EQ STYLE

​ ​​New York Horse magazine 

  STORIES. ADVICE. HORSEPLAY.

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IN POST-WAR AMERICA, EQUESTRIAN STYLE BECAME A HARD HABIT TO BREAK

It was May 1947. World War II was over, the first baby boomers were turning 1, and on the cover of Life

magazine the news of the day was

riding clothes – jodhpurs buttoned to

the knee and tall boots modeled by a

leggy blonde whose perfectly coiffed

hair had clearly never seen the inside

of a helmet.

In the fashion section, the magazine

breathlessly reported that equestrian

style was enjoying “a healthy sales

boom as riding becomes more popular.”

Western meant two-tone shirts, a

bright silk tie and showy boots, Life

noted, while “formal Eastern riding”

required “a multitude of proper

accessories” including vest, stock and

“aluminum-lined derby hat (in case of

spills).” 

No less an authority than Emily

Post – the New York socialite who wrote

the book on etiquette – was brought in to explain the rules of engagement. A riding habit, said Post, “no matter what the fashion happens to be, is the counterpart of an officer’s uniform; it is not worn to make the wearer look pretty!”

Nevertheless, Life continued with barely disguised amazement, “riding is fast becoming one of women’s favorite sports. Riding schools report record enrollments, 10 new dude ranches are opening this year and riding togs of all kinds are in the midst of a

sales boom.”

Well sure, maybe they could understand

the attraction of Western riding, where

the clothes were “easy-going, attractive

and inexpensive.”

But as for those English-style riders,

Life was clearly bemused:

“In the East, costume rules are

considerably more stringent. Everyday

riders … often ignore them, but for those

who follow the conventions there is one

habit for hunting, another for saddle

riding (formal), a third for hacking

(just plain riding). For such fashion-

conscious riders, a correct Eastern outfit costs at least $300.”

Hold your snort: $300 in 1947 had the same buying power as $3,440 in 2018, no small amount considering the average American salary hovered around $27,000. And remember what that investment bought: Breeches with no spandex, boots with no back zip – Two hooks to pull on! A willing partner to pull off! – and moisture-wicking fabric was still 50 years away.

Helmet hair, then as now, provided free of charge.