Pair of chaps
Pair of chaps

Chaps (pronounced "shaps", and short for chaparajos) are sturdy leather coverings for the legs. They are buckled on over one's trousers and belt with the chaps' integrated belt, but unlike trousers they are not joined at the crotch.

There are two principal types of chaps: batwing and shotgun. Although not strictly chaps, there is another protective garment, called chinks, which are typical equipment of the buckaroos of California, Nevada, Oregon, and parts of Idaho and Washington.

Batwing chaps are cut with a sort of flare at the bottom. They have only with two or three fasteners around the thigh, allowing great freedom of movement for the lower leg. This is helpful when riding very actively, and is much more accomodating when mounting. This design also provides more air circulation and is thus somewhat cooler for hot weather wear.

Shotgun chaps were so named because the legs are "straight and narrow as a shotgun's barrel." Each leg is cut from a single piece of leather. They are narrow and snug, wrapping completely around the leg. Shotguns were originally a pull-on garment, although many modern ones have full-length zippers running along the outside of the leg from the top edge to the ankles. Shotguns don't flap around as much as batwings--a major consideration when riding green or spooky horses--and they are also better at trapping body heat, a great advantage in windy, snowy or just generally cold conditions.

Chinks are quite short, with the leg usually ending two to four inches (5 to 10cm) below the knee. Chinks are usually fringed along the outside edge, making their apparent length about 4 inches (10cm) longer. They are cut to fit somewhere between batwings and shotguns, and usually have only two fasteners high on the thigh. They are the coolest of the protective garments.

Chaps are intended to protect the legs of cowboys working with cattle and horses from contact with daily environmental hazards. They help to protect riders from the thorns of cacti and other thorny vegetation in the brush, reduce the chance of rope burns, and reduce the dust load on one's jeans. A specialized version known as a shoeing apron protects the legs of farriers from getting scratched or cut up in the process of shoeing or otherwise treating the hooves of horses.

Motorcycle chaps are an example of the shotgun style. They generally provide all round protection for the leg and have side zips to allow them to be put on easily. They are popular in the biker and leather subcultures.



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