BY JESS CLAWSON
Tradition and innovation are both prized values in equestrian sports. Some may feel they are in opposition with each other, but R.J. Classics has married these concepts in their apparel line for people of all ages and budgets. Now in their 20th year of business, their success shows.
R.J. Classics is a family owned business. Roberta Weintraub founded the company in 1999, and it’s now run by her daughters, Michelle Seltzer and Jennifer Eisenberg. Originally, the family worked in the menswear industry making tailored clothing. As Jennifer began to ride and enjoy a successful junior career, Roberta shopped for upgrades for her daughter’s show clothing and realized how limited the options were. The style choices and price points left her dissatisfied.
Since she was already in the clothing business and had relationships in place with factories and suppliers, Roberta took a risk to establish herself in the equestrian market at a time when offering different price points and value was not common. R.J.’s original line was a single, classic show coat offered in ladies (the “Devon”), men’s (the “National”), and kids’ (the “Hampton”) – all in black and navy. Over time the styles have seen refinements with both fit and fabric, but the same traditional garments remain in the R.J Classics lineup today.
Michelle and Jennifer are proud to take over the business and continue to grow their core product line as well as expand into other directions. When adding new styles, they continue to start from quality materials and skilled craftsmanship in order to produce the best in equestrian apparel. “Trends can come and go but in the show clothing market, the more subtle, and simple styling never dies,” Michelle said. “While we always have some trendier styles, we show restraint during the design process and stay true to who our core customer is and what they will and will not wear.”
The core mission of the company is based in the belief that every rider, regardless of budget, should be able to enjoy beautiful clothing at various price points. It’s something that the family still believes today. Fit and quality are never sacrificed for the sake of the bottom line, meaning that riders get exceptional coats no matter what level they’re shopping at. “We have maintained our consistent, and famous fit,” Jennifer explained. “We have been lucky to work with an extremely talented patternmaker who helped to build and maintain the beautiful, and natural fit of our garments. It’s safe to say that no one has the fit like an R.J. fit! And whether you are buying a show coat for $150 or $550, the consumer can always expect a quality, well-fitting garment. This is something we are especially proud of.”
As their line evolves, they have continued to add products at different price points so that every rider has an option including offering a large range of sizes. “We have always believed that everyone deserves to look and feel great in the ring,” Jennifer said, “which is why we have continued to offer a range of sizes and lengths in our core products.” Their ladies’ jacket sizes range from a US 00-24 in regular, short, and long lengths. The kids’ jackets start at a size two. “Those coats are the cutest,” Jennifer laughed.
All of the jackets in the R.J. Classics line show an incredible attention to detail with top quality fabrics showcased in a perfect fit. The jackets come in traditional black and navy, and seasonal but still conservative options like shark grey, marine green, blackberry, and nightfall blue. The shadbellies come with reversible points for a touch of personal flair.
The level of detail R.J. provides for its riders certainly doesn’t stop at color selection. Every piece is the result of extreme care taken in the design process. Hidden zippers mean that riders will never have to worry about buttons gapping. Stretch fabrics and unconstructed design allows equestrians to move freely without the jacket getting in the way or bunching in the shoulders over fences. Almost all of the styles are machine washable – a gift to riders who don’t want their show budget eaten up by dry cleaning fees.
The imported Italian jersey fabric in their show jackets is eco-friendly, moisture wicking, breathable, and provides UPF +50 sun protection. Riders can select from three- and four-button options to suit their discipline and preference. Styles also range in pocket design, and other subtle but distinguishable details.
For riders in hot climates looking for a cooler alternative, the Harmony style maintains a traditional look with extra athletic function. These jackets feature the same Italian jersey front panel as others to maintain a conservative appearance, but offer the breathability of lightweight body mesh to make up the rest of the coat. The Harmony jackets come in a variety of color options, and the vertical zippered pockets and unique back seam offer a subtle twist on tradition.
While they always strive to innovate, R.J. cares about respecting the tradition in horse sports. Rooted in classic styles, they are one of the few companies that continues to sell wool hacking jackets for fox hunting and other purposes. With the three button style and detachable collar tab, hunt riders will look elegant on the staff or in the field. “We love that they add an element of tradition to our line, so they are part of our Heritage Collection,” Jennifer explained. “People keep demanding them, so we keep making them!”
Riders of any kind can complete their looks with shirts, stock ties, and breeches made with the same quality of materials and attention to detail as their jackets. Breeches include options perfect for showing, clinics, or schooling all at a very reasonable price point. They come in mid- and low-rise options and front or side zip in a range of appealing colors.
Rounding out the product line are a wide variety of shirts in colors, patterns, and styles that suit different personalities and allow riders to feel their best in the saddle. The R.J. Classics schooling shirts feature UPF 30 sun protection and odor-minimizing fabric—critical for those of us who might have to run to the grocery store on our way home from the barn and don’t want to scare the civilians. Printed panels on the arm offer a bit of style without being overly loud.
Though a clothing brand, R.J. Classics is about more than apparel. Michelle and Jennifer believe in investing in the sport, and sponsor the next generation of riders through their generous support of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association and Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association. These two organizations share the goal of making riding accessible for anyone through high school and collegiate sports programs. “At the national and local level, we believe in supporting the riding community,” Michelle said.
Jennifer and Michelle look forward to the growth potential for the brand. They plan to continue their product line expansion into the domestic everyday riding market, and hope to grow their international presence. Their loyal customer base of retail stores across the US and Canada is a demonstration of their success in meeting the demand of their customers and the general riding community.
To pick out your perfect show coat, visit your local tack shop. You can check out the latest styles and offerings at rjclassics.com by following them on instagram @r.j.classics.
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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