Cowboys don’t just exist in Western films and TV shows; they walk among us on ranches across the country. If you have ever seen a cowboy, you will notice some standout features of their attire. Naturally, the trademark hat and boots will catch your attention, but your eyes will also wander to the big shiny belt buckle.
You’ll notice that all cowboys wear belts, and some of them have much bigger buckles than others. Moreover, these buckles can often feature words and engravings – but what does this all mean?
As it turns out, belt buckles are a big part of cowboy culture and can be traced all the way back to the Revolutionary War.
The first time belt buckles were worn was back during the United States Revolutionary War. Here, military personnel would wear belt buckles to dictate their rank. The different symbols showed what rank someone was, with bigger and more elaborate buckles used for higher ranks. This continued through to the American Civil War, but cowboys didn’t begin wearing buckles until the 1920s.
Why did it take so long for cowboys to fully adopt the belt buckle? Funnily enough, it’s because no company-made jeans with belt loops until the ‘20s! As a result, cowboys started wearing jeans and putting belts around their waists.
At the same time, rodeos were growing in popularity, and cowboys wanted a sign that showed how well they performed. Consequently, the idea of trophy belt buckles was born. Here, special belt buckles were given to the top-performing cowboys at rodeos. The better you did, the bigger and more elaborate the buckle was. It became a show of dominance in many cowboy towns. People respected you if you had big belt buckles that showcased your rodeo prowess.
As Hollywood started making a whole host of cowboy films, belt buckles started growing in popularity. Cowboys wanted more elaborate designs to match those they saw in films. As such, the standard buckles for cowboys became bigger and more impressive than ever before. It meant that trophy belt buckles also had to get bigger and better, differentiating them from the rest.
To this very day, belt buckles are still being handed out as trophies in cowboy communities across America. Cowboys still wear their buckles with pride, pinpointing themselves as key members of the community. When you think about it, a belt buckle is actually the best prize you could give a cowboy. Trophies can’t be shown off all the time, and it’s a bit strange wearing a medal around your neck all the time. Belt buckles look more natural, but they have the added benefit of enhancing your reputation.
So, there you have it; this is why cowboys wear big belt buckles. It was a trend that started many years ago and became popular when cowboys started wearing jeans with belt straps in them. Nowadays, buckles are handed out at rodeos and various other competitions as prizes for the best cowboys.