Buckling down: Size does not matter

Aparently size doesn't matter.

While there is a lot of competition between participants at the Reno Rodeo this week, there isn't much fuss when it comes to belt buckles.

Walking around the rodeo grounds, the belt buckle is as common place as the signature cowboy hat and comes in plenty of different styles and sizes. Competitors and spectators alike sport gold-plated buckles encrested with jewels, silver ones so thoroughly polished that a ghost could see its reflection, and even ones large enough that George Foreman could eat a full-course meal on.

Kids wear them. Women wear them. And with nearly every cowboy wearing one, it'd be easy to think that there might be some bragging rights to go along with them. But that's not the case.

"We wear it because we won it somewhere, it's kind of like a boxer with a heavyweight belt," explained team roper Tony Branquino, who has a collection of more than 100 different buckles. "Each rodeo has a different belt buckle, so every time you win an event you get a new one."

And with most of the cowboys taking part in more than 100 rodeos each year, each person has a good amount. It might be like a heavyweight belt, but with everyone having one there definitely isn't a champion.

For some it's just like the trophy that a kid gets for playing soccer in third grade -- forgotten as soon as it's given. For others, it could hold a certain sentimental value, especially if it came from a big event.

"It's where you won it, what event it was, stuff like that is where the prestige is at," Branquino said. "Some of the nicest ones in the world are the size of a 50-cent piece. Size really doesn't matter.

"Sometimes a buckle is really important. For me, it doesn't matter. Whatever is in my bag I'll wear it. When I get in a sentimental mood, I'll change to that one," Branquino said.

Casey Smith, another team roper agrees.

"It's where you win it. It's kind of a sentimental deal," Smith said. "At some rodeos they give out belt buckles the size of a dinner plate, but I wouldn't wear it."

It's what is on the buckle, not the size.

"Actually they're all goregous and you just got to wear it with pride," said University of Nevada running back Chance Kretschmer, who has been around rodeo all his life and is helping out with the event. "You don't need a big one."

Sometimes, for the superstitious cowboy, a buckle could also be worn for good luck.

"It's like a lucky piece of clothing for some people," Branquino said. "If they win an event with one buckle, they'll keep on wearing it. It all depends on the individual."

Depending on the event, cowboys can wear their buckle during competition. Competitors won't wear buckles for events where they get thrown around a lot, such as in bull riding and bareback riding. But once the event is over, it goes right back on.

"When everybody goes to the bar or goes out you bring your belt buckle," bareback rider Darren Clark said. "It's just like putting on your boots. Everyone's got their favorites, you just put the one on you like the most."

And picking a favorite, even with a large collection, isn't all that hard.

"A lot of times, it's the money that goes with it is the big deal," Smith said. "It signifies winning first and the prize money that goes with it."

Smith said he uses his buckle all the time, wearing it with his polo shirt and cargo pants just like he does with his boots, jeans and flannel shirt.

"It keeps your pants up," Smith said.

And maybe that's all there is to it. After all, it's just a belt buckle.


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