As the mom of kids who show dairy cattle, I love helping my kids develop into young showmen. So many important life lessons can be learned in the show ring.
But as the mom who does her family’s laundry, there’s one thing I hate about showing dairy cattle . . . Show Whites.
I’d like to go back in time and have a stern talk with whoever decided that dairy exhibitors should wear white pants and white shirts.
Unfortunately, nobody seems to know who started the show whites craze. And nobody seems to know why we continue this craziness – other than, “It’s tradition. This is the way it’s always been done.”
Well, I say to heck with tradition. Here are four reasons why show whites need to go.
Hard to find.
White shirts are easy enough to come by, but finding white pants that actually fit your kid is like winning the lottery. Especially when it comes to finding white jeans for boys — almost all white boys jeans are either slim or skinny cut.
The white pants we ordered for my son last year (in his size) were far too big, so we belted and rolled to make them fit. The good news is that he can just squeeze into them this year. I gave out an ecstatic "Whoop" when he was able to button them.
Seriously, finding white pants is a problem. Some show moms have resorted to holding white pants exchanges. That way when you spend $30 (or more) on a pair of white jeans that your child will wear exactly twice before outgrowing, you can at least take comfort in knowing that another young exhibitor will be able to put them to use.
Hard to clean.
I’m quite certain that whoever dreamed up the idea of wearing white while showing dairy cows had never done a load of laundry in his or her life. White is great for milking parlor walls and other impermeable surfaces that can be pressure washed. White is terrible for clothing that comes in contact with cattle.
I have enough trouble keeping up with our regular laundry. The last thing I need after a week at the fair is the job of soaking, scrubbing, treating, and washing show whites. And I know I’m not the only one. There have been many conversations in the Dairy Girl Network forum about how to prevent and remove stains from show whites. (And also where to find white pants in the first place.)
Creates a poor image of dairy.
Some people think the idea behind show whites was to portray cleanliness or purity. But that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. By the end of the show, most dairy exhibitors are covered in slobber, hair, and manure — all of which stands out like billboard art on white pants and shirts.
At a local youth show last month, exhibitors were given black t-shirts to wear during the show. At the end of the show, the kids looked just as sharp as when they started. Well, except for their white pants.
Imagine how professional they would have looked with black pants, too.
White is outdated.
Lots of professionals once wore mostly white: nurses, wait staff, chefs, and so forth. Some still wear white, but many have opted for darker attire. Most wait staff in restaurants now dress in all black outfits. Black clothes hide spills and black clothes are easy for everyone to find in stores.
I agree that dairy exhibitors should all dress the same – it helps judges focus on the cattle in the ring and not the showmen. All black show clothes would put even more emphasis on the cattle.
I also understand that showing dairy cattle is steeped in tradition. But continuing a practice that makes no sense just because it’s always been done that way is senseless. We all know where our dairy farms would be if we continued to do things the way they’ve always been done. Dairy farmers succeed by changing with the times and thinking outside the box.
It’s time for the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association, 4-H, FFA, and other show organizers to think outside the box and make the switch to all black show clothes.
Dairy exhibitors will look much more professional and dairy moms everywhere will be grateful.
Read the follow-up blog from August 2, What's wrong with our country?
The author is a dairy farmer and writer from central Minnesota. She farms with her husband, Glen, and their three children. Sadie grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural communications and marketing. She also blogs at Dairy Good Life.