How to dress the part at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Houston’s status as cowboy country was sealed with the release of Urban Cowboy in 1980. Although Gilley’s, the iconic honky tonk with the mechanical bull from the film is long gone, every February H-Town returns to its cowtown roots with the yearly Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This annual event runs from February 25-March 17, 2019 with concerts, chuckwagon races, and a carnivore-heavy menu. But please don’t attempt boot-scooting in a pair of Chuck Taylors. Locals and visitors all want to look the part when it’s mutton bustin’ time in Houston. Here’s a round-up of where to shop for Western wear with a sense of place. Many of these stores are locally-owned businesses or have Texas roots but all will treat you like family. And you can shop ‘til you drop at the Houston Rodeo too with more than 300 vendors offering a heavy dose of rodeo retail therapy.
Top Picks for You
Casa Ramirez, a Mexican folk art gallery in the historic Heights neighborhood of Houston, carries a colorful selection of oilcloth bags in floral prints, embroidered blouses from Chiapas and Oaxaca, and rebozos–a traditional garment used like a shawl or a wrap. Fans of Lonesome Dove by Texan author, Larry McMurtry, can sport a straw hat named after the character Gus that’s handcrafted from palm leaves in Guatemala and bears the signature of the weaver inside each hat.
INSIDER TIPThe husband and wife who own Casa Ramirez always have a plate of polvorones de canelé (cinnamon cookies) to welcome shoppers.
Leon Western Wear
Tejano music fills this family-owned shop where you can find charro boots–a style originating in Mexico that’s an ankle boot worn by horsemen. You can also find a great deal on those impossibly pointy boots, aka botas picudas, that are now more fad than fashion. Shelves of Wranglers and plenty of kidswear are available at Leon Western Wear, including hobby horses for budding cowpokes.
INSIDER TIPThe Houston Rodeo’s Go Tejano Day includes a Mariachi band showdown with a competition between five professional Mariachi groups from Texas.
Like the storied shoemaking dynasty Ferragamo, Lucchese has Italian roots but this family business settled in San Antonio. Founded in 1883 by Sam Lucchese, the first boots were made for the cavalry at Fort Sam Houston and then made famous by John Wayne and LBJ. Now, this luxe bootmaker, known for a proprietary twisted-cone last (a foot-shaped form used to build the boot) and soft cream cow linings, outfits the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and the brand’s own polo team. The sophisticated boutique in Houston’s Highland Village shopping center is their second location in the state.
Maida’s Belts and Buckles
Every buckle tells a story at Maida’s Belts and Buckles where belt-making has been in the family blood since 1906. Handcrafted belts made from exotic skins to solid gold engraved buckles are on display along with money clips, bolo ties, and turquoise jewelry. Commissioned pieces are commonplace for an instant heirloom or souvenir with soul. The shop also offers complimentary belt conditioning and buckle shines with security provided by an African parrot named Nelson.
More of a living room than a showroom, Manready Mercantile has a bar cart with a bottle of Four Roses open for customers to pair with beef jerky samples. Pick out pocket squares and bandanas for a dapper take on cowboy style. Manly scents from cologne to candles are for sale plus single malt and bourbon- flavored toothpicks which come in handy when you’re finishing off a turkey leg at the Houston Rodeo.
My Flaming Heart
My Flaming Heart owner and clothing designer, Judy Masliyah, whips up looks featuring rockabilly flair in quirky prints ranging from senoritas to buddhas. Her eclectic designs all share a yesteryear vibe with halter style dresses for women, Western snap shirts for men, and pint-sized options for the young ones. Browse her collection of vintage cowboy boots, beads, charms, and amulets for one-of-a-kind accessories.
INSIDER TIPShop for classic country and western albums at nearby record shop, Sig’s Lagoon, where the walls are covered in Texas music history.
Outback Western Wear
City slickers will have to travel about an hour to visit Outback Western Wear, an 8,500-square-foot shop sandwiched between the Houston suburbs of Magnolia, Tomball, and the Woodlands. With a keg of beer on tap and Crown Royal for big spenders, it’s well worth the road trip. Along with an expansive inventory of western apparel and boots, the shop also offers blinging services for those who prefer added sparkle. In April, the shop hosts dance lessons where you can learn to do the Texas two-step and the western polka.
Pinto Ranch is the Rodeo Drive of rodeo attire, boasting the largest handmade boot inventory in the United States. The original flagship location on swanky Post Oak Boulevard has its own in-house saddle shop so you can outfit your horse as well. Old-fashioned boot and shoe shines are also offered here.
INSIDER TIPThere’s a Pinto Ranch outpost at Bush Intercontinental Airport for those who decide to cowboy up before their flight.
Paris Texas Apparel Co.
This shop specializes in a preppy take on western wear for a casual Lone Star look. Sartorial choices at Paris Texas Apparel Co. include Texas-inspired t-shirts, button-downs named after downtown Houston streets, and socks patterned with oil derricks and longhorns. There’s an open fridge full of beers and Topo Chico to sip on while surveying a glass-encased diorama of the Alamo.
INSIDER TIPThe Houston Rodeo isn’t just about beer drinking. The Rodeo hosts an International Wine Competition, auction, and the Champion Wine Garden where you can listen to live music and order from a menu of more than 70 wines.
Republic Boot Company
Texas music greats like Robert Earl Keen and Gary P. Nunn have had their boots made at Republic Boot Company and so can you. Take a seat underneath the massive longhorn trophy steer and the shop’s master bootmakers will customize a pair to your liking. Popular motifs include dueling Texas alma maters, University of Texas and Texas A & M University, as well as beloved Texas symbols like the yellow rose and the Whataburger logo.
After the holidays, the mannequins posing in the window at Retropolis discard their tacky Christmas sweaters and don denim and gingham prints to signal the start of Houston Rodeo season. Vintage cowboy boots line the stairs of this two-story secondhand clothing co-op where you can hunt for leather fringe vests, faded jeans, and retro pearl snap shirts.
The Hat Store
This Houston institution is the hatmaker to the hitmakers of country music like Clint Black, ZZ Top, and Merle Haggard who are all past performers at the Houston Rodeo. The Hat Store offers steaming and shaping services on request and sound advice from experts on keeping your headgear in mint condition. You can also accent your hat with their unique hatbands featuring hearts and horned toads (a native Texas species that’s actually a lizard!).