The Rise of the Equestrian Base Layer and Legging

The first time I saw the leggings, I wanted them. The proclamation that they doubled as workout leggings had me hooked, although really, can’t any legging double as a workout legging?

I ordered them, one of the first things I’ve ordered from Great Britain, and was relatively pleased with them. I even did a review on them. To be honest, I didn’t wear them since I did that review so I don’t even know if they can handle any kind of wear. I do know they still look good after sitting in a drawer for three years though.

But, ever since I was aware of them, I noticed something very curious. This style of leggings, plus a “base layer” riding shirt was popping up all over instagram. It wasn’t just from Aztec Diamond, there were multiple versions, from multiple companies, offering a nearly similar product. Everyone seems to follow the same basic pattern: technical leggings, cell phone pocket, name on the thigh.  Where did they all come from?

The History of the Legging

Leggings existed in riding apparel before. I had a pair of riding leggings when I was a kid, although they were no where near the quality of today’s technical fabric. It was a basic stretch legging, with a self padded knee patch that offered no advantage and really no reason for existing.

Due to the nature of riding apparel, it’s always been some variation of the basic legging. Unless someone was riding in jeans (another look that has tried to come out a few times), all riding outfits are based off the basic breeches or jodphur look. Many years ago, breeches themselves started out baggy and unflattering, but evolved to a skin-tight look as stretch fabrics became widely used. The most common look is breeches, belt, and tucked in polo. The basic uniform of the tidy equestrian.

Outside of the horse world, leggings were a relic of the workout culture of the 80’s until they re-emerged in a new, sleeker form in the late 00’s. Suddenly, women everywhere were once again wearing leggings to places other than the gym. Equestrians breeches could almost pass off as part of the legging trend. Then, with leggings morphing into the full force athleisure trend of the last decade, equestrian base layers and leggings made an appearance.   

The Instagram Outfit

If you’ve ever looked on Instagram for riding outfits, you know this look and you know this pose. The mirror selfie, emphasizing curves, horse is not required but thick, contoured makeup usually is. It’s a look that was first used by woman in other Instagram situations, but moved into equestrian wear. It is the outfit of a pampered trendsetter. It is a image being used to sell this outfit. It seems to work – Aztec Diamond, possibly the first to sell these products, has 230k followers. Black Heart Equestrian has 65.6k followers. 

While the brand photos are understandably glossy and polished, the tagged user photos are much more casual. They are, dare I say it, normal riders, doing normal riding activities. In most of the ones that aren’t obviously showcasing the brand, it would be impossible to even tell what brand the rider is wearing if it wasn’t tagged. It could literally be any breeches and shirt.

The style of leggings and a shirt with a half zip is not a new idea. It’s been floating in runner’s fashion for a long time. Half zip shirts have always been popular in outdoorsy crowds. But the sleek design and very 2010s marketing makes it stand out and appeal to the  youth of the equestrian world. 

Equestrian Trends

The fashion world has always been fascinated by equestrian fashion. “Equestrian inspired,” is a common phrase for designers, with instances popping up nearly every year. Ironically, riders have been begging for years for equestrian clothes to reflect the athletic nature of the sport. We were the only sport to get dressed up in a hot formal outfit for our performance. 

Equestrian brands listened. Various tech fabrics appeared in styles that allowed the rider to move like the athletic they are. The base layer and leggings are part of that, as well as jackets not made of hot wool. Riding clothes are going the right direction. Clothes that make it easy to be an athlete, are designed to be flattering to the rider, and for the most part, very affordable.

Mainstream brands certainly noticed this trend and have their own versions, but the marketing is noticably different than the Instagram companies. They offer the same products, but in a conservative, more practical way. 

It’s a good general direction towards change, but where did all these Instagram heavy companies come from? There seems to a multitude of different companies, all selling nearly the exact same product. Looking through their “About” pages yields a variation of a young woman starting up a fashion company on her own. While it’s certainly possible this happens in multitude, it’s weird. Are you all branches of the same parent company? Is a manufacturing pants selling these things in bulk and just slapping on whatever label the company wants? Seriously, what’s going on with this?

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4 comments

  1. I like the leggings. They are not that much different from riding pant. Longer maybe. The change of fabric for event outfits should me welcomed by all who compete. The wool fabric is not for every climate.

  2. I wore leggings before I wore riding pants and like both for different reasons. One of the points in the legging’s favor – cell phone pockets on the thigh. How genius is that? Personally, I’ve found the Botori brand to fit me the best.

    1. I have worn leggings, but not the attractive kind, haha. I do like these leggings have more grip and the cell phone pockets are the best! I haven’t tried the Botori brand, I’ll have to look that one up

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