Patterns of Color, Squares, Lines, Circles and Stars!
While it now seems ordinary for a jockey to wear brightly colored “jockey silks”, this wasn’t always the case centuries ago when horses galloped around the track with identical markings and were not easily identified.
In 16th century England, horse racing had few spectators and everyone easily kept an eye on their favorite horse and rider. It wasn’t until 18th century, when racetracks popped up all over the country and the sport attracted wide audiences from different socioeconomic classes, no longer just for the aristocracy.
As horse racing gained crowds, a surprising thing happened in Newmarket, England. A small and somewhat forgettable town, Newmarket made history by introducing the ‘jockey silk system”. In 1762, the English Jockey Club required that horse owners go through a color registration process, submitting specific colors (and pattern) for cap and jacket. These colors were used to distinguish different horses and riders.
The silk registration system is still used today and allows the racing community to watch the sport in many different ways; in person, on television and viewing monitors of all types. “Silks”, as they’re called, represent the pedigree, status and history of owners, thoroughbreds’ and jockeys.
So why SILK?
Horse racing started as a regal sport, one exclusively for the aristocracy and royal family. Silk was considered the “King’s fabric,” one of the most expensive and sought after textiles. Where there was opportunity to be lavish, silk was the fabric of choice! Throughout time, as the sport became accessible to all populations, jockey silks remained saddled-up as a nod to its royal beginnings and history.