History


Leather Legends has over 30 years experience in leather garment, chap making, and pattern designs. Our items have been worn by Rodeo World Champions, and some are on display in the Rodeo Hall of Fame.


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Each item is hand-crafted with exquisite design and meticulous attention to detail. All fringe is handcut and hand pointed. Twisted fringe, if desired, is all hand twisted. Special request items may be available upon inquiry. We make a wide range of quality leather garments, of which only a small sampling is shown here.


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Fromberg, Montana 59029-0426
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COWBOY CHAPS
By WILLIAM MANNS


Chaparejos, meaning leg of armor, were invented by the Spanish to protect their legs from cactus. Originally, the Spanish wrapped two large slabs of cowhide attached to the saddle around their legs. These were called armas. Later the vaqueros modified these cowhide shields and made armitas. These hung from a belt around the waist and extended down the vaquero's front legs to below his knees.

Meanwhile the early Texans designed heavy buckskin breeches, which fully encircled their legs. As the demand for cowboy gear increased, western saddle companies designed three types of chaps to accommodate cowboys on the various ranges: shotguns, bat wings and woolies.

The plainest of the three was the shotgun style. The style earned its name because these seat less leather pants resembled two barrels on a double- barreled shotgun. They were held together by a belt, which fit straight across the waist and were often decorated along the outside seam with long fringe. If they didnt have any decoration, they were just called closed-legchaps. Because of their skin-tight design, they were difficult to put on and take off while wearing boots and spurs. This style lost appeal at the turn of the century.

By the 1900's, most saddle shops offered a new open-legged chap called the bat wing. These chaps featured wide leather wings, which flapped freely, hence the name. Because this style of chaps only buckled to the knees, a cowboy was able to bend his legs, which allowed for quicker reactions on the range as well as in the rodeo arena. The wide wings were ideal canvases for leather tooling, overlay and inlay patterns of dyed leather, studded designs and silver conchas.

While bat wings were the most common style, woolly chaps were the most extravagant and romantic. Worn by Montana cowboys for warmth and by Wild West show performers for flair, woolly chaps were typically made from the hide of Angora goats with the hair left on. Northern cowboys wore woolies because the hair repelled the rain and snow and kept the rider warm and comfortable. Woolly chaps were generally white, but cowboys also wore black, orange, pink and polka dot varieties. Theodore Roosevelt rode in sealskin chaps but dog, bear and buffalo hide was also used.

The latest variety of chaps are known as chinks. They are a modern shortened style of batwings. Around World War II cowboys began cutting off the lower section of batwing chaps. They would modify their old chaps to cut down on the weight and found them to be much cooler in warm weather. Chinks are typically made to cover the leg to just below the kneecap. The old batwings were then fringed on the sides and the bottom. Chinks are now worn throughout the west.

Reprinted with permission of the author.

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Chaps - from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaps

Chaps are sturdy leather 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.

The word is recorded in English since 1844, as an abbreviation of chaparajos, from Mexican or Spanish chaparreras. Words with similar background include chaparro or chaparral, the evergreen scrub vegetation that can tear at a rider's legs and gave rise to the need for chaps.

Because of the Mexican and Spanish origin of the word and its historical development in the American west, the correct and traditional pronunciation of the word chaps, when referring to this garment, is with a "sh" sound (as in shave), rather than "ch" (as in chime). However, the word is widely mispronounced with a "ch" sound, to the point that it has become a recognized form, listed as such in some dictionaries. Nonetheless, the authentic pronunciation by the working cowboy of the American West is "shaps."

The principal styles of chaps are:

Batwing chaps are cut wide with a flare at the bottom. Generally made of smooth leather, they have only with two or three fasteners around the thigh, thus allowing great freedom of movement for the lower leg. This is helpful when riding very actively, and makes it easier to mount the horse. This design also provides more air circulation and is thus somewhat cooler for hot weather wear.

Batwing chaps are often seen on rodeo riders, particularly those who ride bucking stock. They are also seen on working ranches, particularly in Texas. A cowboy, circa 1887, wearing shotgun style chaps A cowboy, circa 1887, wearing shotgun style chaps

Shotgun chaps, sometmes called "Stovepipes," were so named because the legs are straight and narrow. Each leg is cut from a single piece of leather. Their fit is snug, wrapping completely around the leg. They have full-length zippers running along the outside of the leg from the thigh to just above the ankle. The edge of each legging is usually fringed and the bottom is sometimes cut with an arch or flare that allows a smooth fit over the arch of a boot. Shotguns do not flap around they way the batwing design can, and they are also better at trapping body heat, an advantage in windy, snowy or cold conditions, though unpleasant in very hot or humid weather. Shotgun chaps are more common on ranches in the northwest and northern plains states, as well as Canada and are the design most commonly seen in horse show competition for western riders, especially western equitation.

Chinks are a type of half-length chap that attaches at the waist and stops just below the knee, with very long fringe at the bottom and along the sides. Chinks are most often seen on cowboys in the Southwestern and Pacific states, most notably seen on those who follow the California Vaquero tradition. The leg usually ends two to four inches (5 to 10 cm) below the knee. Chinks are usually fringed along the outside edge and bottom, making their apparent length about 4 inches (10 cm) longer. They are cut to fit somewhere between batwings and shotguns, and each leg usually has only two fasteners high on the thigh. They are cooler to wear and hence the design that is best for very warm climates.

Other styles


Armitas are an early style of chaps, developed by the Spanish in colonial Mexico and became associated with the "Buckaroos" or vaqueros or Great Basin area of what is now the United States. They are a short legging with completely closed legs that have to be put on in a manner similar to pants. They are sometimes a bit longer than chinks, but still stopping above the top of the boot, fringed on the sides and on the bottom to reach the boot tops, attached by a fringed belt.

Half chaps are also a partial protective garment, though more of an extra-tall pair of Spats rather than true chaps. Opposite of chinks, half chaps begin at the boot and go up to end right below the knee. They are commonly used over the paddock boots of English-style riders in place of tall boots. Half-chaps are usually made of leather, and have a zip closure on the outside. They provide grip for the rider, protection from the stirrup leather and sometimes prevent breeches from riding up.

Woolies are a variation on shotgun chaps, made with a fleece or hair-on hide, such as angora wool, lined with canvas on the inside. They are the warmest chaps, associated with states in the northern plains and Rocky Mountains.

Materials used

Chaps, with the exception of woolies, are traditionally made of cowhide. The leather is tanned and dyed, and the hide is usually "split" so that the leather is supple and can be made into a garment that allows easy movement. There is a rough side, what is today called suede or "roughout," and a smooth side. Chaps are made in both "roughout" and "smooth out" (smooth side out) designs. Most batwings and chinks are made smooth side out, most shotguns are suede, or roughout. For horse shows, where fashions may change from year to year and durability is not as great a concern, lighter, synthetic materials such as ultrasuede and vinyl may be used for chaps, but they will not hold up as well. Even horse show exhibitors prefer real leather suede or a smooth split for durability and proper fit.

Most chaps, with the exception of Armitas (which have no metal parts), usually have a small metal buckle in front to attach around the waist, and have adjustable lacing on the back of the belt area to allow adjustment in size. A few designs lace in the front and buckle in the back, but they are not often seen. The sides either have straps and relatively small metal buckles or snaps to attach the legging around the rider's leg, or else they have heavy-duty metal zippers.

Except for the batwing design, most chaps are fringed along the edge of the leg, usually a fringe of the same leather as the legging, though occasionally a contrasting color of leather may be added. Chinks and Armitas have fringe on the bottom of the leg as well. The belt that holds on a pair of the chaps may be the same color of leather or of a contrasting color, sometimes is fringed in the back for show, but usually not on a working outfit. Decorative leather designs or fancy stitching may be added along the edge of bottom of the leg or to the belt, and even sterling silver pieces may be used for buckles, and on round decorative metal conchos placed to cover the lacing on the back of the belt, or occasionally even at the bottom of the legging, by the heel.

Uses

Chaps are intended to protect the legs of cowboys from contact with daily environmental hazards seen in working with cattle, horses and other livestock . They help to protect riders' legs from scraping on brush, injury from thorns of cacti, sagebrush. mesquite and other thorny vegetation, reduce the chance of rope burns, and reduce the dust load on clothing.

They are also used by western riders at horse shows, where contestants are required to adhere to traditional forms of clothing, albeit with more decorative touches than seen in working designs.

A specialized style of chinks without fringe, known as a shoeing or farrier's apron protects the legs of farriers from getting scratched or cut up in the process of shoeing or otherwise treating the hooves of horses. Farrier's aprons are also sometimes used by ranch hands when stacking hay to reduce wear on clothing.

Motorcycle chaps are an example of the shotgun style. They are usually manufactured smooth side out, and generally provide all-around protection for the leg and have side zippers to allow them to be put on easily. They are popular in the biker and leather subcultures, providing protection from the wind and cold, as well as partial protection of bikers from cuts and scrapes in the event of a fall to the roadway.

Fitting

Chaps are usually worn over denim jeans or other trousers of heavy material. They have their own belt, and usually are fitted around the hips, resting below the belt loops of the trousers, which usually are held on with their own separate belt. Except for chinks and armitas, which are designed to fit above the boot, most chaps are long, fitting over the boot and draping slightly over the arch of the foot. Some designs are cut to hang long at the heel and nearly cover the entire boot except for the toe. Batwings, chinks, and shotgun chaps fit firmly but comfortably around the thigh, with shotguns continuing to fit closely all the way down the calf, though not so snug as to limit free knee movement. The shotgun design is a bit flared at the ankle to allow for the rider's boot. Batwings and chinks are not attached around the leg below the knee.

History

Chaps may have antecedents in certain types of armor. However, the earliest form of protective leather garment used by mounted riders who herded cattle in Spain and Mexico were called armas, which meant "shield." They were essentially two large pieces of cowhide that were used as a protective apron of sorts. They attached to the horn of the rider's stock saddle, and were spread across both the horse's chest and the rider's legs. From this early and rather cumbersome design came modifications that placed the garment entirely on the rider, and then style variations adapted as vaqueros and later, cowboys moved up from Mexico into the pacific coast and northern Rockies. Different styles developed to fit the local climate, terrain and hazards. Designs were also modified for purely stylistic and decorative purposes.