Why White?

Why White?
Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa / Unsplash

It is widely accepted that white, beige, cream or otherwise light-coloured jodhpurs or breeches are a requirement for riders at all levels of showjumping, dressage, eventing or showing.

Showjumping Ireland published rule changes in 2021 which included a stipulation for rider wear stating “civilians are required to wear the uniform or clothing approved by their NF, a jacket, white or light fawn breeches, black or brown boots”.

Most Riding Club members and participants of lower-level amateur classes are female. Being female at a show brings a host of difficulties, not least the worry that at “that time of the month” stains might show through white jodhpurs. Having a period during a show takes away somewhat from the excitement of the day; I have had days of running to the bathroom simply to check that my white jodhpurs are still, in fact, white.

In addition to the fear of leaks, there is the issue of the relative transparency of white jodhpurs. Sure, those at higher levels with deeper (or sponsored) pockets can splash out on a thicker pair of jodhpurs but for me, the cheap-and-cheerful participant at low level shows, my white jodhpurs don’t leave a lot to the imagination. So, when Mother Nature comes for her monthly visit, there is the fear that passers-by will notice the bulky pad through the jodhpurs.

Aside from period fears, white jodhpurs are impractical for a number of other reasons.

All women who have attended a show on a semi-regular basis will know the panic of trying to find your “good knickers” to wear under the white jodhpurs for fear that people will be able to see the holes, crazy colours or Visible Panty Line of our normal “Bridget Jones” knickers that we usually wear on yard days.

Not to mention the regular stains. I have spent many an evening trying to get rid of the stain of leather oil from the inside knee of a pair of white jodhpurs and the same with grass stains. No amount of stain remover will take that out.

The IRFU (Irish Rugby Football Union) announced on 14 March 2023 that the Irish women’s rugby team swapped their white shorts for navy, citing period concerns as the main reason for the change. To paraphrase Ireland International Enya Breen, the change from white to navy will remove unnecessary distractions and allow players to focus more fully on the game.

If they can do it, why can’t we?

Personally, the only reason I can see for white/cream/beige jodhpurs is the aesthetic contrast between light bottoms and dark jackets. When I am at a show, I mentally applaud any woman who rides with stain-less, pristine white jodhpurs. But, is the effort and the fear of stains worth it?

We have to ask ourselves – why white?