Equestrian Blog

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Hac Tac: The Return of the ‘Original Alternative’!

If you’ve been around horses long enough to know what a jute rug is, or if you can remember the days when the Horse of the Year Show was on BBC1, you’ll probably remember the Hac Tac brand of rider clothing.  Now, it’s back – and we’re thrilled to be able to say that it’ll soon be appearing in our Spring 2015 collection! If you’re too young to remember any of the above (lucky you!), here’s a little bit of riding fashion history… Launched in the 1980s, Hac Tac helped shape many of the changes to equestrian fashion that are evident today.  It was the brand that pioneered the denim jodhpur and, in doing so, it proved something that had long been ignored: that those of us who ride horses are ‘normal people’ too – just as fashion conscious and motivated by trends as everyone else! This seems rather difficult to believe from a 21st-century standpoint but it really wasn’t always the case that there was even such a thing as ‘equestrian fashion’.  The two words didn’t seem to be able to exist together – in fact, for many years, they pretty much cancelled each other out. A love of horses and riding has always been a deeply immersive lifestyle choice, rather than a mere hobby.  For almost all of that time, if you decided that that was the life for you, you effectively consigned yourself to wearing the same narrow wardrobe of stone or beige jods, brown or black boots and dark green or navy blue quilted jackets – or tweeds.  The lack of any other real choice from equestrian clothing suppliers made it little short of a uniform, something you couldn’t fail to notice at any showground on a Sunday morning. Things had already begun to change in other parts of the Sunday morning showgrounds of days gone by.  In the 1970s, the development of synthetic materials had led to the radical concept of the nylon headcollar.  To a riding public that was used to having either leather versions (more expensive and therefore likely to be replaced less often) or rope halters (remember those!), the idea of a cheaper, brightly-coloured nylon headcollar, which could match your numnah, your lead rope, even your horsebox, was a little short of a revelation for younger riders.  Add to that the idea that it was so much cheaper than leather that it didn’t have to last a lifetime before you’d decide to replace it with, perhaps, another colour, and you have the perfect conditions for fashions to flourish. Ironically, the arrival of ‘fashion’ in human clothing continued to lag behind these equine innovations for a number of years, partly because there was an established notion that there was such a thing as an equestrian ‘look’, a rather dowdy and conservative image which by now seemed to be a out of place with the pace of change in the rest of society.  Not for the first or the last time, ‘horse people’ were thought by the traditionalists to be a different species to everyone else.  This thinking had survived for centuries but by the 1980s, things were about to change… Riding had become much more inclusive by that time, inviting people who would have been unlikely to fit with the ‘landed gentry’ roots of most of our equestrian sports.  Outside of the show ring, these enthusiastic new riders wanted to wear things they could ride in that reflected, rather than rejected, the outside world.  The denim jodhpur, ‘jeans you can ride in’, may seem like an obvious, almost innocuous idea today – but in those days, it was a hugely significant development. Like any major innovation, it polarised opinion.  The ‘old school’ gave it short shrift and (as they always seem to do with anything that threatens the status quo), dismissed it as a ‘fad’.  To those young enough to ‘get’ it, or new enough to riding not to have had their thinking shaped by convention, denim jods were a genuine ‘must-have’ item – a phrase all too often misused in fashion ever since. Needless to say, Robinsons were at the very forefront of that revolution.  By then, we had established our catalogues and were forging a reputation amongst people who, by virtue of the very fact that they were using ‘mail order’, were proven to be innovators themselves.  If ever there was a group of people that these products were made for, it was definitely our customers! For a number of years, as Hac Tac’s star rose and shone brightly, you could always find their denim jods in a Robinsons catalogue.  In their early years, it was the basic, ground-breaking ‘Original’ model, then the matching sweatshirt bearing the bold ‘Original Alternative’ slogan.  As time went by, the ‘Next Generation’ of Hac Tac garments became available, in a choice of colours, of course.  Like many of the other fashions of the time that defined the era, it’s now fondly remembered as representing both innovation and nostalgia. The new range hopes to incorporate both those qualities, recapturing the rebellious chic that gave it such character – but now with a distinctly retro appeal.  Bold, contrasting colours (white, raspberry and navy) are used consistently across the range, in conjunction with the brand’s distinctive ‘HAC TAC’ logo confidently emblazoned across the chest, polo-style. This ‘comeback’ range is designed exclusively for ladies and comprises two colour variants of polo shirt, a lightweight gilet, a softshell jacket, a lightweight jacket, a sweater and a white riding shirt – all in sizes from 8 to 18. With the name back in the spotlight, the range now available online and coming to a Robinsons store near you, it’s a great time to re-acquaint yourself with a brand name that started life by challenging the conventions of riding fashion and, over time, helped to re-define it.










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