My SASS friends and I disagree. I say chinks were not worn by working cowboys in the 1890s. I believe they were show wear for riders during the late 1940s. Can you settle this?

Phil Bartlett

Fremont, California

Most cowboy gear originated with the Mexican vaquero. Chaps was short for chaparrejos or chaparreras, which in Spanish refers to leather leggings for working cattle in the brasada or brush country. The root word is chaparral, a dense growth of shrubs or small trees. Add in the thorny mesquite and cactus in the Southwest, and leather leggings became essential apparel for anyone working cattle.

Vaqueros originally wore a large leather apron, called an arma or armor, which they attached to the front of the saddle, letting it hang down on each side of the horse. When the rider climbed on, he clumsily pulled the apron over his legs for protection.

The next modification, in the early 1800s, was to take the aprons off the horse and put them on the cowboy. Called armitas, these hung from the vaquero’s waist down to below his knees. By the time of the Long Drives from Texas to Kansas, cowboys were wearing leggings that extended down to their spurs. Modern-day armitas also emerged in America as chinks around the 1940s.

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