Friday, March 20, 2009
Hunting and riding as sartorial inspiration goes in and out of vogue with each sweep of the fashion pendulum. But EQUINE STYLE is always classic...
Somewhere in the beginning of Robert Redford's film, "The Horse Whisperer," there is a narrative that reveals something along the lines that since time immemorial, man's relationship to the horse has always been fragile at best. Save for the subject of fashion. Trigger and Mr. Ed notwithstanding, the horse and the attendant sports and pastimes associated with riding have been an enduring source of sartorial inspiration over the years, particularly in England and America.
Centuries ago, equine pursuits were the exclusive domain of British Royals and the aristocracy, but today such activities are equally popular among classes not necessarily to the manor born. Sports such as fox hunting, dressage and polo all required certain staples of dress, from specially cut jackets with slant pockets and high-button placement, to woven shirts with long collars buttoned down for ease and practicality. Call it Equine style, horsemanship and hunting has given us such classically elegant garments as jodhpurs, hacking jackets and knitted pullovers, while introducing the rest of the world to such fabrics as thorn-proof tweeds, tattersal plaids, hounds-tooth checks, corduroy, calvary twill and velvet. Even the trench coat as we know it was originally designed for British military commanders who led their armies while on horseback.
Colors too, such as tobacco brown, olive green, taupe, yellow, bright red, and black, once seen only in hunting and equestrian apparel, have made their way into everyday sportswear and tailored clothing.
Ironically, the sport of polo in many ways is part of the heritage of Rome-based clothing manufacturer Brioni, a 55-year-old company that has traditionally tailored “blue blood” sportive apparel for well-to-do Italians who enjoy Equine pursuits. But from whatever part of the world a clothier happens to hail, there is almost always a certain British country "horsy" flavor to sportswear that is genuinely classic and elegant, be it in the rich colorations, sophisticated patterns or finely finished tailoring. The clothing almost always reflects the kind of breeding and confidence always associated with Equine style.
That the horse has also had a profound influence on American western wear is obvious. How else to explain leather chaps, lengthy linen dusters with high-button center vents in back and pointed toe boots? Apart from the cowboy look, which can reach certain heights of elegance in its own right, equine style is revealed more in the proper turn of a lapel from a fitted tweed sports jacket, the rugged yet rich patina of tan twill pleated trousers or in the luxury of a buttery soft suede riding coat. Add deep tones as rich as the earth and subtle patterns that are timeless and rooted in tradition and anyone, man or woman, can ride off into the sunset in good kit. Hopalong Cassidy and Edward VIII would be proud.