What Are Chaps?

Chaps are protective types of clothing worn by people working outdoors. Apart from looking good on cowboys, chaps are very important protective wear. They go a long way in ensuring the safety of a cowboy. Since they’re made as protective wear, chaps are made from leather. Chaps have evolved over time, and they aren’t the ranch chaps they used to be before.

Not Just For The Cowboy!

Today, there are different styles of chaps available. The chaps are used in the fashion world, by the LGBTQ community, and many other places. The style of chaps one wears is determined by its effectiveness. For example, one can wear the leather chaps out in the field when riding a horse. However, it’s difficult to wear shotgun chaps when horse riding and get the same effect as when wearing ranch chaps.

Why wear chaps?

Chaps were originally made for the American cowboys. Before the fashion world got a hint of chaps and started redesigning them, chaps were used primarily when horse riding or when doing other outdoor activities. Initially, chaps were used as protective wear. Up to date, they protect the legs of cowboys when handling outdoor activities. Chaps are part of the cowboy culture, and the use of chaps in other areas doesn’t affect this.

To people who saw chaps purely on the fashion scene, it isn’t easy to see the importance of these in the field. These people love the batwing chaps but simply out of the design and the fashion element. The protective chaps are made with leather which is sturdy and durable enough to protect the cowboys legs. An extra layer of fabric might be added, and the design altered a bit to provide ample air circulation. The layer is mostly added to the fashion chaps but might not be essential to the chaps worn by our boys at the northern plains.

Types of Chaps.

There are different adaptations and variations of chaps, especially with their introduction in the fashion industry.


These were developed in mid 18th century, and the word is derived from the Spanish word “arma,” meaning “shield.” Armitas protect the wearer’s legs from injuries that stem from environmental hazards when herding cattle. This is one of the historic styles of chaps that are in use to date. Wearing these, the herder works with no worry of injury from anything, including thorny vegetation. These are the original full-length chaps worn by cowboys.


These are their rodeo chaps for the cowboys who seek greater versatility and ample air circulation, especially in warmer climates. Worn with boots, they reach about two to three inches below the knee and are nothing more than leather leg coverings. The leg shape is between the shotgun and the batwing and clings closer to the leg but is not restrictive.

Batwing Chaps

Bat-wing-style chaps increased in popularity when the open range was closed, and much of the cowboy work was done on foot. These aren’t riding chaps, and they have an open lower leg design allowing for great freedom of movement and air circulation. The design is what the rodeo chaps, sometimes called upland chaps, are adapted from.

Shotgun Chaps

Unlike the rodeo chaps, these offer maximum protection for horse riding. They have a closed leg, zip-up design that locks in the heat and keeps out rain, pests, and snow. These are the most preferred upland chaps as the weather in the uplands might not be as warm. Unlike the rodeo chaps, these are perfect for horse riding, while the former is best for footwork.

Assless Chaps

These are fashion adaptations of chaps, and cowboys sometimes refer to them as the bad chaps. Taking a look at their design, one can concur with the cowboys. Being a fashion piece is one of the benefits over shotgun chaps these have. These are essentially half-length chaps that can be redesigned for men and women. Some of these are colored half chaps to fit better in the fashion industry, but apart from that, they don’t have a myriad of benefits.

NB: some assless chaps have been developed purely for the bedroom so that you can show off your booty. These are vastly different to the more utilitarian chaps. Bedroom chaps are very sexy!

Chainsaw Chaps

These are other very useful and effective chap styles. They offer superb protection to the wearer. Working with chainsaws is a risky job. This class of chaps offer maximum protection if the chainsaw lands on your leg. Made from strong and durable leather, chainsaw chaps resist the chainsaw’s cut protecting the wearer in case of an accident. These can’t be made from soft leather and must be made with a specialized style for maximum protection.


These are the warmest chaps designed to offer protection and warmth to Western riders. These were made for the cowboys in the American Wild West and were coupled with cowboy boots or tall boots for the English riders. The original chaps made from plain leather didn’t offer much warmth for the cowboys, and woolies were designed to serve this purpose. They are made using fleece or cut from Buffalo hide or hair-on cow, then a layer of canvas is added to provide added moisture resistance.

Chaps are clothing items made from readily available animal hides. These offer an added layer of protection to the wearer. The origin of chaps is from the field, and the reason for this is the availability of skins and hides. It started as a trend by Colombian riders, then English-speaking riders took it on as well. The main reason why English-speaking riders chose to wear them was to protect them from the thick and thorny bush and cactus they came across when herding. Mexican vaqueros also wore these for the same reason. Chaps originated from Mexico and Colombia before the West took them on.

So Many Styles To Choose From!

With so many styles of chaps today, it’s evident that they aren’t reserved for horse riders for herding cattle. It’s also evident they aren’t reserved for use at the farm. Chaps are a fashion accessory, and other people wear them to make a statement, like in the LGBTQ community.

Bull riders, horse trainers, and bareback horse riders also wear chaps. To these people, chaps are essential clothing items meant for their protection. It’s not a fashion accessory but protective clothing essential in their line of work. Chaps are a norm in the American West, especially with cowboys serving a critical purpose in their daily activities.

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