How Do Jockeys Choose their Colors?
Everyone who has watched a horse race must have some point wondered why the jockeys wear the colors they do and why they have certain insignia on them. Jockey costumes are chosen by the owner at their own discretion unless they decide to include trainers and the jockeys in the decision. This article will delve into what decision-making goes into the choices the owners make in order for the jockey to represent their racehorse and team while racing.
History tells us that since at least the 1760s, the registration of colors and designs has been decided by the thoroughbred horse’s owners. It originated in England where status was one of the most important factors in horseracing. Silk has always typically been the number one choice of cloth by the owners because it not only looks good but it carried a statement of wealth to other riders and owners, and the more vibrant, the better. Being a lightweight cloth also came into the decision to use it.
It is important to note however that these days different types of fabric are used including lycra and nylon, and a mixture of both, although they are still known as ‘silks’, in keeping with tradition. The more archaic history of different silks is thought to be dated back to the days of King Henry the VIII, when it was the idea to choose different colors to show who you were fighting for in battle, but it was properly implemented in the 1700s when more and more jockeys were racing with some choosing similar colors when they raced. This caused confusion amongst all racegoers, hence the color registration later in the century.
Even when you watch events like the Emirates Stakes 2022 races, the tradition still abounds in all countries that take the races seriously. Of course, in the modern age wearing unique colors and designs means that owners, trainers, lay people and commentators can easily pick out who is who on the track especially when the group is tight. Because Jockeys tend to be very similar in height and build, thoroughbred jockeys tend to wear one-size-fits-all silk, as it has to go over helmets, and often different jockeys can ride the same horse in different races.
Interestingly, the chosen colors for the jockey’s silks have to be registered and this can be for a year, five years, 10 years, or life. Besides life, after the registration runs out, then anyone else is able to choose and use those colors and re-register them. This, however, is not the same as a racehorse’s name. Once it has been used to name a horse, it cannot be used again, even if the animal retires or dies. This is why you see a lot of names of racehorses based on combinations of their sires and broodmares, and even with the grandsires.
Obviously, the colors and designs have evolved over the years, with new ones always popping up, while some owners prefer to stick to traditional colors and designs based on the heritage of not only their horse but of their own lineage. Variations happen, much like all fashions over time, but one thing is for sure this tradition is not going to go away for a long time and new designs will undoubtedly continue to arise in the horseracing industry.