Waistband variation on chaps

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OK, I worked with this as best I could, I can't get it to elnlage and copy but I can enlarge it an look at it.  Copy it into your computor and enlarge it.  All three of these chaps have more holes in them that are not being used.

Since most of the early rodeo/Wild West Cowboys wore common range clothes, I'd guess James yer on the right track as to why they only used on string on these and most likely went on into range gear.  If you got hung up on the horn it would break. 

About 20 years after that picture was taken, a fella who I can't remember his name right now, no matter, watched a rodeo cowboy get hung up on the horn and get drug pretty bad.  He got this idea to make shirts using snaps instead of buttons.  The snaps would open easily.  He added fancy mother of pearl to them cause cowboys and rodeo cowboys in perticular like to be a bit gawdy.  Rockmont Ranch Wear Company was formed.

Also some time in that period the Rodeo Cowboys Association banned saddles with horns for saddle bronc and made a certian syle tree be used ro make the saddle, the Association Tree Saddle as it is commonly refered to.

James Hunt:
From I See By Your Outfit, Lindmor and Mount, High Plains Press, Glendo Wyoming, 1996, p. 84. I qoute

I found this in I See By Your Outfit, by Lindmoor and Mount, p. 84 It suggests that the issue was perhaps comfort related.

"Around 1910, the dip belt was introduced, on which the front of the belt halves curved downward. This added a great deal of comfort as the belt did not cut into the stomach while the cowboy was mounted. The single thong or narrow buckled strap which connected the two legs along the top did not become popular until more recent times, when rodeo riders became concerned that the lacing would catch on the saddle horn, causing injury."

Well, I am not sure what recent times means to Lindmoor and Mount but it appears that the concept of a single lace connecting a seperation at the waist belt came before the dip belt (maybe the authors got it wrong). Further it may be that the reason the belt was seperated was that these early bronc riders discovered it to be more comfortable, and that a single lace held just fine and was more convenient than multiple laces, and after someone got hung up on the horn only to see the lace break discovered it to be a safety factor also. Speculation on the later, but a little secondary documentation for the development of the chap style.

Any further references appreciated. Regards, Jim

Nolan Sackett:
Sorry to be slow getting here, filling orders is keeping me nose to the grindstone.....

With respect to the authors of "I See By Your Outfit", but that time line is quite a few years off......
For what it's worth here's something of a partial history of chaps, which is based on my research of 35+ years: studying the literature (saddle shop catalogs are an excellent resoruce), period photos, and examining hundreds of original chaps in museums and private collections (unfortunately for the serious student many of these pieces never see/will never see the light of day so to speak and many offer styles/construction, etc. not seen elsewhere.......)

Chaps (from the Spanish chaparejos and/or chappareras) are descended from the Mexican vaqueros armas which were skirt like pieces of bull hide tied to the saddle horn to hang down in front of the legs which developed into armitas which were smaller, generally belted around the waist, and tied around the legs with thongs. Add the influence of Indian leggings, two step in tubes of leather with no seat and often with fringe along the outer seam, and you have the earliest form of chaps, the so-called shotguns.
Shotgun chaps were originally developed during the late 1860's in the Texas brasada (brush) country where pretty much everything has thorns, thus they were made to cover as much of ones lower section as possible, including the crotch area. The earliest chaps had a one piece belt (infrequently used in later times, on page 68 of "Cowboys & the Trappings of the Old West" there is a pair by R. T. Frazier, probably 1890's - Frazier's first shop was in the 1870's in Leadville, Co, and he later moved to Pueblo, Co in the 1880's. He partnered there with S. G. Gallup before opening his own shop in 1898, where/when the pair shown were apparently built) and were mostly plain with no fringe or conchos. The one-piece belt evolved fairly quickly into the two-piece, straight top waistband, which was laced together with usually 5-10 lacings. This style waistband is not only easier to build, but is more cost effective due to time savings and the maker can also use smaller sections of hide which might otherwise have been scrap (scrap is a big issue with leather smiths). This style waistband was used from the 1860's into the early 1900's. This style waistband/crotch is bulky though and can be uncomfortable - more on that later.

The curved top waistband (still with a fairly wide and closely laced waistband) first appears in the late 1880's early 1890's. The book "Cowboy Culture", by M. Friedman, includes a pair of this style by F. A. Meanea, of Cheyenne, Wy, with a date of 1880-90's. Here's a picture of said pair:

Dating such things can of course be difficult/subjective if not accompanied by written documentation/provenance, but in this case I have some pretty good verification. At one time I owned a pair of chaps that were an almost exact twin to the pictured pair. When I got them they were like new, and in the pocket was the original Meanea sales receipt dated 1889 (unfortunately I no longer own them or have a copy of the receipt). This style waistband doesn't appear as often as the straight waist until the late 1890's and after 1900. 
As for the less complicated lacing "Cowboys & the Trappings of the Old West", has pictures of several pairs of rodeo chaps with curved waistbands and with less lacing in the 1905-1915 era.

Woolies, were developed in the late 1870's-early1880's, originally for wear in the cold north country. Because they were flashy, this style became popular in the 1890's and into the early 1900's with Wild West and rodeo performers. Usually of Angora goat hair, they were also made of bear hide, seal skin (see those worn by Theodore Roosevelt who BTW hated being called Teddy, he preferred Theodore or TR), and even dog amongst other skins.

I've got to go for now but I will try and add as time allows regarding other changes such as the buckle and strap leg attachments rather than solid/laced legs, fringe and conchos, the change in waistband lacing which begins around 1900 (Del's picture clearly shows this change at least as early as 1905 and not the later date as noted in "I See By Your Outfit"), the beginnings of the batwings (the original style had narrow "wings, buckles and straps, and were called the Cheyenne style - they date to at least 1887), and more.....

Why the changes? comfort and the Wild West Shows/Rodeos were large influence on the changes in all kinds of cowboy gear during the 1880's and later........

as always others mileage will vary and further information is welcome........

James Hunt:
Nolan: Thank you for your detailed response. Further info particularly with source material is always appreciated. Indeed, we are fortunate that the period of our interest has so many images, the problem is always dating the images. Unlike CW images, our interest took place over 30 years, a period in which many things changed. I like the coffee table books, and Cowboy Collectables has alot of really great photos, but when you see dates attributed to them - where did they come from? The author, was it written on the back of the photo. Agreed, period catalogs are a treasure when you come across them.

More to the point, it seems as if at the turn of the century styles abruptly changed that were associated with both function and show business (wild west show and rodeo). Perhaps the widening of the waist belt was functional (my , with the "dipped" waistbelt following function. The single lace simply expedient, then discovered to be safer? I have a pair of Frazier batwings that are but slightly dipped at the waist band with six holes, clearly ment to be laced tightly (see many photos in Cowboys on the Green River, by Lozier and Platts, weariing this exact pair circa 1910 - 1920), but when I got them they had but one lace thru them.

Regards, Jim

I made this pair of shotguns a while back and have ridden in them and did not even think about the comfort as they were no different to others that I have worn ,I still prefer chinks for modern day riding. They are for sale on ebay.co.uk as I am making a new pair


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