Equestrianism: From Functionality to Fashion

An athlete’s uniform is typically a reflection of functionality firstly, and then a general description
of the team or association or brand they play for second. But what happens when the garb
worn for a specific sport is rooted firstly in fashion, then in functionality? Enter: horseback riding.
It is not to say, however, that equestrian fashion lacks functionality, it is completely the opposite,
because let’s face it, these clothes have been worn successfully for years coupled with
controlling a living, breathing animal, but equestrian fashion is specific because it follows a
history of the sport, and as the sport has evolved, so has the fashion, and it has gone on to
influence designers and fashion fanatics undoubtedly. Fashion today is taking a page from
horseback riding’s handbook and creating pieces that are high-quality, high-fashion, and
functional.

The influence in equestrianism in modern fashion and style can be traced back to companies
that produced proper pieces of tack (leather goods used while riding a horse). Although
Hermès is known today for its horse-heavy designs in clothing, accessories, and jewelry, it had
its humble beginnings creating English riding saddles and other tacks, beginning all the way back
in 1857. As their popularity for saddles increased, they began to make regular leather goods;
not just tack. One thing leads to another, and bam, Hermès is selling the equestrian-inspired,
timeless lines that are seen today.

Another designer whose name prompts the thought of riding and horses faster than the clothes
themselves is Ralph Lauren. The Polo Ralph Lauren company simply screams horses with their
polo logo and the simple fact that the entirety of the brand and what the brand stands for was
inspired by a Men’s hunt coat. One piece of influence skyrocketed a decades-old and fully
prominent brand.

Additionally, Gucci has held a long tradition of featuring equestrian pieces in their clothing and
accessories; most notably, their iconic horse-bit loafers, adorned with a loose ring snaffle,
making their debut in 1953, followed the Jackie Bag, making its debut in 1961. Although Gucci
is not necessarily known firstly for its equestrian influence, the air and spirit of equestrianism
ebbs and flows throughout its designs.

While some of these brands and designers got their beginnings in tack, and others were
inspired by it, the equestrian influence has withstood the test of time in the world of fashion.
Between knee-high boots, white blouses, big belts, and beautiful blazers, these styles have
proven time and time again to be relevant. Coco Chanel herself was a fierce lover of riding
horses and created her own riding-style boot that Chanel became synonymous with. Apart from
the designers above, influence drawn from a day out in the hunt field can be seen in more
places than one may originally think or see.

Now, we’ve seen just a taste of the large influence horses have on fashion. But why is it
important, and more importantly, why has this historical sport’s practical fashion made its way
into the closets of horse people, and non-horse people alike? The answer is simple: equestrian
apparel is both functional and fashionable: high fashionable, that is. The pieces are designed to
be worn actively, yet they are made of pristine leather, wool, and other fabrics traditionally that
seek to make horseback riding not only a sport but also a tradition. The tradition of tall boots,
elegant breeches, and stunning coats are still perpetuated in show rings and runways today. And
is that not what high fashion wants to be, high quality, yet functional? The groundwork the sport
of horseback riding laid and continues to provide the most ideal outline for the qualities high
fashion brands wish to uphold season after season.


By: Emily Goldbergemily.goldberg204@gmail.com
@bb.em