Imagine the New York Yankees breaking out an updated version of their classic pinstripes, the gold standard of sports uniforms that have adorned the likes of Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter across two centuries.
Then you'll understand the historic significance of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the rodeo organization staging the Super Bowl of rodeos in Las Vegas through Saturday, giving its endorsement to the first new pair of PRCA-sanctioned Wrangler jeans being worn by rodeo competitors since 1947.
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo has served as a coming out party for Wrangler's new cowboy rodeo jeans, officially known as "Competition Jean, Style #01."
The PRCA sanctioned Wrangler's cowboy cut jeans, "13MWZ," as the first official pro rodeo jeans 65 years ago. The 13MWZ, which stands for the jeans' 13th prototype and "Men's Western Zipper," is still worn by some rodeo stars.
Wrangler, which spent 18 months developing the new Competition jeans, rolled out the new PRCA-endorsed product because it was time to give the 1947 jeans a more fashion-forward look while re-calibrating the fit to accommodate an athlete with bigger thighs.
The Competition model has a 21st century look marked by a lower-riding waist, an extra-relaxed seat and thigh and a wider opening at the ankle to fit over boots.
"It has a looser fit, but not too loose," said rodeo superstar Trevor Brazile, of Decatur, Texas, the sport's Michael Jordan who has worn the Competition during the NFR. The ten-day rodeo ends Saturday night.
The Competition also offers a feature not needed in 1947 - a cell phone pocket. The jean, a member of the Wrangler 20X Collection, retails for about $40.
"It's designed for athletes but inspirational for everyone," said Phil McAdams, president of Greensboro, N.C.-based Wrangler, which is owned by VF Corp.
Not only did the PRCA sanction the new Competition model for the major leagues of rodeo, but Wrangler is also marketing the jeans to a 21-39 male demographic that the brand has identified as the "New Cowboy." McAdams said Wrangler is targeting "part-time cowboys with a young attitude" who might have a regular job during the week and compete in rodeos on the weekends.
It's a jean that also appeals to all athletes - not just rodeo stars, Wrangler officials said.
"We wanted to refine the jeans for athletic builds," said Jeff Chadwick, Wrangler Special Events director. "We try to come out with innovative products. Plus, the pro rodeo is strong and we haven't had an updated PRCA logo jean since 1947 and we wanted to take advantage of our licensing agreement."
Wrangler sells the highest number of jeans in the market, while Levi's has the highest dollar volume in the category, Chadwick said
After testing the new jeans on NFR competitors and drawing feedback from the rodeo competitors last year, Wrangler debuted the Competition model in July and it hit retail shelves in September.
But the Western wear apparel brand stepped up its marketing of the new jeans during the NFR because the rodeo is a high-profile Western event that's ideal to spotlight the new sanctioned product, Chadwick said.
"This is our big launch. We're advertising the jeans at the biggest Western athletic lifestyle event in the country," McAdams said. "We have the stage at the biggest event to do this."
The Competition is featured on a male model at the NFR events at Thomas & Mack Arena and in signs posted at places such as the Las Vegas Convention Center, The Mirage and MGM Grand.
The key card at South Point even has a picture of rodeo bareback-riding star Kaycee Feild wearing the new Competition jeans - a marketing ploy that thrilled the 25-year-old Feild.
"I never pictured myself wearing the jeans on a room key or on a poster," Feild said, noting he wears the Competition for two weeks straight before he washes them. "The jeans are designed for competing guys. I love baggy jeans."
Even Karl Stressman, the PRCA's commissioner, has sported the Competition jeans during NFR and showed off his rear jeans pocket to offer a glimpse of the Wrangler label.
"Everything has evolved," Stressman said. "Even jeans."
Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com or 702-387-5273.