DENVER — The National Western Stock Show is the Superbowl of livestock shows, tracing back to 1899 in Denver. Around 700,000 visitors have enjoyed rodeos, a Western art exhibition, and horsemanship showcases for 16 days every January. But one subtler point of attraction are the elaborate belt buckles worn by bronco busters and fairground fashionistas at the show. Historically, the buckles were a trophy — only awarded, rarely bought. The trophy buckle was introduced as an acknowledgment at rodeo championships and gained momentum in the 1920s. These wearable awards exemplify a tradition of ornamental metalworking, often made from sheets of nickel or silver, soldered with gold lettering and engraved details.
Surprisingly, instead of wearing the buckles from their greatest career achievement, most competitors this year chose their earliest acquisition or one of sentimental value. If competitors don’t desire bling at the belt line, on rare occasions, spectacular spurs are awarded, or Miss Rodeo representatives don fantastic tiaras on their Stetson brims. Here are a few of the hits from the hip, no bull.