A Cowboy’s Identity

If you’ve ever been in the presence of a group of cowboys, you may think they’re all the same. Boots, jeans, long sleeved shirt and hat. They are a stand alone culture, that have survived style trends through the decades.

At first glance, to the untrained eye, they do mostly appear the same. Until you see them in their element, maybe they are all the same? Nah… look a little closer… They are as different as different gets.

Many a cowboy define their unique identities in an unexpected place; their feet. Not their boots per se, but their spurs. There are more styles of spurs than there are cereal choices at the grocery store, and most outside of cowboy culture have no idea.

Some proudly wear their granddads, passed down from one generation to the next. These were likely custom made, and carry the family ranch brand etched in them. They have survived the same feedlot and corrals for many years, because like the ranch, they were built right the first time and are meant to withstand the changing times.

Others belong to horsemen, also custom, and you may see the name engraved on the side, as an advertisement of the trainer who is riding horses at a show. Many of those are like tattoos, and although the body they’re on is similar, the art work is unique and one of a kind. They have inlays of silver or copper, situated in a way that defines the person atop the steed.

Then there are roughstock rider spurs, which aren’t always fancy, but they’re built to with stand a 2100 pound bull or 1000 pound horse from collapsing them, if the rider gets stepped on. They have different pitch than the spurs of other riders, to help with the sheer force of riding bucking stock. Their rowels have a lot to say about them as well.

Vaqueros, buckaroos, rodeo, horsemen, equestrians, ranch hands, cattlemen (if they ride), and everything in between, has a defining character, and it’s on their feet. It’s their spurs, spur straps and rowels.

If you ever see some that really catch your eye, take a moment to ask that cowboy about their choice of metal. You might be surprised what kind of story is behind the dirt caked steel, and it might be a story that person loves to tell. I have yet to find a rider of any type ask me not to photograph their foot style. They are proud of what they wear, and always for a good reason.

Not many things in this life are permanent, but quite often the money spent on a custom set of spurs is a deeply considered and permanent investment, to explain that person’s character without words. They are an unspoken code of the culture, that easily says, “We are not all the same.”

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