Evolution of Horse Riding Clothing and Fashion

Look at today’s fashion trends and you’ll see that athleisure is making its rounds on the runways and store racks. But long before yoga pants became an everyday staple and Nike was catapulted to the streets, there was equestrian fashion.

Text by Kristen Laurent. Photos Hermés gallery / private.

Interestingly, many brands you see today are heavily inspired by the sport. Hermés, for example, began by making harnesses and bridles for the European elite back in the 1800s. This was before the explosion of their now ubiquitous Birkin bags and silk scarves, which now evoke thoughts of posh riding clubs and aristocratic leisure.

Undoubtedly, horse riding has always held a respected seat in the fashion
world, able to marry performance and style. One reason for this is that
horses have always been a huge part of human history. As we at Equilife
World explained
, riding fashion has evolved over the centuries to reflect
the current culture and rider needs.

Hermés began by making harnesses and bridles for the European elite back in the 1800s. This was before the explosion of their now ubiquitous Birkin bags and silk scarves, which now evoke thoughts of posh riding clubs and aristocratic leisure.

Undoubtedly, horse riding has always held a respected seat in the fashion
world, able to marry performance and style. One reason for this is that
horses have always been a huge part of human history. As we at Equilife
World explained, riding fashion has evolved over the centuries to reflect
the current culture and rider needs.

MODEST ROOTS

During the eighteenth century, there was a stark emphasis on frills and
femininity, as women were made to ride in skirts paired with more
masculine-structured tops. But as the years progressed, general equestrian
fashion became more subdued. Dressmakers were swapped for tailors who
began to utilise cotton, wool, and linen to make tweed jackets— which, to
this day, is still the sport’s most recognizable garment.

During the industrial revolution, the perception of horses shifted
dramatically from work animals to animals for recreation and sports. With
that, equestrian fashion and social class started becoming a metric for
social status. However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s when jodhpurs
caught on. Characterised by their increased allowance for flexibility and
mobility, jodhpurs marked the beginning of horse riding apparel taking a
more comfort-friendly turn.

MODERN ATTIRE

To this day, equestrian fashion remains heavily rooted in tradition. Many
competitions still hold strict guidelines on the choice of attire, which mostly
dictates a conservative dress code. Yet, while a rider’s gear may look
conservative, the clothes have been specifically designed to help the riders.
Fabric technology that was developed to reduce moisture is now found in
most modern riding attire, giving riders greater comfort when riding
outside. Other contemporary designs are now created with more function
in mind and use an expanded roster of fabrics. Cotton-lycra breeches and
Gore-Tex jackets are now mainstays in riding fashion.

However, the biggest concern in modern equestrian attire today is safety.
Underneath the riding attire, riders will be wearing a protective riding vest
in case of a fall. Polystyrene-filled helmets have also been developed to
offer great protection. Due to the need to reduce head injuries, the British

Horseracing Association, the Professional Jockeys Association and the
Injured Jockeys Fund put forward a new campaign to highlight the dangers
of concussion in the sport. On their poster were falls by top jockeys,
including Lizzie Kelly, the first female to ride in Cheltenham Gold Cup for 33
years
. While the atheistic of equestrian fashion will always be a key part of
the sport, safety is the number one focus, and the modern vest and helmet
shows this

The biggest concern in modern equestrian attire today is safety.
Underneath the riding attire, riders will be wearing a protective riding vest
in case of a fall.

THE NEXT SCHOOL

Occasionally, equestrian wear still spills over to high street fashion, with
designers continuing to draw inspiration from the sport. Most notable is
popular luxury label Ralph Lauren, whose logo alone already boasts its
trademark horse design. An article by Forbes details how equestrian style
has been a constantly enduring theme in his collections
, ranging from
women’s wear to fine jewellery, and of course the famous polo shirts.
Often, his clothing lines even include jodhpurs and riding jackets, in
addition to day and evening wear. Ralph Lauren, along with other
designers, are tapping into the timeless elegance of riding attire and
breathing new life into it.

Equestrian wear still spills over to high street fashion, with
designers continuing to draw inspiration from the sport.

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