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Death of Equestrian Fashion.


by Renee Spurge January 12, 2021

During the early years of LA Saddlery, circa 2009, we had a very old and very large dresser. It sat, in its massive glory, just adjacent to the registers, and was filled with all kinds of treasures.  The drawers were considerable and heavy, and not one had a mate with a matching knob.  I have no idea how old it was, but we inherited it from the store before, and I am sure they inherited from somewhere else. It took a daily beating from our employees as they carelessly muscled the drawers open, sifting through the chaos to find what they needed.  It was a grand piece of furniture from the past, that held in its beaten wooden drawers, the timeless beauty of equestrian tradition.

The top drawer was the favorite, and subsequently the heaviest. It was home to at least a dozen leather bound books, filled with endless possibilities for future custom hunt coats and ratcatchers to be created.  Grand Prix, R.J. Classics and a little Canadian company called Marigold, offered thousands of options for us to choose from.  The most spectacular array of fabrics from classic herringbone, to vibrant window pain, and my personal favorite, the timeless pinstripe.  There was also an abundance of collar and piping details to peruse through, not to mention the retina burning silk liners. 

And the shirts. My god how I loved those damn shirts.  So much personality! Each one hoping to be the 4 inches that peeped through your new coat, adding just the right amount of flair or chicness. The task of putting together the perfect color printed shirt to compliment the shades and textures of the coat, was pure magic for me. It was the main reason that I plunged myself into this business wholeheartedly, with all the plans in the world to master the domain of equestrian fashion.  

 

Equestrian clothing has undoubtedly been the major muse of top designers around the world in producing stunning collections of everyday clothing, decade after decade, never losing its impact or sex appeal.  It has been embedded in the equestrian community since probably the first woman ever sat on a horse!  And if you poo poo the idea of fashion at the barn, and prefer to muck around in your oversized breeches, and old stained t-shirt, then let me tell you, you are missing a huge part of what makes this sport, this lifestyle, this world, so pleasurable, so enduring, and so envied by all non-equestrians. Simply put, we are undeniably a sexy sport. 

 

But alas my friends, I have seen the decline of Equestrian fashion for the last several years.  Where there was once a sea of beautiful browns, taupe’s, soft pinks and greens, even lavender, elegantly showcased in the hunter arena, is now a sterile and sad display of black and navy. And, of course, the ever popular plain white shirt, has permanently replaced personality. Now many of you may recall my crusade years ago, where I fought hard to keep this trend of boring at bay. But the uptight powers that be were too strong for this little fashionista rebel, and I had to turn my attention to the jumper arena.

 

And there I discovered a whole new world of color and crystals, styled elements like zippers and pockets in novel places, an array of button options, varying lengths, and modern fabrics and cuts to choose from. The Italians were all over this movement like the little unicorn tailors they are, and I was once again in hunt coat heaven.   Most recently we have worked with the brands, Iago, Winston and Equiline, to create our own unique collections of coats for our customers to shop. Every season we choose new colors, new combos, and new ways of jazzing up your wardrobe, and I never seem to run out of excitement or ideas for the next collection. But these days of custom bliss might be coming to an end too.

 

There have been a few trends lately, threatening the fun out of equestrian fashion once again. The first one was the mesh coat, or as I like to call it, the horse scrim on your back.  I know it’s hot out there sometimes, but there is no way that coat keeps you THAT much cooler than all of the other amazingly beautiful and advanced performance coats to choose from. It’s a mental thing, I am certain of it!  Especially since most of you were wearing the wool coats I just spoke so nostalgically about, not so long ago. And for years! If memory serves there weren’t mass outbreaks of heat stroke.  Also FYI I can see the holes in the coat from a mile away.  And according to my Optometrist, I have a very debilitating case of CSS.  Can’t see shit.  So yeah, in my opinion, those coats have chipped away at the integrity of equestrian fashion for some time now, and clearly as well as at my tolerance for them! Believe me, I am all for evolving the clothing we wear to make us perform better, but not at the cost of ugly.  (Please reference my later apology for offending you, not everyone gets my humor. Just ask my family!)

Unfortunately fear of being hot is not the only phenomenon killing equestrian fashion. Fear of falling has started to put a dent in style as well.   That’s right, the growing popularity of the blow up vest.  But however they try to cleverly market it with hip music videos telling you how sleek and stylish it looks…and snazzy lines like Safety is Fashionable, spectating at a horse show where everyone is wearing black mesh coats under blow up vests is not exactly going to be very glamorous to watch. Imagine Figure Skaters or Gymnasts (both of which are at the top of the list with Equestrian sports as the most dangerous), doing their thing with a big black technical device attached to them. Not exactly going to be a hit with their fans.  And the chance of LA Saddlery becoming a store that exclusively sells plain black coats and gas canisters is about the same chance as you getting me to think riding tights are a good look. 

So what’s a fashionable girl to do!? Don’t get me wrong, despite my shallow appearance and horrific display of petty grievances, I completely embrace the notion that our lives are way more important than owning a sparkly hunt coat. And I have had my head buried in my computer diligently researching this very topic, hoping to uncover a more fashionable mouse trap.  I would love nothing more then to have both, a safe and fashionable solution to the essential problem we all have experienced in our equestrian lives, falling. It sucks, no doubt.  I won’t bore you of the days I rode as a child. Bareback.  No helmet, no boots, sometimes no reins! Yeah we galloped into the hills with tennis shoes and halters.  Obviously I survived, unfortunately to some people’s despair.  But would I ever do that now, a 45 year old woman who nearly renders herself unconscious on a daily basis, sometimes from nothing more than the air around her!? Hell’s no!  My fiancé suggested I ride a horse at his barn who has been trucking tiny children around for the past few months, and the thought of getting on a strange horse after not riding for over a year, sent my heart into mild cardiac arrest.   No way I am getting injured right now with hospitals overrun with Covid patients

And so I get the dilemma.  I get the comfort a safety vest provides you when you get on your horse that your trainer convinced you was a “diamond in the rough.”  And if whatever reason I can’t find a more fashionable version to keep you safe, then I will just have to get more creative in finding other ways to keep you looking the part. Hell if I have to, we will buy a glue gun and some Swarovski’s and set up Jesse with a Bling out your Blow Up Vest station in Thermal.  If you don't know by now,  Jesse can make just about anything fashionable!  So don’t worry about LA Saddlery, we will persevere and honor our promise to always keep you in style. But just know, a little part of me, and I truly believe a little part of the deeply rooted tradition of equestrian fashion, dies every time you accidentally blow yourself up while dismounting your horse. 

I apologize to any and all of you who I have greatly offended with my sick sense of humor. What can I say, I am a dark comedy kinda girl.  In all seriousness, all of those who either own a mesh coat or an air vest, I am truly sorry. I of course want you all to be safer and make good life decisions. I will just have to keep reminding you that, with all the money you are saving on having only one show jacket that we can’t see under your vest, you will have that much more money to spend on the beautiful new cashmere sweaters we have at LA Saddlery!

 

Stay safe, and for the love of the sport, stay fashionable!  And again…I apologize. Winks, smiley emoji. 

 




Renee Spurge
Renee Spurge

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