When it Comes to Spur Straps, Who is Right…The “Insiders” or the “Outsiders?”

For some reason I have a vivid memory of sitting in the barn with my dad one night as a kid. In the summer, we would spend all day riding horses and then my dad and Pete, who started some colts for him at the time, would sit in the barn, drink beer and talk, (what else?) horses. I remember Dad and Pete getting into a pretty intense discussion about the proper way to wear spurs. Or to be more specific, the proper way to wear spur straps.

If you’re unfamiliar with spur straps, they consist of two separate pieces, usually leather, that each attach to the buttons on a pair of spurs to hold them on your boots. One piece is short with a buckle on the end, while the other piece is longer with several holes to attach to the buckle. Because of the design, the buckle usually ends up resting either on the inside of your boot or the outside, depending on how you wear them.

spur straps

During this discussion, I remember my dad being pretty adamant that the buckle was designed to rest on the outside of the boot. That this was the “proper” way to wear them.

Not unlike the little bow on the sweatband of your cowboy hat. It should ALWAYS be at the back of your head. If it’s on your forehead you are wearing the hat backwards. And nobody is going to argue with that rule.

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However, as I learned from this conversation all those years ago, the spur strap “rule” is a little less cut and dried.

Dad’s argument made sense. He said that many spur straps feature silver buckles that are meant to be seen and would obviously warrant wearing them on the outside of the boot where they can more easily be admired (just to be clear, I can’t remember any of my dad’s spur straps actually featuring said silver buckle, and as you can tell from the image above, I take after him).

In addition, if the buckle is on the inside of your boot, there is more potential for it to rub your foot if it is making contact with your stirrup in just such a way or even cause discomfort to your horse.

But, Pete had a point too. If you’re a cowboy who encounters a lot of brush in your day to day life, wearing the buckles to the inside protects you from catching your spurs on something and potentially losing them. Not to mention, the inside buckle makes it really simple to prop your ankle up on your opposite knee to take your spurs on and off.

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Apparently, because of the terrain and tradition, the “inside” trend is alive and well in Northern Nevada “Buckaroo Country” and from what I hear, Texas as well.

Now, I am my father’s daughter and admittedly, I don’t cover a lot of brushy country on a regular basis, so I have always buckled my spurs on the outside of my boots.

Based on the results of a very non-scientific Facebook poll I recently conducted, I would venture to guess about 90% of the spur-wearing population follows this rule of thumb as well.

But that doesn’t make the “Insiders” wrong. As my friend Katie DeLong so eloquently wrote:

Still wondering how to wear your spurs? Unless you have a legitimate reason buckle your straps to the inside, like riding through the brush on a regular basis or constantly taking your spurs on and off, or you have a pair that are obviously designed to be worn that way, I would recommend wearing the buckle on the outside. . . if only because fewer people will tell you you’re “doing it wrong.”

And if you want to avoid this whole conundrum altogether, there are these new-fangled straps (fashioned after old-fangled straps) that don’t have buckles at all. Personally, I rarely unbuckle mine unless I need to adjust them because I’m putting them on a different pair of boots. I simply slip them over the top after I’ve taken my boots off. And these straps are designed for precisely that.

rick jorgensen spur straps

These were made by our friend Rick Jorgensen, who wrote this post about boot cleaning.

Want to learn even more about spurs? Check out this post.

Are you an “insider” or an “outsider?” Leave a note in the comments and weigh in on the debate!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Kent McClurg

    I enjoy any articles about cowboy traditions and learning about different ways of doing things.

    1. Byron

      I have been training horses and giving riding lessons for about 50 years. It seem with every rider, the spur strap question always surfaces. When I was a lot younger and breaking horses the old fashioned way, I buckles my spurs on the inside because my spur straps were tooled and I thought they were pretty. After getting my spur strap fought in the lone mane of a wild horse and having a wreck, I now buckle on the outside. I don’t think I was ever right or wrong with eather
      choice. We move and gather cows and much of that is in the brush, I’ve never lost a spur but I am shore there are those who have.
      So until you develop your own hard fast rule just change feet with your
      Spurs and enjoy the ride. Mabe you will see me on the trail and and we will have our spurs on with one strap buckled each way.

  2. Donna Wright

    Ok, now that I learned all about straps, do the spurs face up or down, which is my question? I have seen them both ways.

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      Usually the bend in the spur shank should point up!

      1. Dalton

        I think that you can determine whether the shank points up or down by how the strap is and by which way is comfortable to you

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