How To Be A Mail Order Cowboy

Let's face it: Americans wannabe cowboys. Or at least they want to look like them. From the Marlboro Man to Ralph Lauren, Western wear never goes out of style. "It may be the only true American fashion," says Steven Weil, vice-president of Rockmount Ranch Wear, whose grandfather designed the snap-front Western shirt.

The easiest way to order up a cowboy wardrobe is through wish books -- mail-order catalogs to you city slickers. But if you want to look like the real McCoy, keep a few things in mind.

First, the glitzy, rhinestone-studded, urban-cowboy look is out. Authentic is in. Farmers wear Lee jeans, civilians sport Levi's, and cowboys don Wranglers (Sheplers, $30) -- starched, ironed, and a couple of inches too long so the pant legs won't hike up over the boot tops in the saddle. Cowgirls wear Wranglers or Rocky Mountain Jeans (Miller Stockman, $52). Also, avoid yellow, which has been been bad luck ever since a rider in a yellow shirt was killed in a Cheyenne rodeo years ago.

CLASSY HEADGEAR. In the old days, a hat told all. Donning a dome crown with a wide brim (Old West Outfitters, $170) meant you were from Texas or the Southwest. Older ranchers still wear the "LBJ" Stetson (Cheyenne Outfitters, $90). The classiest headgear today is a replica of Buffalo Bill Cody's beaver hat with ribbon-bound brim, custom- made (Museum Selections, $650).

Everyday cowboys prefer low-heeled, round-toed "roper" boots (Drysdales, $90) or laced work boots (Drysdales, $100). Nobody said cowboys had to be boring, so high-heeled, pointy-toed boots are popular, too. Among them: a black, white, and brown leaf design favored by Robert Redford (Sundance, $185).

Southern cowboys wear collarless shirts (Miller Stockman, $49); Northern wranglers like the bib variety because the extra material adds warmth and doubles as a washcloth (Old West Outfitters, $50). The traditional snap-front starts at $10 (Cheyenne Outfitters).

You can also buy a storekeeper's derby (Old West Outfitters, $265), a Gene Autry "Always Your Pal" T-shirt (Museum Store, $17), and the kind of slicker worn in Billy Crystal's City Slickers (Old West Outfitters, $200). Real cowboys wouldn't be caught dead in those duds, but urban ones might get a kick out of them.

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