The textile industry is a major contributing factor to global pollution. From toxic runoff, enormous amounts of water usage, and landfills full of barely-worn plastic-based shirts, the human race really does not have a handle on their addiction to clothing.
But before you get all depressed and guilty (don’t click away! This is a happy article, I promise!), consider this: when it comes to clothing, equestrians are actually doing many things right.
It’s important to remember that the best way to care for the planet is to buy smaller quantities of items of better quality and to repair them when they break to prolong their lifespan. Does this sound familiar? While there are certainly habits equestrians indulge in that are bad for Mother Earth, like driving massive trucks and flying horses across oceans, when it comes to sustainable fashion we’ve got it on lock down. Here’s why.
We fix things
Shoe cobblers must hate riders. We bring in dirty, stinky old boots and beg them to replace the zippers, reattach soles and patch the insides of the calves. That being said, we’re probably the ones keeping them in business these days, because everyone else is simply throwing their cheap shoes in the garbage. So they really shouldn’t look a gift horse (rider) in the mouth.
On top of that, we see nothing wrong with repairing a horse blanket that is already so patched up, we’ve forgotten the original color of the fabric. It’ll last another winter, won’t it?
We wear the crap out of our stuff
Take a walk around a horse show. How many riders do you see walking around with duct tape on their boots? Or holes in their socks, because they are their “lucky socks,” and they can’t bear to throw them out? Or a stain on their shirt, because it’s “only a little stain,” and equestrians are very accepting of little stains. There is no shame in clothes that are well loved, and at the end of the day, they are supposed to wear out. Be proud of that.
We take care of our stuff
“I hand wash all of my show shirts,” a customer told me once. I mean, it makes sense, show shirts costing what they do. There is a certain old-fashioned pride that I see in many riders when they clean their tack, polish their boots and try five different methods of stain removal on their white breeches. Stuff that gets taken care of lasts longer. I’ve even seen George Morris write that a well-oiled, old saddle is better than a slippery, shiny new one. George! Did you ever think you’d be called an ‘environmentally conscious hipster’? I didn’t think so.
We’re good at hand-me-downs and consignment
Take a quick scroll down any horsey Facebook buy and sell group, and you’ll see all kinds of stuff, from $2 brushes to $20 breeches to $6,000 saddles – and everything in between. There is a strong culture of resale in the sport, as well as simply gifting our old stuff to others. I’ve given away a lot of “nice stuff” for free when it doesn’t fit or I don’t use it, simply because many of my barn friends and trainers have been very generous with me and I want to keep the karma flowing.
We value quality
While equestrian brands oftentimes lag behind the muggle world in terms of eco-friendly fabrics and ethical manufacturing, there is something to be said about the quality standards they hold themselves to. I find that “cheap” riding apparel is actually very durable. Horse brands are owned by horse people – and they know that their products need to last.
We’re classic AF
“OMG, is that last year’s show jacket? How tacky,” – said no rider, ever. Those beige Tailored Sportsman breeches could be from last season or last century – no one can really tell the difference. They’re good to go, until you spill hoof oil on them.
And even then, who’s judging? It’s just a little stain, after all.