shirt still stays in one piece."
Champion cowboy Mahan wears one of his own Wild West shirts at top center. The double yoke, he says, shields against the sun.
The railbirds at far left wear various working shirts, while at center freestyle skier Bill O'Leary cycles away in a more expensive, leather-trimmed model custom-made by Duffy Lyon.
An oldtime favorite among rodeo riders was revived by Mahan (above). "Friends are always borrowing shirts," he says. "Sometimes I get them back with six different laundry marks."
Satin shirts like the one Mahan is wearing at far left are more than just fancy. "I had a friend ride a bull wearing one," he says, "and he claims it is bull-repellent. The critter tried to hook him and the horns just slid right off. Didn't even mark up the shirt."
Maybe his Wild West predecessor wouldn't have been shot dead in one, but former Olympic racer Billy Kidd (center) fancies satin cowboy shirts, all of them custom-made by his wife, for Colorado spring skiing. A real Cowboy, Dallas running back Calvin Hill (left), gets in the swing with a Mahan-designed model cut with extra-long sleeves to provide more give.
WALTER IOOSS JR.