There are a few livestock shows that have a required dress code to try and level the playing field when it comes to attire. These dress codes try to prevent unintentionally influencing judges by having exhibitors appear in as similar attire as possible. Some provide a shirt, require some type of official dress, or certain colors of clothing to be worn. This can help, but other accessories and personal style choices can still cause a judge to be swayed. Why? As people, we are drawn to things that are familiar to us, like style of clothing. If the exhibitor dresses in a manner the judge sees as familiar, it can be a positive for the exhibitor. Styles that seem unfamiliar or even odd to the judge can make a negative impression.
How should an exhibitor dress? Here are basic guidelines of styles for young ladies and men that would not create a bad impression.
- Top - The preferred top would be a long sleeve button up shirt. It is sometimes a little harder to find these for young ladies, so shop early or online. These shirts need to be pressed and wrinkle free. Tops with straps, exposed shoulders, off the shoulders, too loose, too tight or too flowing would be distracting. I would further suggest any extras, like fringe and sequence, be limited. They can be distracting to your animal. For example, I have seen goats and lambs chewing on shirt fringe!
- Pants - For most shows, a clean, wrinkle free pair of dark color jeans in new condition is best. No holes, rips or excessively faded ones. They should fit appropriately, not too tight, not baggy either.
- Shoes - Closed toed, leather shoes like boots, chukkas or other sturdy footwear are best. Mainly it provides safety from livestock stepping on your toes, but also provides proper traction while walking in the show ring. Now they do not have to be plain, but they must be clean and in good condition.
- Accessories - Belts, jewelry and other accessories may be included in your personal style. Be sure that these items do not cause added distraction or cause problems when showing.
- Hair - Up, out of the face with hairpins, clips, pony tails, ribbons or headbands. Young ladies who are constantly having to move hair out of their face are distracting, especially those who like to flip their hair by hand, or by flipping their head. Hair up can also be cooler to the exhibitor as the stress and work of exhibiting in the show ring tends to make you feel hot.
- Cosmetics - This is a very personal choice, but the point I will make is be sure makeup or other cosmetics are not distracting.
- Top - The preferred is a full button up, long sleeve shirt. Make sure they are pressed and wrinkle free. In certain situations it could be a golf style shirt with a collar, but No T-shirts Ever!
- Pants - Clean, wrinkle free pair of dark color jeans, without any holes, rips or excessive wear are the best. Fit should also be appropriate. No extra tight or extra baggy jeans.
- Shoes - Closed toed, leather shoes like boots, chukkas or other sturdy footwear are best. Again they provided safety from livestock stepping on your toes, and proper traction in the show ring. Make sure they are clean and in good condition.
- Accessories - Belts, jewelry and other accessories may also be included in your personal style. Hat, ball cap, or cowboy hat, should not be part of a youth exhibitors style. Hats can cover the face similar to the way hair in the face can.
- Hair - Keep it neat and out of the face as well. Young men are not as particular sometimes about hair, but hat hair is not the best either. Take time to groom, brush, comb or whatever is necessary to look presentable. For older exhibitors, this also includes grooming facial hair.
If you wonder what styles are being worn in the show ring, take time to look through a livestock show magazine or watch a youth livestock show online. No matter where in the country you show, styles will be similar. Take note on what you like and make it work for you. Just make sure it is appropriate, clean and not distracting. The best source for style tips might be the top senior showmanship girls and guys in your community. You do not need to perfectly copy their style, but they can show you what they wear and give some good peer to peer advice.
Thanks to JoLynn Midcap, Extension Associate in Yuma County, Colorado and Kindra Plumb, Extension Associate in Philips County, Colorado for their input on this post as 4-H leaders and show moms.
Kit Carson County
Golden Plains Area
Colorado State University Extension