Cowboys of the West primarily worked on cattle drives and ranches created to fill the demand for beef after the Civil War ended. Cowboys' iconic clothing often served multiple functions.
Cowboy culture began to flourish as large ranches in Texas in 1866, also known as the era of the open range. The Union Army had depleted the nation's beef supply and ranches owners were eager to move their cattle and beef to the large urban centers of the North.
Sedalia, Missouri was one of the first primary destinations for cattle drives. Other destinations include rail stations in Kansas and North Texas. However, when attack by natives and bandits threatened the herds, new destinations in Cattle towns such as Abilene and Dodge City became better options.
Cowboys were young men from many different backgrounds including African Americans and Hispanics. Their clothing was highly functional and included high-crowned hats with wide rims, that were used for protection from the elements and useful as a cup with which to scoop up water. They could also be folded to be used as a pillow. Vests also became an integral part of a cowboy's attire because it protected from weather and had many useful pockets.