Friday, March 11, 2016


Chaps are sturdy coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt. They are buckled on over trousers with the chaps' integrated belt, but unlike trousers they have no seat and are not joined at the crotch. They are designed to provide protection for the legs and are usually made of leather or a leather-like material. They are most commonly associated with the cowboy culture of the American west as a protective garment to be used when riding a horse through brushy terrain. In the modern world, they are worn for both practical work purposes and for exhibition or show use.

The concept of chaps was introduced by the Spanish to protect their legs from cactus, brush and thorns. They called it "Chaparehos" which meant leather breeches or "leg of iron". The first chaps were just large pieces of cowhide attached to the saddle and wrapped around the legs. Later the vaqueros modified this design by making a legging that hung from a belt around the waist and went down the leg to just below the knee and rawhide thongs would hold the chaps to the legs. Early pioneer Texans designed a heavy buckskin breech that fully encircled the leg and often had fringing. Chasing the wily longhorn that would run into dense thickets of thorns necessitated heavy protection. As the cowboy population grew throughout the west, western leather makers designed three types of chaps to accommodate the various general types of ranges and conditions they were used in. The three types were Shotgun, Bat Wing and Woolies. Texas cowboys wore chaps that protected their legs from sharp branches and thorny bushes and thistles. In the north cowboys not only used them for protecting their legs while riding through brush and rough terrain but also used them for the added warmth and some protection in wind, rain and snow. 

Shotgun Chaps - This is the plainest style of chaps and the simplest design. These seamless leather pants have a shape that reminded one of a double-barrelled shotgun, hence the name "Shotgun Chaps. Typically they were held together by a belt that fit straight across the waist and often were decorated along the outside seam with long fringe. The chaps that didn't have a fringe were called "closed-leg" chaps. This style was popular from the 1870's thru the 1890's and because of their skin-tight cut and design were hard to put on or take off while wearing a pair of boots and spurs. The fancier style shotgun chaps were favoured by the vaqueros of the southwest who liked more ornamentation on their everyday clothing. The chaps to the left are reminiscent of Shotgun Chaps worn in our favourite classic western movies. Called the "Old West Shotgun Chaps" they feature a border tooled yoke and large spots.

Wooly Chaps - this style chap became popular in the late 1800's in the northern plains, especially during cold and wet weather. They were made in a wide variety of furs including bear and buffalo but the most prized was Angora goat fur. These chaps were worn by not only cowboys in the far northern states but Wild West performers who loved how "showy" they were. The chaps were made from hides with the hair left on. Cowboys in the far north in states like Montana and North Dakota wore these as the hair repelled not only the rain and snow but kept the wearer warm and comfortable even in the most torrential downpour or heavy snowstorm. This is also why the same cowboys have saddlebags made in the wooly style for the same reason.

Bat Wing Chaps - Appeared in the early 1900's 
and gained immediate acceptance because they had snap fasteners that allowed them to go on and come off easily. Because of their design they were easy to decorate and could be made extremely ornately. These pants had wide leather wings which flapped freely instead of being tightly tied down. In the western states cowboys would often unsnap their chaps to allow for ventilation. This chap only buckled to the knee so the wearer could easily bend his legs. This worked well when working on the range especially when squatting down to tie off a cow for branding, as well as working the rodeo arena. The wide wings were perfect for leather tooling, overlay and inlay patterns of dyed leather, sharp-studded designs and conchos. Local saddle shops would offer custom designs with names, initials or anything else that you might want. The chaps to the left are the "Bronco Batwing Chaps". They feature contrasting leather and squares with bleedknots. Pocket has a closing flap with custom leather "button".

Chinks - These were most commonly used in the southwest. Chinks are a half-length chap that attaches at the waist and ends just below the knee, usually with a very long fringe at the bottom and along the sides which makes them appear much longer than they are. The cut is a cross between a batwing and shotgun and each leg usually has two fasteners located high up on the thigh. These are cooler to wear than a full length chap which is why they adopted for usage by southwestern cowboys not riding through tough terrain.

The chinks shown to the right are our most popular chinks "Frisco Oil Tanned Cowhide Chinks". They have a border tooled yoke, pocket with flap and custom "button" and the three conchos set on contrasting leather with bleedknots. Elegant fringe inner edge technique is done on this pair of chinks.

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