I do really love plaid (perhaps it is in my Scots-Irish DNA?), but until recently I had never owned a pair of plaid breeches, even though they have been around since forever. What I have owned, though, is full-seat breeches. Even though I spend all my time in Jumperland now and wouldn’t show in them, full-seat breeches are warmer than knee-patch breeches, but less bulky than fleecy winter breeches, and therefore I like to wear them when it’s cold.
But you know, full-seat breeches are always more expensive than knee-patch breeches! If I’m only wearing these for a short part of the year (hopefully), I need an economical option. For the price, the SmartPak Piper full-seat breeches looked pretty good. But I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too sure about trying them out at first. I had one pair of Pipers that I thought were in my size, but I didn’t like the fit, and the fabric construction was partially polyester. Polyester and I definitely do not get along in the summer, moisture-wicking properties or not. Every time I see “breathable” in a garment’s description, and then see that polyester is part of the fabric construction, I just skip right over it. “Breathable,” to me, is a lie if it’s polyester.
But the reality is, all of the more athletic fabrics have polyester in them, and so do many of the newer breeches that use these types of athletic fabrics. While there are many polyester-free breech options in a variety of price ranges, some of those same options are usually really, really cold to wear in the winter. Like, TS Trophy Hunters, I love you so much I want to marry you, but damn, wearing you on really cold days (like, below 60F–I AM from Texas) is like getting a pair of pantyhose wet, putting it in the freezer for a few hours, and then pulling them on and stepping outside during a blizzard. I don’t know how it is possible that the Trophy Hunters actively make my ass colder, but I’ll just call it a bad case of perception-is-reality. (Please don’t break up with me, Trophy Hunters–I need you in the summer!) Thus, I am resigned to wearing polyester blends in the winter because those same properties that aggravate my skin in the summer keep me much, much warmer in the winter.
Re-enter the SmartPak Piper breeches. I bought my first pair in June of 2013, when there weren’t quite so many colors or reviews. Today, the reviews number in the hundreds, many of which suggest sizing down for a good fit. So I did, and bought a pair in anthracite/electric coral. The fit problem was solved! With a coupon code and regular customer discount, the Piper plaid full-seat breeches were a bargain, and now that I knew my fit, I ordered them in the brown plaid.
The full seat is brown, and soft and supple (gone are the days of thick, crunchy, leather full-seats!) and the brown plaid even has a little indigo running through it. The piping is this sort-of non-color color I don’t know what to call, like maybe a very pale, soft, dove grey? Regardless, I think the piping is a nice detail. The fit is similar to the knee-patch Pipers, and the breeches have the same built-in sock that fits smoothly under tall boots.
My first ride in them, I had the “stickiness” that full-seats give you, and it was freaking cold outside, yet my lower half was not too cold. The breeches definitely kept me much warmer than TS breeches would have. They were very, very comfortable to ride in, and just to wear around generally. The material is super-stretchy, which is why sizing down is a good idea for some people.
The construction seems pretty sturdy, and they hold up well without pilling after multiple washes. I don’t put them in the dryer. There is definitely some excess material at the knees, but fortunately the material is soft enough that the excess didn’t irritate me, or give me rubs under my tall boots. In comparison, I think there is less excess material at the knee with the Piper full-seats than with the knee-patch breeches.
Like all SmartPak things, the branding is very prominent. If you don’t mind a big ol’ galloping horse embroidered on your butt, and I don’t, then don’t let the branding dissuade you from trying these breeches. (Sorry, the mirror is dirty in the above picture. Maybe I just shouldn’t have tried to take a picture of my rear.) I don’t usually get too dirty at the barn, but who stays totally clean when playing with the ponies? The brown plaid hid any dirt I may have gotten on me. I especially appreciate the 2″-wide waistband, which I find to be much more comfortable, and less constrictive, than narrower waistbands.
Overall, these breeches are an excellent value, and great schooling breeches, if you can find the right fit. SmartPak even provides super-handy breech comparison charts. I don’t know when they started doing this, but I just discovered it, and it is GENIUS! Check out the Full Seat Breeches Comparison Chart! The chart doesn’t include prices, and only includes brands SmartPak stocks, but what an easy way to compare all the breeches you can buy from one store in one place!