What do ranchers have in common with frontier trappers, Native Americans, Texas Rangers and Christian missionaries? We all played a role in shaping the history of the American West and wore leather clothing while doing so.
Indigenous peoples across the globe have long crafted clothing and goods from readily available animal hides–the basic fabric of pre-industrial times. Fringed leggings, shirts, dresses and moccasins made of buckskin–a leather usually made from the hides of deer–were well-established fashions of Native American cultures by the time Europeans arrived. Trappers, farmers, explorers, and anyone else who spent time outside in the New World wilderness adopted leather styles as they came into contact with Native American tribes and recognized its superior durability and weather-resistant properties.
Early vaqueros wore leather chaparreras to protect their legs as they herded cattle through the heavy Mexican brush and cactus, and American stockmen up to the present day have continued to wear these original leather chaps in one form or another. The leather layer gives extra protection against the cold winds, wet rain and spiny cactus that would pierce right through porous denim. Chap styles vary by region and personal taste, but our Colorado-based Ranchlands crew generally prefers the year-round simplicity of chinks, which are lightweight enough for summer use but cover enough leg to block windchill and repel moisture in the winter.