"What are you wearing?" USA vs UK Equestrian Style

American and British Equestrian Fashion

Editors note: I have chosen the UK as our contrast because overall (I think) UK and America have the greater majority of horse riders. The last census in 2015 according to the British Horse Society: The most recent British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) National Equestrian Survey (2015) indicated that, There has been a decline in regular riders, from 1.6 million in 2011 to 1.3 million in 2015. There remains a strong gender bias, with females representing 74% of the riding population. In 2015, there are an estimated 962,000 female regular riders compared with 348,000 males. In the US there are an estimated 7 million riders (all in)  

So in the world of equestrian fashion, UK and US riders have always maintained a graceful, but yet conservative sense of style.  This is certainly the case in the form of hunt seat, where style is just as important as performance. The traditional hunt-seat attire consists of the usual beige, tan or gray breeches (known as jodhpurs in the UK); a white or light pastel shirt; and a black, navy, gray, or dark brown hunt coat.  Styles of pinstripe, faint plaids and herringbone patterns have come and gone over the years. However, as fashion is consistently moving, the traditional garb has received minor updates in both countries. British fashion, in and out of the equestrian world, has always been acclaimed for its “fearlessness,” and famed for an individual sense of style.  Another key factor to take in when considering the British sense of style, is that their dress is more often governed by the weather.  It rains tremendously in England, and British riders must dress accordingly.  So many riders maintain the traditional warm aesthetic of jodhpurs, tweed jackets, hunt coats, and the usual bowled riding hat (helmet) But don’t be fooled by the nod to the past, these classic styles are hemmed and cut with a modern figure in mind, giving British riders that famous, layered, and slightly edgy look – rounded out with a touch of iconic. The contrasting American style is comprised of simpler, more comfortable pieces – which are worn with impeccable style.  Casual riders in America have transcended the usual getup (both in and out of hunt seat arena) with the incorporation of padded jackets, fleeces, and even colored polo shirts during the warmer seasons. Even when it comes to breeches, American riders have upped the ante with denim styles – because, what’s more American than a pair of iconic blue jeans?  Whether it’s a full-seat or knee-patch pair of breeches, you’ll find Americans have truly embraced the earthy tones and colors found in modern style. In competition, Americans also have seemed to embrace “shadbellys.”  A shadbelly is a style of coat adopted from dressage competition.  This coat is cut short on the front midsection, but worn long with tails in the back.  The black coat is accompanied with a stock tie, pin, and a checkered or plaid patterned taddersall point at the bottom.

Photo by egorr/iStock / Getty Images

 When it comes down to who wears it better, it’s quite a tough call.  On the one hand, the British, with that stiff upper-lip, seems to have maintained the upper hand by way of style.  After all, it has been said that all the fashion of the world was birthed in old Britannia. However, Americans have never backed down or shied away from brazenly bold fashion statements! And the way American riders always seem to pull off both stylish and casual attire – without looking eager or desperate – is certainly a commendable trait.   And perhaps since I happen to fly Old Glory, instead of The Union Jack, my hat goes to American equestrian fashion!

Who do you think has better style? Tell us about it!


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