If you look at today’s fashion trends, you’ll see that athleisure is making a comeback on the runways and many designers’ collection. But long before Gucci’s architectural heels were catapulted to the streets and yoga pants became an everyday staple, there was equestrian fashion.
Interestingly enough, many brands you’ll see today are inspired by the sport and horse riding apparel. Hermès, for example, before being renowned for silk scarves and Birkin bag, was known for making bridles and harnesses for the European elite back in the 1800’s. Later in 1900, Hermès sold bags designed for holding saddles – and in 1922, their first collection of women handbags came.
You can wear Hermès head-to-toe without owning a horse, and yet the brand evokes aristocratic athleisure and adheres to its equestrian heritage.
Undoubtedly, the riding lifestyle has inspired countless designers and held a seat in the fashion world; yet the actual riding gear for riders is stereotyped to be stuck in the 1800’s:
Much back in the 18th century, frills were in fashion as women were made to ride in masculine structured tops paired with long and short skirts. But as we progressed and the focus on frills and femininity shifted, general equestrian fashion became understated.
Tailors were brought in place of dressmakers, who began to utilize wool, linen and cotton to make tweed jackets, which till today is the sport’s most recognizable garment.
Just after the industrial revolution, the perception of horse dramatically shifted from work animals to animals for sports and recreation. With this shift, social class and equestrian fashion became a symbol for social status. However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s when jodhpurs (riding pants or breeches or britches) were invented to allow the freedom of movement during riding before stretchy technical fabrics existed.
Paired with horse riding boots and characterized by their increased allowance for mobility, jodhpurs marked the beginning of horse riding clothes taking a more flexible and comfortable turn.
Even today, the equestrian style and fashion remains heavily rooted in history and tradition. Many serious riders are still very particular about the choice of their attire, which mostly means a conservative dress code. Yet, while the gears may look conservative, the rider’s clothes are specifically designed to help him/her.
Fabric technology is now used in most modern riding attire – giving them utmost comfort while riding outside. Not to forget, other contemporary designs like the Gore-Tex jackets and Cotton-Lycra breeches are now created with more function in mind and are mainstays in riding fashion.
However, the biggest concern circling the modern equestrian attire today is safety. Therefore, riders wear a safety vest, underneath, in case of a fall.
While the atheistic of equestrian fashion will always be essential to the sport, safety is the number one focus; therefore, brands are producing modern vests, helmets and safety accessories.
Generation Z – The Next School
Occasionally, equestrian apparel still spills over to high-end fashion, with designers and brands continuing to take inspiration from the sport. Most notable brands like Church Equestrian and Ralph Lauren have been constantly enduring equestrian style in their newest collections.
Ralph Lauren, in 1967, first launched his Polo Collection and till this day is enduring equestrian style in his theme collections, ranging from women’s jewelry to clothing, and of course polo shirts.
Ralph Lauren, along with Stella McCartney and other designers, are entering the never-ending era of elegant riding apparel and breathing new life into it.