With apologies to Stacey and Clinton . . . but there’s been a thread on the Chronicle of the Horse that has had me chuckling. I have cared that much about being in style, so predictably, I am a big offender of what not to wear when it comes to equestrian sporting attire.
But let’s face it, when it comes to most forms of English riding, we rider look a bit, well, anachronistic. Tweed jackets, top hats and britches have remained the same for hundreds of years, at least if you look at men’s attire. It’s the intricacies of fashion (and tradition) that can catch you up.
For example, I fox hunt. I wore the stock pin that used for dressage and eventing competitions with a pre-tied stock tie. That’s a big no-no on the hunt field. Since stock ties sometimes need to double as slings or bandages, it’s important to use the real thing (and to learn to tie it correctly) and fasten it with a plain horizontal gold stock pin (looks like a safety pin).
In fox hunting there are formal and informal seasons. During the informal season you can dress like you came out of a Ralph Lauren ad: tweed or hacking jackets in earth tones with three buttons, small lapels and a vented back. Breeches can be beige tan or gray and boots can be brown or black. Stock ties can have colors or patterns. Women must wear hair nets.
In the formal season, jackets should be navy or black, shirts and stock ties must be white, breeches beige and boots black. No field boots during formal season and coats must remain buttoned while mounted. Depending on the specific hunt, gentleman with Colors wear a scarlet coat (pinque) with hunt colors on their collar, hunt buttons, white breeches and regulation boots with brown tops. Ladies with Colors wear hunt colors on their colors, hunt buttons, and patent leather tops to their boots.
The rules for show hunters are harder as they are not written down and do seem to be driven by trends and fashion. Here are a few ways you can show yourself to be an outsider:
- Don’t wear hair bags or show bows. You should always wear a hairnet, but not a heavy duty one. In fact, some people wear hair nets whenever they ride.
- Boots must fit properly. Most of all, they need to be so tall that the first few time you wear them they create blisters on the backs of your knees. I had a pair like that and while they looked marvelous, I had to grit my teeth to keep from crying out in pain. Often this means that custom made boots are necessary.
- Hunter hair must be artfully arranged.
- No belt is bad form. A non-leather belt is worse.
- Do not wear a hunting style stock pin or a stock tie. Your collar should be monogrammed instead. Plus, there’s an urban legend about stock pins: If you fall off and they open up, they could stab you in the neck. I’ve fallen several times wearing one and the pin has been the least of my problems.
- Helmet covers (like eventers use over skull caps) are not done.
- Green hunt coats.
- Visible panty lines should be avoided at all costs, a somewhat difficult task when wearing stretchy tight pants in pale colors.
- Faded helmets.
- Short sleeved or no-sleeved shirts under jackets. Long sleeves only, please!
Next time, we’ll talk about eventing . . . where almost anything goes when it comes to cross country!