The History of Jodhpurs
and Riding Gear - An Elegant Fetish
image for enlargement
the fall of the Roman Empire the traditional, loose fitting toga
rapidly disappeared. The conquering hordes from the North wore
clothes which protected them from more severe weather. Most
notable was the fact that the legs were encased separately in
long, stocking-like tubes. Short trousers, usually referred to
as breeches, covered the hips, buttocks, and genital regions.
For hundreds of years after these times, breeches and
stockings were used in varying proportions to clad men's lower
extremities. Sometimes the breeches extended all the way to the
knees with resultant shorter stockings. At times, but not often
at this period, the breeches would reach the ankle. Frequently,
calf or knee-high boots would be worn with the breeches tucked
in. Padding might be added to the genital area to emphasize the
By the 18th century, the most frequently worn attire
consisted of close fitting breeches which came to the knee, knee
length stockings, and a rather heavy shoe, often adorned with a
silver buckle. Various shirts and coats were available, and the
powdered wig was essential. The aristocracy and the laboring man
both wore pretty much the same attire; the main difference being
in the fabrics. Longer breeches, tucked into tall boots, might
be worn by horsemen or outdoor workers. This style of dress was
in vogue on both sides of the Atlantic. The many portraits of
the colonists and Founding Fathers show this style constantly.
Now, what of the ladies? I have never been able to
find any evidence of women from this period wearing any garments
that revealed their legs. (Lower limbs, that is!) Long
skirts or various dresses were the rule. Early pioneering women
who endured the severe climate and hard labors are always
depicted in skirts. Yet, it is difficult for be to believe that
under extreme hardships women did not don men's attire and throw
a leg over the saddle! Courageous women who rode horses did so
on a side saddle while dressed in a flowing skirt.
18th century drew to a close, breeches and stockings rapidly went
out of fashion. Men's long trousers began to look more and more as
we see them today, two hundred years later. The width of the
trousers might vary as fashion dictated, and the bottoms would
sometimes be narrow and sometimes flared to be worn over a low
boot. During the 19th century a number of diverse elements
influenced these changes in dress such as a growing urban
population, increased immigration to the New World, the settling
of the western United States, and transportation by steamboats,
trains, and stagecoaches It became less and less necessary to get
"booted and spurred" when preparing to travel.
However, the day of the horse was far from over. The cavalry was
extremely important in military campaigns such as the American
Civil War. Soldiers on horseback in both the Union and Confederate
forces wore knee high boots with their trousers tucked in, but
taking the horse drawn cars from your brownstone residence in
midtown New York City did not require you to wear heavy boots.
After all, you were going to spend the day in your office!
Civilian dress for men became more conservative. Gone were the
ruffled shirts and elegant fabrics. It is interesting to note that
formal attire moved to became the black trousers and coats which
still hold fast today.
yes, the ladies! Corsets, uplifted busts, bustles (which
emphasized the derriere), high necklines, low necklines-these all
came and went. But the lower limbs were still covered. It was a
rare thing to see a leg. On the frontier, women may have slipped
into trousers, but I doubt it. For hundreds of years, there had
been a strong taboo concerning women wearing men's clothes.
Remember Joan of Arc?
It has always seemed to me, as a historian of various subjects,
that the world began to move faster as it entered the 20th
century. It is doubtful if any hundred period in recorded
history saw so many developments as occurred during the 1900s.
This is certainly true in the evolution of clothing.
Very early in that period, a creative tailor (I wish I knew
who!) hit upon an idea which would provide more comfort to a
rider who spent many hours in the saddle. Riding breeches had
gradually become very tight. An anecdote from this time speaks
of a man who said to his tailor, "If I can get into 'em, I
don't want 'em!" There is a beautiful portrait of King
Ludwig II wearing skin tight white breeches and elegant, thigh
boots. In the portrait, he is standing; I doubt if he would be
able to sit, much less straddle a horse!
As anyone would suspect, the discomfort of tight breeches is
felt mainly in the knees which would be pinched unmercifully
when bent. The solution by the tailoring master was to add some
fullness to the thigh area of the garment. This added fabric
would be drawn taut, but not constrictive, when the knees were
bent and the boots placed in the stirrups. In this simple design
was born the flared breeches so dear to heart of vintage riding
From the practical standpoint, these flared breeches were very
successful. Riders enjoyed comfort in the saddle hitherto
unimagined. The breeches were cut snugly below the knee and
slipped into tall riding boots with ease so a graceful line was
apparent all the way from the boot
up the shaft of the boot, across the knee area, along the thigh
to the waist of the rider. Ah, how beautiful!
The flared breeches looked good when off the horse also. The
gracefully rounded "peg" set off the slim, tall boots
elegantly. Over time, the breeches were frequently enhanced with
double fabric on the knees and seat. These patches were
sometimes made from soft leather. Zippers had not been invented,
so various button closures were devised for the fly front. Most
notable was the "drop front" whereby the wearer, when
he needed to, could unbutton an entire panel of fabric on the
front of the breeches.
is, however, another element to be considered when one views the
rapidity with which the concept of riding breeches with flared
sides was accepted.
flare, when properly placed with the widest point about opposite
the crotch, draws immediate attention to the wearer's genital
area. Many men, possibly even most men, feel that the sexual
center of the body governs a great many of their motives and acts.
If you couple that theory with the power and sense of control and
domination that comes from stomping about in a pair of heavy, knee
high boots, you may see the reason that designers of military, law
enforcement, and other uniforms rapidly incorporated flared
breeches and tall boots into their output.
military uniforms in World War I included breeches and boots.
Sometimes puttees, usually of leather, would be substituted for
boots, and the foot soldier's breeches might have a modified,
rather "droopy," flare. But officers, cavalry troops,
and aviators had some very snappy uniforms with tall boots and
flared breeches. Following the close of the war, you have only to
look at the uniforms which began to appear in Germany in the 1930s
to see the authoritative look of boots and breeches. The
"power" image, as I label it, probably reached its
pinnacle in the all black attire of the feared SS troops of the
late 1930s and 1940s. The tall, black, highly polished boots,
black flared breeches, and black jackets with black leather belts
provided an overwhelming aura of authority, power, and fear.
not only in the military that boots and breeches were found. Law
enforcement personnel, especially motorcycle police, picked up the
image. If you examine catalogs of wearing apparel from the 1930s
and 1940s, you will see that breeches and boots were offered to
and worn by hunters, linemen, bus drivers, rifle teams, and even
service station attendants, as well as to horseback riders.
once again, what were women wearing? Early in the 20th century,
the liberation of females got under way. It was long overdue.
Participation in athletic events was probably where women's legs
first began to be seen in public. For bicycling they wore a loose,
bloomer type garment. My mother-in law, who attended college from
1918 to 1922 told me that they were permitted to wear "riding
pants" when on botany field trips. I assume she meant
breeches or jodhpurs which I will discuss later. Swimming attire
always included long stocking. Modesty and concern for looking
"too much like a man" were always in people's minds.
That attitude lasted for a long time. Women in pants were looked
upon as "fast," and pants or "slacks" were not
commonly seen on the streets until well into the 1930s. Even in
the 1950s, some schools would permit girls to wear ski pants if
they had to walk some distance in the cold, but they were required
to change into skirts before attending classes.
riding, however, women's styles rather rapidly adopted the male
image. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s most women rode astride.
(Had they been practicing secretly for years?) For formal fox
hunting, some women still rode sidesaddle, but this practice
rapidly fell into disuse. Flared breeches with tall boots became
the rage, not only in the saddle but also as motorcycle riders,
members of shooting teams, campers, and hikers. Those must have
been glorious days! I would have been out of control!
Quite soon after flared breeches and tall boots became de
rigueur for riding, a similar fashion developed. The style was
first seen in India and, as far as I can determine, was
developed and worn by English colonists there. I suspect the
style was developed as a more comfortable alternative to be worn
in the very hot climate. The pants became known as jodhpurs and
were first commonly worn in Jodhpur, a former state in NW India.
There is also now a city named Jodhpur in central Rajasthan.
Jodhpurs (and please note the correct spelling-often misspelled
"jodphurs") were cut in a pattern similar to flared
breeches except the legs extended to the ankle. The fit below
the knee was close, sometimes skintight. Jodhpurs were worn with
a low, ankle high boot which became known, appropriately, as a
jodhpur boot. The boot had a single strap which encircled the
ankle and buckled on the side. Sometimes the jodhpur boot had
elastic webbing on the sides, but the strap closure was the
usual form. Jodhpurs had a strap, sometimes elastic, which went
under the boot at the instep. The strap held the jodhpurs in
place and preventive them from riding up.
My understanding is that the jodhpur style went first to England
and from there to Europe and the United States. Probably,
jodhpurs were first worn by men, but my research shows that they
rapidly became a popular part of women's general attire. They
soon were being worn as "fun" or informal garments,
often with a low shoe. The fact that one did not need to buy a
tall, expensive boot to wear with jodhpurs undoubtedly
contributed to their rise in popularity. The jodhpur style was
frequently worn by preteen and teen-age girls, and even by
toddlers! I have a clothing catalog from 1943 which shows
corduroy jodhpurs for children ages 2-3!
Advertisements for riding apparel at this period (early 1940s)
will frequently depict one model wearing flared breeches and
tall riding boots, another model wearing jodhpurs with an
identical cut to the flare, and a third model wearing long
trousers labeled "saddle pants" with all three styles
being shown on the same page. The manufactures were, of course,
trying to appeal to as many customers as possible, but it is
very interesting to see the vast variety of flared breeches that
were available for men, boys, women, and girls. There were
breeches made of wool, cotton, and corduroy. Double seat and
knees were common. There was a variety of leg closures-laced,
buttoned, and zippered. The drop front was still occasionally
seen, but men's and boys' fly fronts were either buttoned or
(after 1940) zippered. Female styles usually had buttoned or
zippered closures on the left side, but women's breeches and
jodhpurs also occasionally featured a drop front.
After World War II, breeches and jodhpurs are seen less often in
fashion catalogs. Indeed, jodhpurs essentially disappeared from
the riding ring, but flared breeches with tall boots were the
invariable rule for anyone riding English style. Flared breeches
were still favored by many law enforcement officials especially
motorcycle squads, but by the late 1950s breeches were less
often seen on other uniformed groups. Long trousers were in;
breeches were out! Sad turn of events!
the 1950s, an unusual item appeared in catalogs of equestrian
wear. It was called a Saddle Suit. It consisted of a
tailored jacket, slim in the waist, and flared out at the hip.
It came down a few inches below the waist, about to mid hip.
With it, one worn trousers labeled Kentucky Jodhpurs which
differed from the traditional jodhpurs of the time in having no
flare or "peg" at the hip and were cut to cut to
conform closely to the entire length of the leg. Also, unlike
traditional jodhpurs, the Kentucky style flared out at the ankle
in a kind of bellbottom that fitted over the jodhpur boot. The
Kentucky style was available to both men and women, but I
believe it had a rather short life.
fabrics had been developing for some years when World War II moved
production of these materials to military use. By the late 1940s
further research enabled manufacturers to produce sturdy and
attractive fabrics which threatened to oust the woolen and cotton
special interest were fabrics which could stretch and then return
to their original shape. The fashion world pounced on these new
materials which offered both comfort and a sensuous, figure
first extended use of these stretch fabrics appears to have been
in making ski pants. Skiers in the 1950s reveled in the comfort
and freedom of these stretch pants. They were much admired by fans
of the well shaped, posterior factor of both men and women. They
were indeed "sexy."
so often the case, attire which appears first as part of a sports
uniform quickly enters the general wardrobe. And so it was with
stretch ski pants. Early in the 1960s stretch pants were seen
everywhere. One really needed a slim figure to wear them, but they
were extremely popular with all sizes. The "twiggy" look
drove countless women to emulate the extremely thin, often
emaciated models of the period.
end of the 1960s stretch fabrics began to be used in breeches and
jodhpurs. Traditionalists at first resisted the new style which
eliminated or greatly reduced the flare, but by the early 1970s
breeches with a flare were considered very old fashioned. (I own a
hybrid pair of black breeches from this period made of a beautiful
stretch fabric cut with a full flare. Very rare!) The skintight
breeches of today have now been in vogue for over thirty years. It
is interesting to note that fashion designers have made at least
two attempts to bring back flared breeches and jodhpurs-in the
1960s, when fashion boots returned, and again in the 1980s. Both
of these attempts met with little enthusiasm. What! Bring
attention to my hips? NO WAY!
come into the 21st century the aficionado of equestrian attire and
equipment (boots, breeches, jodhpurs, spurs, whips, leather, etc.)
has a number of opportunities to partially satisfy that fetish
desire. First, and foremost of all, one can tune into this site
(Jodhpur Fetish) and find regularly updated excellent materials.
There are several other sites which specialize in riding boots,
women in boots, etc. Thanks to the resources of the World Wide Web
these sites can be found easily with their connecting links.
web sites all have a strong orientation toward the discreet male
voyeur. Many of the sites have, in addition to an equestrian bent,
a sadomasochistic flavor with a female dominant-male submissive
emphasis. The Mistress very frequently wears skintight breeches
and tall boots, some with incredibly high heels. The male viewer,
secure in his own quarters, can spend hours watching these sites
and, through fantasy, achieve considerable sexual satisfaction
which may not be available to him any other way.
Another group of people who greatly enjoy equestrian attire are
the so-called "leathermen." Gay men, of the
non-feminine, non-lisping, non-fuzzy sweater variety, often have a
strong predilection toward leather-boots, jackets, pants, and
flared breeches. This masculine garb, brought into prominence by
the talented artist-Tom of Finland, can be seen in leather bars
worldwide and in unbelievable concentrations at conventions such
as International Mr. Leather (IML) and Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL).
cannot deny it-equestrian attire, in addition to its practical
aspects which provide security and comfort in the saddle, has a
strong, sexual component for many people, but clearly not
everyone. Some heterosexual men may be highly aroused by the sight
of or actual contact with a woman in boots and breeches. Others
care not at all, and indeed object to women wearing what appear to
them as masculine clothes. A substantial body of homosexual men
wear attire which emphasizes their masculine outlook-boots and
leather. Motorcycles frequently go with this image.
fetish cannot be easily explained. In fact, some people become
irate when questioned about their interests. I have often been
told by interviewees, " What difference does it make? Who
cares? I just like boots. That's it!"
However, some components of this fetish can be isolated. (1) It is
primarily a male thing. Women may wear boots and breeches, but I
believe they do so either to please a male in one way or another
or because the attire is either fashionable or correct for a
certain activity. In years of study on this matter, I have never
found a woman who was actually sexually aroused by riding attire.
Fetishism is rare among women. (2) Boots, in addition to providing
a sense of security, are a symbol of authority, power, and
control. Many men like strong women, and many women like to be in
charge. (3) From the male standpoint, inserting the foot and leg
into a tall boot can be likened to sexual penetration of the
female. (4) Breeches draw attention to the sexual center of the
body-the male penile region and the female buttocks and hips. The
older style of flared breeches were essentially an aggrandizement
of the whole genital area, front and rear. The current style of
breeches, skintight fabric and a leather seat, are a delight to
see on a well shaped arse! Small wonder they now reign supreme!
For a large gallery of
jodhpur and riding gear pictures -
BOOTS AND JODHPURS
This article and the
photos courtesy of Jodhpur Fetish