The word chaps is a shortened version of chaparejos or chaparreras, Mexican or Spanish words for this garment, ultimately derived from Spanish chaparro. They are prounounced “Shaps” by western riders and “Chaps” by Eastern riders.
The earliest form of protective leather garment used by mounted riders who herded cattle in Spain and Mexico were called armas which meant shields.
Style variations adapted as vaqueros and later, cowboys, moved up from Mexico into the Pacific coast and northern Rockies of what today is the United States and Canada. Mountain men also copied them from leggings worn by Native Americans.
There are several variations:
Shotgun: As the name implies, straight legged.
Batwing: cut wide with a flare at the bottom.
Zamorros resemble batwing chaps, in that the leggings are closely fitted at the thigh and flare out below the knee, but unlike batwings, the leggings extend far below the boot with a distinctive triangular flare.
Chinks: half-length chaps that stop two to four inches (5 to 10 cm) below the knee, with very long fringe at the bottom and along the sides.
Armitas: short legging with completely closed legs that have to be put on in a manner similar to pants.
Woolies are a variation on shotgun chaps, made with fleece, angora or with hair-on cowhide, often lined with canvas on the inside.
Modern day cowboys still wear chaps to protect their legs from, livestock, weather and brush. The flashiest chaps will be seen in horse show rings and rodeo arenas. Farriers use them to protect their legs when shoeing a horse. Non-equestrian users include motorcycle riders, loggers and some are popular in BDSM culture.
Figure 1 My pop (L) wearing batwing style and his friend Jim (R) wearing chinks on a rainy day.
Figure 2 A friend wears chinks
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