Guess where the most sought-after bull riding gloves are made?
Bill White was packing his bag earlier this week for the Snake River Stampede. Even though he’s never ridden a bull, he could be one of the most important people in Nampa during the annual professional rodeo.
He knows the ins and outs of what it takes to be on the bull, and what’s in his bag is crucial for many of the riders: Tiffany Glove Co. gloves.
White is one of the owners of Tiffany Glove in Payette. When he bought the glove shop in 1970, he had been working at a meat-packing house that went on strike. He knew he wouldn’t be going back to work, and Tiffany’s owners taught him how to cut a glove. Shortly afterward, he made a down payment and started making gloves.
When he bought the company, he didn’t expect to become the most popular maker of bull riding gloves. In fact, he said making bull riding gloves, made from deerskin leather, was something he stumbled upon by accident.
“A kid came in and wanted to know if I could make a rodeo glove,” he said in an interview with the Statesman. “It was a lot like what we did, but I had to alter a lot of stuff. But then I started improving on that as I visited with these cowboys.”
The company quickly grew from there. White, who laughed when asked his age but didn’t answer, has never advertised. Tiffany Glove Co. has grown from first-hand experiences of pro bull riders and their unpaid endorsements.
“It just traveled,” he said. “I haven’t spent five cents on advertising. I’ve never bought any advertising. It’s been word of mouth, and that takes care of it. If you want that to be, you have to have the good ones.”
Now, 42 of the 45 bull riders on the Professional Bull Riders circuit wear Tiffany gloves marked with the company’s signature logo.
It’s no different at the Snake River Stampede, which runs through Saturday. Most of the riders are wearing Tiffany gloves, which White often delivers in person.
Tiffany Glove Co. makes about 25 custom bull riding gloves each day. They’ve evolved greatly since White started making the rodeo gloves in 1974.
He made the gloves thinner so riders can feel the rope in their hands. He also added color so that while customers can still buy gloves in stock tan, they also come in blue, red, purple, black and other shades.
“I worked close with the tanneries to get the leather the way I want, the weight that we want and the feel out of that leather,” White said. “So that’s why I have become the best. Working really close with these cowboys, I started going to the rodeos, visiting with them and finding out what they wanted a glove to feel like, and I changed a lot of things.”
White’s gloves have served several generations of bull riders. Some of the riders competing now have fathers who wore his gloves when they competed on bulls.
“I have kids saying ‘you can’t retire until I do,’” he said. “I say, ‘that’s what your dad said.’”
White has created a following that he says other companies haven’t been able to match. Others have tried to copy the Tiffany design, White said, but they haven’t come close to the fit and quality of his gloves.
White customizes the fit of each glove. He starts by tracing the hands of the rider and taking measurements. He makes notes of any special modifications the buyer may need.
A different glove “might look like my glove, but it’s not my glove,” he said. “I guess it’s like cars. All cars look alike, but not all of them are the same.”
Besides rodeo gloves, Tiffany Glove also specializes in work and motorcycle gloves. Besides deerskin, they also make gloves with elkskin.
The fit is the most important thing to White, and when someone puts on one of his gloves, he knows they can tell the difference.
“I like to custom fit,” he said. “I like them to fit perfect. When they when they put it on, they say, ‘there’s nothing like a Tiffany.”