If you’re new to the world of riding, you may have the same question many new riders have: What the heck are jodhpurs? These stylish English riding pants are a popular choice for English riders, and there’s a special version worn that is preferred by saddleseat riders. In this quick guide to Jodhpurs, you’ll learn a little bit about the history of these unique riding pants, plus you’ll learn how and when to wear Jodhpurs while participating in equestrian events.
The History of Jodhpurs
Take a look at old black and white photos of equestrians, and look at newer pictures of certain English riders, and you’ll notice that they’re wearing long, tapered trousers that reach the ankle, with a pronounced flare at the hips. These pants are believed to have originated in India, where they’re still the preferred choice for equestrians. The baggy fabric at the hips helps the body to stay cool in hot weather while allowing plenty of freedom of movement.
Jodhpurs became popular in England sometime around 1897, when Sir Pratap Singh, the Maharaja’s son, created a new style for playing polo. He and his entire polo team wore these riding pants during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, causing quite a sensation. British polo players soon imitated the style, adapting it by shortening the pants and tucking the bottoms into their tall riding boots. Although the term “Jodhpurs” is often used to refer to these pants, they are technically flared-hip breeches.
Longer versions that more closely resembled Sir Singh’s original design became fashionable outside equestrian circles, often in classic beige and white colors. Flared hip trousers were popularized for military use, with mounted cavalry and motorcycle units wearing them as part of the standard uniform. They were among the first pants worn by women, and were popularized by such iconic figures as Coco Chanel. Fashion icon Ralph Lauren loved jodhpurs and used them as part of the basis for his popular Ralph Lauren Polo line.
Riding jodhpurs, affectionately known as “jods,” are very popular with English riders who don’t want to wear tall boots. These specialized riding pants are more streamlined than the original version, however they are still extremely comfortable to wear. Many styles are reinforced with leather patches that extend from the seat to just beyond the knees, helping the rider to keep a good seat in the saddle. Like Sir Singh’s original riding jodhpurs, modern versions are worn outside the boots, usually with short jodhpur style boots. They are occasionally topped with half chaps, however this isn’t a necessity. Most styles have elastic straps that fit in front of the boots’ heels, keeping the lower legs in place. Many hunt seat riders prefer this style to others, sometimes tucking the bottoms of the jods into their tall boots.
The next – and newer – type of riding jodhpurs is the Kentucky jodhpur, which is worn during Saddle Seat competitions. These jodhpurs have a flared bottom, with an elastic strap that keeps the trouser legs perfectly straight. Though they are typically black or blue, they come in a variety of colors to match riding coats worn during saddleseat shows. The overall look provides an attractive, streamlined appearance in the show ring.