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Cowboys and Ostrich: A love affair to spur you on!

3 January 2006

“Cowboys put ostrich leather in everything from boots to belts, and jackets. They more or less adopted it as their leather.”
   - Chuck Larson, Dallas, Texas, USA

WESTERN WEAR IN the United States evolved from the early 1840s, when Horace Greeley said Go West Young Man. Ever since then clothing for these hardy fearless people changed, evolved and became more practical to fit their new life style. They wore broader hats to keep the sun off them. They liked high boots and leather chap leggings to keep the thorny bushes off their body. They wore sharp metal spurs on their boots to remind their horse to pay attention, and many of them wore a Colt-45 pistol on their hip to make everyone else pay attention.

In the Western and Southern United States, millions of people still dress like this (minus the Colt-45). It’s part of a lifestyle and an attitude that they don’t want to give up. And so, even now, it’s not uncommon to see a lawyer in Dallas wearing a business suit, expensive cowboy boots (usually ostrich) and a cowboy hat. In fact the Texas Rangers (State Police Force) wear cowboy boots, cowboy hats, a metal star on their chest and they still wear the Colt-45 on their hip to remind people to pay attention.

This has given rise to a whole Western Clothing Industry. In about 1972, Saddle Finish ostrich leather hit the market and for whatever reason the cowboys took to it like a duck to water. KLEIN KAROO Ostrich was unique, strong and soft to the hand and cowboys used it for boots, belts and jackets. They adopted it as their leather.

As we all know, the ostrich industry has experienced some challenges in the past few years, but the cowboys’ loyalty to the bird has never faltered. Through good times and bad times the demand was still there, both from the American cowboy and the Mexican cowboy. As the price dropped and more cowboys could afford the boots and belts, etc, the volumes sold went straight up. So far, the fear that ostrich leather is too cheap and will lose its appeal, or its too expensive and no-one will buy it, have never materialised.

The flightless bird is the only exotic bird that has had a continuous love affair with the American Western lifestyle. It is so popular that the Americans think they invented it, but then they think they invented everything else, too!

For years, the cowboy industry was dominated by boots in Black, Medium Brown, Cognac and Tan colours. About ten years ago KLEIN KAROO came up with a Black Cherry brush-off. This took the industry by storm.

Today, there is a renaissance going on. Women are now a large part of the once male dominated market. They have brought high fashion colour to the dreary browns of the tobacco chewing boys. Nothing looks better than a pretty girl at the dance with a cowboy hat, tight Jeans and pink ostrich boots. The market is rapidly expanding. Besides boots and belts, there is all of a sudden a big demand for ostrich leather motorcycle seats and ostrich leather horse saddle seats. Toyota is using ostrich leather on the seats of a Lucchese Western Designer Edition of their Tundra Pick-Up Trucks and their Sequoia SUVs.

The flightless bird is now flapping its wings and soaring over the cliff, and the cowboy spits his tobacco, adjusts his Colt-45 and says “I told you so...”

Source: World of KLEIN KAROO (Newsletter of the KLEIN KAROO Group)

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