Finding a good pair of jeans is the sartorial equivalent of locking down a best friend. Both should be trusty, long-lasting, and supportive no matter what. Once you find one, it’s for life. In honor of Cowgirl Couture season, we talked to four real-life barrel racers about their go-to denim for ELLE.com’s latest installment of Unexpected Expert.
In barrel racing—which is widely considered rodeo’s slickest event, and also one of its most dangerous—riders steer their horses at lighting speeds in a cloverleaf pattern around barrels. Though men are allowed to compete at amateur levels, the sport is almost exclusively a women’s event. It takes precision and finesse, strength and swiftness. Winners are determined by just thousandths of a second, so feeling good in the saddle can make or break your performance. That means wearing jeans that are non-chafing, durable, and, above all, comfortable. Here’s what real-life rodeo queens had to say about their favorite jeans. Read more about Cowgirl Couture here.
Kanesha Jackson, 33
My favorite pair jeans are the Wrangler trouser jeans. They are super comfortable for everyday wear or when I compete in the rodeo. A good pair of rodeo jeans should have a flexible, stretchy material. That makes it more comfortable to ride when your jeans adjust to whether you are sitting or standing. My advice when it come to picking out good non-chaffing jeans is to test them out while squatting down. There should be no uncomfortable rubbing or lower belly pressure that would make it uncomfortable while riding.
Amberley Snyder, 31
My favorite pair of jeans are the Lynden by Cinch. I want jeans to stretch with me, be long enough to cover my legs and boots, and stay up on my hips. How important is comfort versus style when it comes to racing jeans? Luckily, with Lyndens, I get both, so I can say comfort and style are both important—and possible.
Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 38
My favorite jeans are made by Stetson, and my favorite style are the 816 classic boot cut. These jeans are great for riding. They also look great to wear out of the arena. The quality of denim is very important, so that the jeans don’t ride up, chafe, or wear out quickly when riding. Having just the right thickness is also a must. With Stetson, you get both comfort and style. I never have to change my jeans in or out of the arena. Having a pair of jeans made by someone in the Western industry is very important, because they know what goes into making a comfortable and lasting product.
Megan Wilson, 29
I live in my Guess super-high wide leg jeans. I have four pairs, because they’re the perfect length and rise with no waist gap. I try not to wear belts, so finding a pair with no waist gap is a big deal to me. The Guess jeans are soft, but durable. I don’t like having to think about keeping my pants up or working harder to move my legs to cue my horse. Safety first! I like extra length to help keep my pant legs down while riding. They also make my legs look longer when I put my boots on.
Comfort is so important to me. I’m an athlete, and at the end of the day, as much as I want to look nice, being able to move and cue my horse efficiently and effectively is a priority. I usually cycle my good jeans to everyday jeans once they’ve been worn a bunch. Jeans that are uncomfortable take away from the focus that I should be putting on my horses. When I’m picking jeans, I do the squat test and practice a leg lift—if you know, you know!—in the fitting room. I think jeans should be able to fit and stay up without wearing a belt, because belt buckles can get hung up on the saddle horn. I know it seems small, but I think about any added weight I can eliminate as a jockey, and that includes belt buckles. Shop outside of Western brands to find a good fit if you need to. Find brands that understand and market to your body type.
The feel of my denim is important. I practice in the same comfort level of jean that I ride in. That way, you can mimic the feel of a competition ride at home. Be practical. It’s not really worth it to worry about anything other than your riding during the 15 seconds you have in the arena. It’s only fair to your horse to be consistent.
Rose is a Senior Editor at ELLE overseeing features and projects about women’s issues. She is an accomplished and compassionate storyteller and editor who excels in obtaining exclusive interviews and unearthing compelling features.