Growing up in Bonham, Texas, Smith dressed as he imagined his heroes, the cowboys, did. Later, while working as a cowboy among cowboys, he endeavored to portray his fellow cowhands accurately in his photographs, posing them to better display their clothing, gear, and activities. Smith's photographs reveal numerous examples of what the true working cowboy wore at the turn of the twentieth century.
Every item of the cowhand's clothing was functional and originated for a practical purpose. The basics were long-sleeved cotton or wool shirts and work pants. Because the shirts rarely had pockets, vests were usually worn to carry small items and provide added protection. Hats and kerchiefs had multiple uses and were always part of the cowhand's attire. Other items included jackets or slickers to protect the men from the elements, as well as chaps worn over boots and pants to provide a shield against the harsh brush of the rough country. High leather boots protected the cowboys' feet and ankles; the boots' pointed toes made it easier for the cowboys to slip their feet into their stirrups, and the boots' high heels helped to anchor the riders' feet and prevent them from slipping out.