So if you haven’t been following along, please allow me to summarize our winter thus far: cold, mud, snow, repeat. Not kidding. It’s been one of the coldest, wettest – and therefore muddiest – winters we’ve had and because we raise cattle, the farmer hubs is outside everyday checking our mother and baby cows. He loves this part of the job but the work doesn’t come without a hefty amount of wet and dirty clothing that finds its way into my home and then my washing machine. If you’ve ever met a farm wife you know how important a good washing machine is to handing the dirt that comes from farming.
But what ends up on my laundry room floor is a far cry from what I see people dress in when they want to look like a farmer. So let me give you a glimpse into what a 21st Century farmer does wear . . . and just a hint, the often-cited American Gothic image gets it all wrong.
I’ll skip the first layer . . . but the second is always jeans. Even when it’s 110 degrees outside, the farmer hubs always has on jeans. He likes simple jeans – no logos, fancy pockets or colored stitching. Just plain blue jeans you can find at the farm supply store. And absolutely no holes in his jeans. They drive him crazy. Thank goodness my mom is a master jean patcher. Jeans seem to be the one staple across all parts of farming. You’re hard pressed to find another piece of clothing as adaptable, durable and affordable to withstand hours of hard, dirty work each day.
And no, there are no overalls in this house – never has been, never will be.
On the top my hubs always wears a button up shirt – with a pocket and collar, same as his dad and his dad’s dad. Why a button up and not a t-shirt? A few reasons: (1) the pocket is important, especially now that he carries a cell phone; (2) buttons can be undone when it gets super hot; and (3) farmers end up in town and in meetings a lot so while they may have grease on their hands, at least they look somewhat put together.
If you want to know where the saying “farmer’s tan” comes from, allow me to explain. During the summer months my husband’s upper arms while be pasty white while his lower arms are as tan as can be because the sleeves on his button-up shirt usually come to his elbow. Add to that a tan neck and the “V” that forms at the top of a slightly unbuttoned shirt and you have a “farmer’s tan.”
Then at the very top is the hat – always a hat. But not a cowboy hat (that’s for special occasions) just an old baseball hat. We have 1 million hats in our house because every seed company, coop and animal health company gives the hubs a hat so there is always one laying around to throw on. The hat keeps the sun out of his eyes and off his head.
When the weather gets cold, the layers come on. My husband has become a big fan of quarter-zip sweatshirts (not hoodies, never hoodies on the farm) and then a sturdy coat if the weather requires such. These coats are by no means pretty (or really all that clean). But they keep him warm, have pockets for his gloves and random tools and can withstand the wet and wind. At any given time the farmer hubs’ coat has pieces of cow poop, mud, oil, grease and then more mud on it. That’s why farmers wear cotton duck coats that have thick linings, sturdy zippers and can be thrown in the wash.
Probably the most important part of any farmer’s outfit is the shoes – or boots in our case. My husband’s everyday work boots are plain brown and built for work – not play. They carry a dollar figure that rivals my most expensive running shoes but he spends up to 18 hours a day in them so they are worth the investment. Boot technology has come a long way and many brands use the same insole and arch support technology found in tennis shoes. Good boots are essential for happy farmers.
When we get mud or wet conditions, the Muck boots come out. These are calf-high water-proof boots that keep the feet warm and dry. Regular boots just don’t cut it in moisture and keeping your feet dry is key to staying warm in the winter. Again, these aren’t cheap but they are essential for navigating water, mud and cold.
My husband doesn’t put a lot of thought into what he wears everyday but like most farmers, he moves from the pickup to the tractor to the coop office and back to the feed truck, all in one day. That means his clothing has to be durable and adaptable.