The Running of the Shad...belly

Posted by Aaron Taylor on

The nearby Delaware River (source of NYC's drinking water!) celebrates the return of American shad, a silvery fish in the herring family, every spring as they arrive to spawn. But, did you know that these fish are also the namesakes of an equestrian fashion staple, the shadbelly?

The OED (that's what English majors call the Oxford English Dictionary) ascribes the term "shadbelly" to a coat worn by Quakers of yesteryear. "Sloping gradually from the front to the tails, with no angle," the coat was based on cutaway styles of the United Kingdom that allowed for easier mounting of a horse. Quakers who settled in Pennsylvania and Southwestern New Jersey, in many cases near the Delaware River, also styled the coat to follow the ventral (underside) silhouette of a shad. Anecdotally, it is said that the prosperous and perhaps somewhat portly Quakers dressed in these coats were reminiscent of shad swelled with roe...hence the Quakers themselves, and not just the coats, were also sometimes referred to as shadbellies.

Personally, we think shadbellies are much more elegant than this history lesson implies... Need one for an upcoming derby or classic? We stock RJ Classics for ladies and juniors, and are happy to special order for sizes not in stock. Solid black with soft, stretch hand-feel and traditional styling suitable for the most conservative ring, and detachable two piece points that reverse from gray pattern to canary. $328 ladies/$238 juniors.

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