How a cowboy chooses to buckle on his spurs sparks a controversial conversation.

It seems that the United States is more polarized than ever. It’s getting to where I don’t even want to attend events for fear of a controversial topic sparking. I don’t want to get caught in the middle of a debate that I have no interest in participating. 

However, in the spirit of these unprecedented times I’m going to throw a controversial curveball to spice up any future social encounters. I’m not talking politics, religion or even which George Strait song is best. My question to everyone is: Do you wear your spurs with the strap buckles on the inside or the outside of your boots?

spur strap buckles
The style of spurs and the origin of the rider often dictates which direction the strap buckles face.
Photo by Kelli Neubert

Gasp. Yes, I put it out there. First, let’s talk about spur straps. With the exception of dovetails, spur straps have two pieces — one shorter than the other— that attach to the spurs’ buttons. One side is often short with a buckle and the other is longer with holes punched in it. Some styles have a pull-through strap that buckles within the other piece as well. Most of the folks I meet in Texas are of the die-hard, absolute opinion that spur straps buckle to the outside of your boots. Always. They argue that sporting buckles on the inside is dangerous, uncomfortable and just plain wrong. I came from California originally, and have seen plenty of people wearing their buckles on the inside, and I’ve never heard a complaint about discomfort or danger. 

My understanding is that wearing buckles on the inside is a West Coast cowboy thing. The Spanish vaquero strongly influences the Great Basin buckaroos, who flaunt a lot of flashy craftsmanship on their leather and silver. Also, the Great Basin region is full of sagebrush, low trees and chemise. A buckle to the outside has a chance of getting snagged on something and falling off a boot. Now, horse trainers and arena cowboys from the same region aren’t necessarily influenced by the same thing, so they often have their buckles to the outside (and the rest of the country pretty much falls into this category, as far as I know). 

A rider who swaps out his spurs a lot might find it easier to have his buckles on the inside, as he can set his boots on top of his opposite knee and undo his spur straps with ease. But a rider who holds his feet close and tight to a horse’s sides might feel discomfort from a buckle rubbing against his boots day in and day out. 

In the grand scheme of things, it’s really more about the style of the spur straps and the region of the wearer that determines which direction the buckles should face. If there’s a pretty concho and tooled leather on one side of the strap and a cheap, simple little buckle on the other, it would be a shame to hide that fine craftsmanship on the sweaty side of a horse. On the flip side, if the straps are made to boast a pretty buckle, then that’s the side meant to be on the outside of the boot. Unfortunately, either way, most of us wear pants that are long enough to completely cover our spur straps so it’s a moot point. 

I’m not a West Coast cowboy or any sort of buckaroo. I don’t train 40 horses professionally on a day-to-day basis, nor do I care to have a personal style based on what others think I ought to do. But since I brought it up, the way I personally wear my spur straps varies with the kind of straps I’m sporting. One pair buckles on the outside and two on the inside. 

On another controversial note, after much mental debate I’m leaning toward “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.” 

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11 Comments

  1. Weston R Reese Reply

    Good article. We need more of that kind of important stuff to ponder, so we wont think to be angry at someone. One cowboy said about another, “If he’s from Texas he’ll tell you. If he aint, you don’t need to embarrass him.”

    • Being from Amarillo, I 100% agree with you. The only issue I have is that he was not the original artist of that song. Of course, he did perfect it though. Just a little tidbit and ramble. lol

  2. I do believe at the end of the day ………. why does it matter !!! really ??? who dictates the right and wrong way to wear your straps ? I can bet if you tried to preach that nonsense to a Cowboy out on the trail in the 1800’s ……………. you’d get your butt KICKED !!!!!

  3. You bring up an interesting comment regarding regions. Western riding styles vary a lot between Florida, the midwest, the southwest and California. Here in the southwest most ranchers wear their buckles and conchos to the outside. It is usually more comfortable (especially for those of us who use their legs for positioning their horses) and it avoids scratching up the fender leather on your saddle (especially if the leather is tooled). I never had a buckle get caught up in the brush or trees, but I’m not saying it couldn’t happen. Of course one should concentrate more on how to use the spur for cueing and not so much on the buckle position. But I understand one has to get the spurs on the boot first (and not upside down). Ride well.

  4. This is an interesting conversation. I have spurs with two different styles of straps. The pair I wear the most though are set up on the inside. It’s easier for me to sit down to put them on because of my knees and pudge around the middle. I do see both styles here in SW Idaho. The buckaroo’s do it their way and the rest of the horseman the other way.
    I personally think it’s like the dally/tie hard-and-fast argument………you do what works best in your area and for what you’re doing……..and honor the others for their way as long as it gets the job done.

    It’s hard for me to choose my favorite George Strait song……there are so many good ones. That’s why he’s the King!

  5. I have never got hung up with my spur strap buckles on the outside. But I have felt discomfort on my scrawny little ankles when things are not aligned properly on the inside of my stirrup leather. So I prefer buckles on the outside.
    Although many George Strait songs on the radio will be more well-known and preferred, I lean towards songs like “Seashores of Old Mexico “and “What Do You Say To That “ 😊

  6. Sandy Arledge Reply

    To each hi/her own…wear them any way that suits you and makes sense. All that really matters about spurs is how they are used. Not as a weapon, but to enhance the leg/heel cues.

  7. Sandy Wallis Reply

    I am all on the buckles on the outside. I ride with pant legs long enough to cover the buckles, so getting hung up in brush has never been a problem. I was a trail guide at Camp Pendleton for several years, riding through chaparral on a daily basis. I currently pony race horses, and I have ridden for hours most days of my life. I keep my legs close to my horse at all times, and a buckle- especially a large one – would be uncomfortable for me and my horse. There is also a much greater likelihood of getting hung up on tack or accidentally cutting the horse than there ever would be in getting hung up in brush.

  8. I personally prefer mine on the outside. I have several wide strap spurs and found rub marks on my leather-wrapped stirrups when I wore the buckles on the inside, so I switched…no rub marks on the leather. Guess it’s like the west coast style of holding split reins out the bottom or the Texas style of out the top. I’m from Texas and prefer out the top, when training, I can reach up with my little finger and bump a rein if needed…can’t do that out the bottom. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  9. Brenda Cadwallader Reply

    Interesting history. I’m in my 60’s and grew up in Wyoming around “cowboys” who wore their spur strap buckles to the inside. My Dad’s old spurs are hanging here just as he had them set up and the buckles are still on the inside. Otherwise, I don’t see or remember much other Vaquero influence in his tack. I used to always do the same but had someone tell me at a horse show that only dudes wore the buckle on the inside. I was quite offended.

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