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Made in Idaho: Bear Knuckles

The evolution of Idaho-made rodeo gloves
Made in Idaho: Bear Knuckles
Posted at 8:51 AM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 10:51:12-04

STAR, IDAHO — If you were raised in the Gem State, chances are you've been to a rodeo or two, or maybe even tried competing in one. A couple Idaho natives know how hard it is hanging on to those beasts, and made a glove specifically for cowboys to better their ride times and avoid injury. A few years later, that rodeo glove has evolved into a variety of different options.

In 1991, Blackfoot resident Shawn Schild began making gloves for bareback riders in local rodeos. After a few years and and a high demand from cowboys, he knew he was on to something big.

"Once I finally got to my first patented design, I basically took over the whole world market in the bareback riding industry within a couple years, and since that point, basically have put everybody else completely out of business. We just figured, they were working so much better for these guys, that why not build something that works better for the whole world," said Bear Knuckles Gloves deigner Shawn Schild.

And though Shawn started making all kinds of different gloves, it wasn't until 2017 that today's company came about after Shawn met up with an old friend at their high school reunion.

"Shawn showed me some of the work gloves that he started building and I was very impressed and I'm entrepreneurial-minded so I was thinking hey, we've got something here, so let's see what we can do," said Bear Knuckles president Kendall Matson.

And that year, Bear Knuckles was born. They began by selling one type of glove under their new name directly to consumers.

"Through Shawn's shop, they sold quite a few from there as well, which expanded into hey we need to get into retail and so we started in retail and we got into some small locations and then it's been a slow growth because of the fact that we have to have inventory on hand and now we've got the inventory on hand and we're expanding rapidly," said Matson.

Fast forward to today, the company is currently selling nine different type of gloves to consumers and retailers all over the world, mostly out of their warehouse in the Treasure Valley's own town of Star.

"With the results that we got with the rodeo gloves, we thought if we could get them into work-type gloves, it was a much larger market. We'd have something that would do us some good, maybe do Idaho some good, maybe generate enough money and enough volume with a big company if we could compete with the big companies out there that we could help sporting programs and schools and different kinds of things like that. That's our real goal," said Schild.

With Bear Knuckles Gloves getting bigger every day, these two self-described Idaho Boys love to let people know what state they do business out of.

"If we can make this business as successful as we think it can be, to be able to give back to the communities and help the people in this area. All these people have been my friends since forever, including all the cowboys around the world, so why not? If you can become successful enough to do some good for the people that are around you, do it," said Schild.

"We can prove that in Idaho, you can do anything. It doesn't matter that there's not that great of a population, but great ideas, great human beings, and very intelligent people living in the state of Idaho. I just love to be a part of it," said Matson.