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Making a Statement: Men’s Horse Show Fashion Doesn’t Need to be Plain to Have Style

With seemingly endless options for women’s fashion in the show arena, it can be easy to assume men’s options are “plain” and “basic.” However, we spoke with designer Kevin Garcia of Kevin Garcia Originals and Kent Ray Taylor of KRT Show Horses to learn how the men can spice things up with their fashion choices and be just as stylish as the ladies.

Don’t Be Afraid of Being a Trend-Setter

The best way to move the fashion industry in a new direction is by being willing to take reasonably-calculated risks.

Taylor admits that he might be “too comfortable” with taking fashion risks, but he does so to highlight his style and satisfy his desire to stand out in the pen for good reasons.

Kent Ray began showing at a time when men not only wore basic, baggy tops, but when there was little coordination between saddle pads and shirts. At that time, he says he took a risk by trying to coordinate his pads with his shirts in hopes of creating a cohesive overall look. He also experimented with wearing show sweaters and tasteful patterns to demonstrate his unique style.

Although not all Kent Ray’s fashion choices have become trends, he enjoys experimenting with show outfits that make him feel happy, confident, and proud to show off his horse. He says, “Confidence is a big aspect of horsemanship, and you want to feel good about what you are presenting to the judges, not just in the way your horse looks, but in the way you look as an exhibitor.” 

Kent Ray advises that male exhibitors don’t go too over-the-top when trying to set a new trend, but admits he loves to see people trying something new.

Use Pops of Color

Garcia finds that many male exhibitors make the mistake of having a closet filled with solid black or white show shirts. While it is nice to fall back on these staple colors, they do little to make an exhibitor stand out amongst a sea of other men with the same color or against women with flashier shirts.

Kevin advises male customers to find their “signature color” and incorporate that into their show clothes lineup to stand out. 

Many people choose a color by considering what would look good with their horse first. Garcia says this is a common mistake. Instead, Garcia recommends finding a couple of colors that look good on the exhibitor first and then choosing one or two that work well with the horse as a secondary consideration. 

Garcia laughs, “Your horse isn’t wearing clothes, so the first consideration must be how the colors look on the person to make them stand out for the right reasons. Some men can pull off pops of neon or pink, while others look better in more subtle colors.”

Once you find your color, whether that be your barn colors or a color that pairs well with your skin/eyes, you can work on adding that to your outfits.

It’s In the Details

Once you have found a signature color or even a subtle pattern that suits you, you can work with a designer to incorporate that into your show look.

Garcia recommends adding the color to the piping on a solid shirt or using the color in the collar or cuffs of your shirt. Additionally, patterns and fun colors can be incorporated into the necktie. Again, Garcia advises you stay in your comfort zone while adding fun details that work to set you apart.

Kent Ray says he loves adding fun patterns to his looks. He is never one to “blend in” and prefers his show clothes to emulate his personality, without going too far from the solid mainstream trend. He agrees with Garcia that exhibitors can use details like piping, collars, cuffs, and even fancy buttons to set an outfit apart.

Fit For A King

Our experts agreed that tailoring is perhaps the most crucial aspect of looking your best in the show pen. Even the fanciest, most expensive clothes will look tacky and cheap if the fit is poor. 

Garcia emphasizes that, “Fit is the most important consideration in any fashion across the board. It is probably the only factor that can impact your overall score.” 

Kevin warns that men tend to want to wear shirts that are too big for them because that is what they are comfortable in, but that is not the best look in the show pen. Instead, he says, “You want a good profile in the pen, and the fit is critical: make sure your shirt is pressed, starched, you have the proper length sleeve, and the shirt fits your body.”

Taylor adds that the length of chaps and showmanship pants are also essential considerations to ensuring the proper, polished, and neat look in the arena. 

Develop A Personal Style

Our experts emphasize that developing a personal style is key to standing out for the right reasons. Not only will color choices, details, and fit impact your style, but it is important to make fashion choices that are comfortable physically and that are within your personal style comfort zone.

Kevin tells his clients, “You cannot do your best if you’re completely uncomfortable. And if you are uncomfortable, chances are your horse will be too, which will directly affect how you do in a class.”

Garcia believes there is a fine-line to walk between comfort and fit, which makes it hard to get clothes off the rack that work for riding horses, as there are different considerations of arm and pant length. However, he recommends that those on a budget can still buy clothes off the rack, but suggests they take the clothes to a tailor to ensure a proper fit.

Kevin reminds us that, when in doubt, seek an expert’s opinion. Whether your fashion critic is a designer (designers don’t want to put their name on a bad look) or a person whose horse show style you admire, there are always people willing to give helpful critique on show clothes. 

Kent Ray reminds exhibitors that, “Fads are temporary. Style lasts because it is about fit, fabric, color, and how it makes you feel. How you look, and feel about how you look, will give you that extra boost of confidence when you’re in the pen…and sometimes the difference between first and second can be a simple dose of confidence.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Kevin Garcia Originals and CLICK HERE to learn more about KRT Show Horses in the May Fashion Issue of GoMag.

About the Author:  Megan Rechberg has been riding horses on and off since she was in sixth grade. She works as a full-time mom to son Jackson and daughter Sterling, part-time litigation attorney, and social media manager for up-and-coming APHA stallions.