As an equestrian, and a very stylish one at that, I would like to preface this entire post by saying that this article is not aimed at any of my close friends, colleagues, peers, or anyone I know well enough that could be offended by this posting. That being said, here is my most humble opinion of ‘equestrian fashion’.
Equestrian fashion is at its core a fashion perpetuated by mainstream equestrian culture. This encompasses everything from cowboy-looking apparel to equitation stylings, and every musing in between. Major brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, and Antonio Melani have become successful marketing the equitation-based styling as ‘equestrian fashion’, leading major magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue to dub this look as ‘equestrian’. But what is equestrian clothing? What makes an article of clothing ‘equestrian’? At this point in the conversation, it is only fair for me to say that society’s fashion gurus and I begin to disagree.
What makes an article of clothing ‘equestrian’ in the eyes of society is constant riffs on specific shapes found on riding equipment, references to polo, and imitations of actual riding wear. While fashion photography from major labels would have you believe that throwing a ‘bit accent‘ on a leather shoe makes it ‘equestrian’, or simply posing a model next to a random horse makes the ensemble thusly ‘equestrian’, actual equestrians like myself have much more stringent criteria:
- Can you actually ride in this article of clothing?
If your answer to this question is ‘no’, then there is a good chance you are being suckered into something that is simply ‘fashionable’, but in no way ‘equestrian’. If yes, then there is a good chance that this item of clothing is equestrian. To demonstrate my point, allow me to show what you could not possibly ride in, but is somehow labeled ‘equestrian fashion’
2. Can you actually identify what about it is ‘equestrian’?
If your answer is “I think so”, or “yes”, what about it seems to be ‘equestrian’? Is it a bit accent? Or is it perhaps a pair of pants with knee pads? Do you know what those knee pads are for? Is it a ‘hunt coat‘ styled item? Does it have any strange embellishments or patches on it? Sadly, most people who claim to be wearing ‘equestrian’ clothing can only answer some of these questions. What I find most often to be the case is that ‘bit embellishments’ are more or less a designer’s loose interpretation of a dee ring snaffle or loose ring snaffle, though often disproportioned and altogether inaccurate. ‘Riding pants’ are often just leggings with knee patches, and most ‘fashionable’ consumers do not appear to have to foggiest notion what the purpose of these said patches is. ‘Riding coats’ are often just glorified blazers, sometimes embellished with strange incoherent ‘equestrian’ nonsense patches which are not used on any competition equestrian riding coats (mainly because they are gaudy and heinous). Tall boots are one of the few items that can be readily identified as ‘equestrian’, though most ‘tall boots’ put forth by fashion designers are of noticeably lower quality than real equestrian tall boots (a good way to tell is if there is any embellishment nonsense on them which would make them uselesss to ride in).
3. After wearing said ‘fashion’ do you smell like horse poop?
If your reaction to this was “EW!” then congratulations, you are not an equestrian and should not be trying to fool people into thinking you are. To me personally, I find it annoying when non-equestrians wear ‘equestrian styles’ but then act repulsed at the idea that these ‘fashion pieces’ are to be worn for their intended purpose: riding a horse. When you ride, you sweat (as does your horse), and become covered in dirt, and then proceed to smell bad. Just as every designer has a signature fragrance, the only things horse people ever smell like is normally a mix of horse poop, lysol, showsheen/cowboy magic, or orvus paste. Some equestrians like myself will kid ourselves into thinking that extra-strength febreeze will mask the smell of horse poop long enough not to horrify our classmates, but ultimately the signature smell of a true equestrian fashionista is Eau de HorseButt.
Because of the daily stigma some equestrians face for showing up to classes in their boots and britches smelling like manure pile and sweaty pony, it does irritate us when others put forth the false image that equestrians are somehow supposed to smell like flowers, and are looked at as ‘bad equestrians’ for our weak attempt at masking the true smell of equestrianism. It is for that reason I maintain that the only true ‘equestrian fashion’ clothing can be purchased at tack shops and nowhere else (often for much much less than designers in consignment), and that non-equestrians should take a riding lesson before traipsing around in tall boots and glorified ‘equestrian style’ leggings.
DISCLAIMER: Yes, I do use febreeze before class as perfume. If I have successfully fooled you into thinking horse people smell good, I am sorry for shattering your dreams.
Do you try to pull off equestrian fashion? Do you smell like horse poop? Sound off in the comments below!