Ask the Expert: Why is the fashion world holding our clothes hostage?

Kourtney Kardashian called: She wants her boots back.

Are we keeping up with the Kardashians, or are the Kardashians keeping up with us? Celebs like Lindsay Lohan, Blake Lively, Jessica Alba, Taylor Swift, Keira Knightly, Gwen Stefani, Katie Holmes, Rihanna and Cate Blanchett have all been spotted recently in riding-boot knock-offs. Such wanna-be’s, gah.

Dear Leslie,

I’m having trouble with the new fashion of “riding” boots. I always have, but they seem to be everywhere now. Small children, old ladies: they are also very popular at the mall–no horses there, unless you count the carousel, which does look surprising inviting in the dead of winter because I have no indoor, but that is a different story, anyway…

I find myself getting defensive when I see things labeled as riding boots with characteristics that clearly make them unsuitable for actual riding. A zipper up the inside of the leg is not what I look for in a boot because I like my saddle. A wedge heel or no heel is not good if you would prefer to not get your foot caught in the stirrup.

Can’t they call them something else?

“Riding inspired, but don’t actually get near a horse with these things”–or is that a bit wordy?

Thank you.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, footwear is not really my area of expertise (frankly, shoe stores freak me out a little), so I’m gonna use a lifeline here. Holly Ratcliff is an Area III amateur event rider and the author of a blog titled, “Shoes, shoes, shoes… and horses.” Her motto is, “You can never have too many shoes, nor too many horses,” and while I would disagree with her on both counts, Holly is a super-sweet gal who always has something insightful to contribute. Here’s what Holly had to say when I tossed her your question:

I get irritated, too, when I see items of haute couture that are labeled as ‘equestrian’ style. It’s almost as if our traditional sense of dress lends an air of privilege or elite status to those who wear it, when we know that ‘equestrian’ fashion comes from utility and practicality, on the whole. There is nothing too ‘fashion-y’ about it. But, this trend in clothing always seems to come around every few years or so (I blame this on Ralph Lauren). I remember one phase, back in the good ole ’80s, when the jodhpur pants (some of them even had suede knee patches) were in style for street wear. Ugh. A pair of pants that are flared at the hips and then taper and tighten at the ankles, worn with short pointy leather boots? No thank you.

I guess one thing that we’ve seen lately has been the usage of horse tack or equipment as eccentric and extreme pieces of ‘human’ fashion. I think you mentioned recently the shipping boots on the runway model fiasco that was photographed a few weeks ago. And, I just today saw this photo circulating around Facebook.

open front.jpg

Is that for real? Did someone really take her horse’s open front boots and pair them with her stiletto pumps? It is daring and I have to give her credit for creativity. As far as I know, even Jimmy Choo hasn’t gone to those lengths, yet.

While we’re talking about equestrian inspired high fashion, check out this picture on my blog of John Galliano from 2010.


Unbelievable! It just makes one think, doesn’t it?

I guess maybe the advice you could give your reader would be something along the lines of–yes, fashion-inspired “equestrian” wear is usually impractical and ridiculous. But, maybe the alternative would be to incorporate REAL equestrian wear into her wardrobe. Maybe instead of fashion emulating tack/riding gear, then tack/riding gear can be turned into fashion? I’ve seen bits worn as jewelry, tack bags used as purses, reins used as belts, etc.

bit necklace.jpg

What about pairing a PointTwo vest (deflated, please) with a cashmere turtleneck, dressy jeans, oversized sunglasses, and a great pair of glittery heals? That would be fun to show up in at the local pub. Instead of getting bitter, she could embrace the trend and show the fashion world how to REALLY wear equestrian chic.

Thank you so much, Holly, for addressing this troublesome issue. (You can read more of Holly’s work at her blog.)

I guess my take on the issue is, if the pedestrian masses want to sport riding boots, that’s cool with me. Maybe, when I hit happy hour on my way home from the barn, people will start mistaking me for someone who is actually fashionable rather than a strangely dressed weirdo. I might still have to do something about the smell, though. At least until Ralph Lauren puts out a fragrance called “Stable Musk” that smells like mud, sweat and horse poo.

Good luck,

Have a question for the “expert”? Email it to [email protected].

[Eventing Nation]

Originally published on HN January 30, 2012.

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