Preparing for the show – stepping your way into success with proper clothing

Dress for success while showing your 4-H animal project. Follow this news article series to prepare for your successful show ring experience.

The show ring is not a style show: find out what to wear when exhibiting livestock. Photo credit: Michigan Pork Producers Association
The show ring is not a style show: find out what to wear when exhibiting livestock. Photo credit: Michigan Pork Producers Association

Being ready to walk into the show ring for a jackpot show or fair involves more than just having your animal with you. The Michigan State University Extension “Preparing for the show” series is a four article series that helps youth become better prepared to walk into the ring and have a successful experience. This is the fourth article in a series which focuses on preparation and the three C’s about preparing for the show: cleanliness, confidence and clothing.

The show ring is not a style show. Although bling seems to be finding its way onto show halters, show harnesses, show sticks, jeans, shirts and so much more - your preparation will take you farther than a few rhinestones, so be sure to plan ahead for proper show ring attire.

As mentioned in Stepping your way into success with cleanliness, reading the rules for the event you are exhibiting at ahead of time is essential. For some shows and events, the rules will tell you exactly what is allowable in terms of clothing. In those cases, there is no exception; you need to follow the rules.

However, most fairs and shows do not have a dress code for livestock and as a result, a lot of variation can be found. As a rule of thumb when entering the show ring, you should be dressed in a clean, appealing and practical outfit but it does not have to be costly. Showing animals is expensive enough; you don’t need to add an additional financial burden in the clothing you are wearing.

In regards to show ring attire, I have four basic recommendations.

  1. Jeans. While jeans that look well-worn or have small holes may be stylish, when you are showing animals your jeans should be a solid color and not have holes. Since you are working with animals, dark jeans are recommended as they tend to hide more accidents that could happen at the fair. More importantly, having pants cut at the proper length is critical for safety when moving with the animal.
  2. Collared shirt. Whether a polo or a button down, a collared shirt makes you and your animal look more professional. The length of the sleeve should be determined by the comfort level of the exhibitor and the temperature of the show ring. Solid or plaid shirts are acceptable.
  3. Boots. Safety is the most important reason for wearing boots. Additionally, they will keep debris off of your skin while walking in an arena and the barn area. If possible, make sure to clean your boots before entering the show ring to look more professional.
  4. Belt. Belts keep things in place and provide a nice finished look to your show ring attire.

Remember, you are showing your animal, not you. To allow you to do this, make sure to keep your hair out of your face so you can make eye contact with the judge. Additionally, make sure to remove your baseball hat and spit out your gum before entering the show ring. On a final note, make sure to silence your phone or better yet, give it to someone else, to avoid the embarrassment of your phone ringing when you are in show ring. For additional show clothing attire recommendations, consider reading Rachel Cutrer’s blog about Proper Cattle Showmanship Attire.

Looking for more information on how to prepare for the show? Part1: Practicing, 2: Cleanliness and 3: Confidence in this series will further explore the three most common questions in relation to getting you and your animal ready for the show. Best of luck on your showing experience!

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