Because you have enough polo shirts for one lifetime. Live a little.
Sometimes you just need a little bit of luxe attitude in your wardrobe, am I right? Personally, I just can’t do even the friendliest, stretchiest choker shirts even one more second than I have to; at recognized events when I have no other choice, the last thing I do before I go in the ring is snap up my choker, and it’s the first thing I take off when I get back to the barn aisle. At unrated shows, the polo is the classic go-to, but does it have to be?
I’m always on the hunt for a classy, unique alternative when I’m riding in schooling shows or clinics and I need to look nice but not be in a show shirt and coat. That was precisely what drew me to the CR Ranchwear shirts, which are making huge waves in the western show world. They’re classy, almost obsessively well-made, provide an amazing fit and silhouette, and they are made to last. My kind of shirt.
I chose a stunning deep purple blouse with beige houndstooth accents that I thought would pair nicely with beige breeches. It arrived quickly, and when I took it out of the packaging, a few things immediately grabbed my attention:
- The Fabric. The imported italian cotton that they use in most of their prints is noticeably superior to, well, basically anything I’ve ever worn. The solid purple picked up the sun with this marvelous but subtle sheen that perfectly captures that mix of class and personality I’m always after.
- The Lines. I like mixing western shirts with my english wardrobe (I mean, I’m from Utah, the land of PRCA champions. I deserve a little twang in my life), but usually the women’s shirts just don’t fit me very well. So often they feel like men’s shirts they just darted in a little in the waist. Not these. Before I even had it on, it was clear, these shirts were made with a woman’s body in mind.
- The Workmanship. How many times have you ordered a shirt and immediately had to resew a couple buttons you knew wouldn’t last through your first warm-up? It happens to be all the time. These buttons are double-reinforced from the get-go, and it shows. Those suckers weren’t going anywhere. Made for barrel racers, tough enough for hunters. That’s all I’m saying.
I tried the shirt on and was really pleased with the length – I have a pretty average torso, but I still find my usual tuck-in shirts just won’t stay tucked. This had plenty of extra length to keep those tails down in your britches where they belong.
It was very flattering to my figure. Slimming at the waist, generous in the chest, absolutely perfect shoulder width, and really generous in the arms so I never have to worry about my cuffs ending up at my elbow.
The cuffs are magnificently sturdy and expensive-looking. Buttoned down or up, they looked very professional, and the choice of combining the houndstooth and violet was simply genius. I never would have imagined up such a combo myself, but it was so darling in person. And again, the cuff buttons were super snug.
I took a decent ride in it on a charming 97-degree August day, and it took the beating like a pro. Was it the most breathable thing I’ve ever worn on a horse? No. But the cotton was definitely doing its job of wicking away moisture effectively and it looked great at the end of a long ride.
Then I took it home, tossed it in the washing machine with all my other dark gentle stuff and tumbled it on low air, and it looked BRAND NEW. Low maintenance luxury is definitely my cup of tea.
I decided to have a junior dressage rider put it to the test under the grueling sun and pressure of training for regional championships, and not only did it hold up great in appearance and performance throughout her lesson, but both she and her trainer loved the shirt.
“I would absolutely show at unrated shows or upper level clinics in one of those shirts,” said trainer Sydni Nusink. “It’s a great way to stand out and still look professional.”
In the hunter/jumper ring, a bold button-down blouse is completely acceptable attire for shows or classes that call for “Standard Attire.” (You can read more about these rules here.) It’s a great way to switch things up from the boring old polo and show off some personal style. They have long term plans to break into the english market with choker shirts, and when they do, we’ll be sure to let you know!
They have numerous great options with an english flair on their site; I particularly liked these styles for the english rings, but there were plenty to choose from:
Sizing: It’s very important to know they run big, and they say as much on their site. I’m a medium/large generally, and they recommended I pop down to the small, which I did. I carry a little weight at the waist, (is it still considered baby weight if my baby is a 2-year-old? Let’s pretend it does.) which meant I probably would have done alright with the medium, but the model we used for these photos is a dependable small, and she could have definitely done with the XS.
Investment: These shirts are not your average show blouse. They’re made to last, made at a local Texas factory by valued employees, and made out of exceptional material. That puts the price point at between $169 – $189. They’re expensive, to be sure, but they’ll outlast any other western shirt on the market practically by dog years, so it really is an investment in something you love.
Customer Service: I’ve never bought from a nicer company. They’re a small, family-owned business that started making shirts to fill a hole in the western market for people who “are tired of boxy plaid shirts” as the owner, Rhea Scott Follett, put it to me when we spoke. As it happens, they might also fill a hole in the english market for people tired of generic white polo shirts!
Many thanks to Ellie Blackwelder for letting me invade her regionals prep and Prestige Dressage for being the perfect backdrop for photos!