Colorful, shiny, and flamboyant. Welcome to the world of jockey silks. They might look like circus costumes, but these uniforms have a rich tradition and important function.
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Unique design —
Dating back to the 18th century, jockey silks -- named after their original material -- are crucial to identifying horses galloping around a race track.
Royal racing —
Each design is unique, with owners choosing from just 18 different colors, 25 shapes and 12 sleeves. Unless of course you inherit your silk from a family member. The British royal family's silks (pictured) have been handed down through generations.
Courtesy Great British Racing
Clothes horse —
While jackets were originally made from silk, today they are more likely to be made from a lycra and polyester mix, in specialized factories such as Allertons (pictured) in Britain.
Rolling with the times —
"Beforehand, they were very much like a dress shirt," said Michael Rawson, Allertons managing director. "We've changed a few of the features such as adding elasticated cuffs and poppers down the front as opposed to buttons, which were always coming off."
Hat's off —
"An owner could have three or four different horses running in the same race, but they would have to have different designs. The body and the sleeves may well be the same, but the caps would be different," said Rawson.
Star studded —
Jockey silks are more than simply uniforms, they can often sway punters placing a bet. "Those people who place a bet once or twice a year would certainly admit to choosing horses based on the colors and patterns," said Great British Racing spokesman Nick Attenborough.
Tickled pink —
Some horse's colors however, are so famous that they can never be used by another thoroughbred again. Australian champion Black Caviar -- who recently retired after an unbeaten 25-win career -- is now the only horse allowed its distinctive salmon pink and black-spotted silks.