Everything you need to know about breeches
We all know they’re the best thing to ride in for your bottom half, but why? Where did they come from? What’s the difference between jodhpurs and breeches? Why are there so many types and what are they all for? Read on to find answers to these questions and more.
The History of Jodhpurs
Jodhpurs get their name from Jodhpur, the capital city of the former princely state of Marwar, situated in the modern-day state of Rajasthan in western India. The city was founded in 1495 but ceased to exist when it merged with the newly independent state of India in 1947. In the late 1800s Sir Pratap Singh, the Maharaja of Idar and the Regent of Jodhpur, loved to play polo, but was dissatisfied with the style of breeches, which were standard across all equestrian activities. He set out to produce a garment more suited to the needs of the game. He modelled his design on the ‘churidar‘, a traditional Indian long trouser that are cut wide at the top and narrow at the ankle, fitting tightly to the leg. He retained the basic style - the tight fit from the calf to the ankle - but made them more loose-fitting by flaring the garment along the thighs and hips. This gave riders much more freedom of movement. Another key feature was the addition of a reinforced inner calf and knee to protect them from rubbing while riding. The first pair was tailored in Jodhpur in 1890 and were made from thick cotton twill cloth. They were quickly adopted by the other Polo teams in India.
In 1897 Queen Victoria, Empress of India, celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and was visited by several rulers of the Princely States in India, bearing gifts for the celebration. Sir Pratap Singh brought with him the entire Jodhpur Polo team. Besides winning most matches, the team also caused a sensation with their new riding attire. The British were quick to spot the advantages of the new design and quickly adopted them. Here’s a picture of Queen Elizabeth II on her thirteenth birthday, wearing the classic style.
What are the differences between Jodhpurs and Breeches?
Jodhpurs, or ‘Jods’, are tight-fitting trousers that reach to the ankle, ending in a snug, rolled up cuff. They’re usually worn over ankle-high jodhpur or paddock boots, making them more versatile for everyday use. Jodhpurs tend to be worn by children as it allows the instructor to clearly see and correct the child’s leg position, which helps to prevent “gripping up” (children’s jodhpurs often have detachable straps that secure under the heel of the boot). Some adults wear jodhpurs, but it tends to be for casual use, such as hacking.
Breeches are very similar to jodhpurs. The main difference is the length of the leg - breeches tend to finish around the mid-to-low calf and have Velcro fastenings or thinner elasticated cuffs at the bottom. This gives a close fit against the leg, allowing them to be worn comfortably with long boots. Breeches give a smarter appearance and are usually used for more formal riding, such as schooling.
Both breeches and jodhpurs are designed to stretch and are made with fabrics such as Lycra, Nylon, or Spandex incorporated into the base fabric. A well-fitting pair of jodhpurs or breeches will fit closely, move when you move, and won’t restrict you. They have reinforced patches on the inside of the knee area, which bears most of the wear that occurs while riding. This patch is cut specifically to give you more comfort in the saddle as it prevents the inner seam from digging into your leg. That’s why they’re more comfortable than a pair of jeans! They’re also now incorporating fabrics to aid you in your chosen discipline – an alos seat or knee patch can help dressage riders with subtlety of movement, while silicone seats and patches offer added security in the saddle, which is ideal for eventers and show jumpers!
Designers are beginning to realise that riders appreciate fashion, and are now ensuring that breeches and jodhpurs allow you to add your own style to your riding attire. There are a variety of colours and patterns available, including some that match other clothing available to give a head-to-toe look, although solid, darker colours remain popular, as they are not only practical but can also be slimming and flattering. More recently, riders have indicated that they want to be able to wear their riding gear off the yard as well as on it, so some are even made from denim, for the “skinny jeans” look, or look similar to yoga pants, with localised breathable areas and brightly coloured accents. In this vein, riding tights and leggings have also become more popular recently, as they are pull-on, easy to wear, and follow fashion trends more closely.
How to buy riding breeches
We all know that buying new riding breeches can be a painful experience – finding a design you like, a fit and colour that suit you, and choosing between all the technical fabrics makes it a long and arduous task. Consider the following things when looking for new breeches:
Correctly sized riding breeches will keep you comfortable when riding, and therefore will improve your position. If you are a competitive rider, your clothing should fit perfectly so as not to distract the judges.
Consider the “rise” you would like for your breeches – this is the distance between the waistband and the pubic bone. Breeches are available in low, medium (or “traditional”), or high rises, each offering a slightly difference overall appearance. To read about the different rises in more detail, read Kim’s blog on how to buy riding breeches. Measure the narrowest point of your waist for high rise and the widest part for medium or low rise, to find your waist size in inches. You’ll also need to measure your inside leg to make sure you choose the correct length of breeches – remember, they should finish somewhere between the mid-to-low calf area.
Once you’ve measured your inside leg and waist, you can choose the size that’s best for you. Here’s a handy guide to show you the best size for your measurements. The top of the chart indicates your waist size in inches, while the side indicates your height in feet - as long as there is a tick in the corresponding box you should be fine.
If you’re still unsure which size is best for you, contact our Customer Service Team on 01438 869442 any time between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. We’ll be more than happy to help you find the right pair!
Remember to check the fit of your breeches as soon as you receive them. We offer a 30-day refund or exchange policy – you can read the details here.
2. Your riding habits and your budget
If you only ride 1-2 times a week, it stands to reason that your requirements will be different to someone who rides daily, or even several times a day. The more you ride, the better quality your breeches need to be, to withstand the extra wear. Buy the best quality you can afford without exceeding your budget. It’s cheaper to buy one pair that last for ages, than several pairs that last for weeks.
3. Your body shape
We all come in different shapes but there are so many styles of breeches available, you’ll always be able to find one to suit you. Before buying, consider looking for someone of a similar shape who looks good in their breeches. See if you can ascertain which brand or style they’re wearing, or just ask! They’ll be flattered to find they look good!
We are all aware of the fast pace at which technology moves, but did you know this also applies to clothing? In the riding world, breeches are one of the main benefactors of technologically advanced fabrics and features. One of most useful new fabrics is Softshell. It is wind and water resistant, lightweight, repels dirt, and prevents debris like hay and sawdust from getting caught in the fabric. You can also find breeches with hidden support and clever design to flatter your figure. Then, you can choose between a full seat or knee patch design, and if you want this to be made from alos for ease of movement or covered with silicone for extra stickability!
How to care for riding breeches
Breeches are time-consuming to purchase and can be expensive. To keep them looking and feeling great for a long time, caring for them correctly is important.
Dark colours can be great for hiding any stains that you inevitably get when you’re anywhere near a horse! If you don’t want your beige or white breeches to get too dirty, consider investing in some waterproofs to help keep you clean, or keeping a separate pair for yard work.
Most breeches can be washed on a standard 30-40°C washing machine cycle. Before washing, remove as much dust and horse hair as possible by either shaking or brushing your breeches, which will also help your washing machine! Always turn them inside out before putting them in the machine. Breeches with a leather seat or knee patches should be washed with special leather laundry solution, but those with synthetic seat or knee patches can be washed with regular detergent. Remember to check the manufacturer’s instructions as well.
Don’t dry your breeches in the tumble dryer or in direct sunlight as it can cause cracking or splitting. As soon as the wash cycle has finished, hang them up or lay them flat to dry indoors at room temperature.
Hopefully, by following these simple steps, your breeches will last for ages and look great too.
We hope this article has helped you to decide which riding legwear is best for you and your needs. Click below to shop our range of breeches, tights and jodhpurs, or click here to return to our homepage.