How Jeans Led To The Start Of Butch Cassidy's Life Of Crime

Robert LeRoy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, is one of the most infamous outlaws of the Wild West, immortalized by the 1969 classic film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." But the man who would go on to rob banks and trains, capture headlines, and mysteriously disappear in South America had humble beginnings as an outlaw who stole a pair of jeans — and he might not even have meant to (via

Parker was born in Beaver, Utah, to Mormon parents, and as a teenager, worked as a ranch hand around the state. When working at Hay Springs, the future outlaw let himself into a closed clothing shop and helped himself to a new pair of jeans. He left a note saying he would later pay what he owed, but the shopkeeper was less than impressed with Parker's idea of commerce. When Parker's dad lost the family ranch, young "Roy" — as he was called — turned to a rancher named Mike Cassidy for support, later inspiring the name that he would really make his mark with: Butch Cassidy.

The jeans incident shaped his world view

Butch Cassidy's involvement with the stolen jeans did more than just alert local authorities to another teenage thief. According to Mental Floss, the outlaw's frontier childhood raised him on the importance of a man's word. It's not a stretch to think that he genuinely believed his IOU would be respected or that he really did plan to pay the shopkeeper back for the pants.

The shopkeeper did press charges, but Cassidy was acquitted. Still, the experience left a bad taste in his mouth. Per Larry Pointer's "In Search of Butch Cassidy," he had been led to believe that something like an IOU was to be taken as a sincere promise, and the distrust of the shopkeeper and brush with authorities gave the future outlaw feelings of confusion, humiliation, and injustice. It's probably too big of a leap to say he never would have become an outlaw had the IOU have been respected, but that fateful pair of jeans certainly had an effect on his psyche right before he went on his decade-long crime spree.