The best way to dress for the field
PUBLISHED: 10:59 10 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:59 10 March 2014
Earthy or elegant, tweed or cashmere, there's plenty to lust over when dressing for the field, but you have to get the look right, warns Selena Barr
Dressing appropriately for the shooting field can be a minefield. There are dozens of different styles to go for, all with subtle but important nuances. Get it wrong and you could look a fool. When your first shooting invitation lands in your inbox you want to be able to hold your head up high knowing that you are dressed correctly.
As a general rule, the shooting field welcomes flamboyance. In fact, peacocking is positively encouraged. Lurid pink stockings, matching gaudy v-neck and a novelty silk tie are a wonderful way of brightening an overcast day – as long as you can shoot like a demon. If, however, you are newbie and shoot like a drain, steer well clear of this garish get-up and opt for more muted tones. Otherwise, the dreaded cries of ‘…all the gear and no idea’ will more than likely ensue.
Shooters are a bit like nerdy military battle reenactors. Essentially, they dress up in Edwardian clothing, but with a modern edge. The main core of this quintessentially English outfit – a tweed suit complete with stockings and garters – has not changed a jot since the early 1900s. Sartorial elegance on the shooting field is as important now as it was back then, and turn-out is almost as critical as how many high birds you fell on each drive.
Not only is it imperative that you choose the right garments to begin with, but you then need to understand how to wear them. For instance, one should never fasten breeks over stockings, always under. An etiquette no-no, but alas a common misdemeanor. Another mistake is to not tie garters correctly – too often Guns are spied with ends that are flapping and dragging through the mud. Likewise, avoid buying a matching four-piece suit made entirely from the same tweed cloth or you’ll look American. For a Gun, everything matching but the flatcap or waistcoat is fine.
If this all sounds a trifle intimidating, don’t be put off – shooting folk are a friendly bunch and there are plenty of specialist tailors and sartorial experts at outlets on hand to help point you in the right direction. I am merely trying to frighten you into dressing well!
British tweed tailoring has been exported all over the world and will never go out of fashion. The best sporting tailors have survived the revolution in outdoor clothing and there are still a fair number dotted around the country to kit you out. Like all the suits, the classic tweed shooting suit can be made-to-measure or bought off-the-peg. One of the best British manufacturers to offer ready-to-wear shooting outfits, is Really Wild Clothing. You cannot fail to lust after their stunning autumn/winter collection. The cut of their luxurious designs is extremely flattering and the colour palette designer Natalie Lake has chosen is muted and very wearable. The company has come along way since it was launched in 2002, and it is now one of the most revered brands in the country. The hugely popular collection provides everything you’ll need from merino wool socks, v-necks in softest lambswool, cashmere wraps and of course super stylish tweed woven in Scotland. The company’s flagship store is conveniently based at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School in Pangbourne, so why not combine some clay shooting lessons to brush up your skills with postprandial clothes shopping?
If you would like a slightly younger, trendier feel to your outfit, then look no further than Holland Cooper. Designed by Country Life cover girl and London socialite Jade Holland Cooper, the look is much more playful and edgier than the traditional get-up. “We have taken the ‘twee’ out of tweed, and given it an iconic urban edge,” explains Jade, whose designs include form-fitting loud checks and modern tailoring inspired by the latest catwalk trends. Hugely popular among the 20 to 30-somethings, this brand is pushing the boundaries of shooting attire.
Another iconic brand is Alan Paine, whose roots date back to 1907. The company has established a worldwide reputation for quality knitwear, creating evolutionary style rather than revolutionary fashion. Pairing your tweed suit with a soft cashmere jumper will give you a luxurious feel and will help keep you toasty on chillier days. “The hallmark of Alan Paine knitwear has been quality and craftsmanship in luxury fibres,” says Marketing Manager Sarah Lloyd, adding: “For over 100 years the highest standards have been developed in order to supply knitwear which combines fit with luxurious comfort and touch.” The luxury brand also produces some seriously stylish tweed suits that are built to last.
Many modern guns now choose to augment their wardrobe with 21st-century options. Gore-Tex interliners and technical waterproof tweeds are also options. Musto and Barbour offer a superb range of solid green-coloured technical jackets with ‘action backs’ for smooth gun mounting as well as well-appointed large pockets for storing cartridges.
Once you have sussed out the core of your outfit, it is then time to look at accessories. Le Chameau Wellington boots are regularly photographed on the feet of the young Royals, including Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Together with Hunters, these brands are highly revered within shooting circles. Gloves are another essential. Opt for the type with a foldaway trigger finger. If you’re prone to chilly fingers then also add a liner to the mix – it’ll keep you pulling birds out of the sky for longer when the temperature plummets to subzero.
Turning to look at gunslips and cartridge bags, there are a plethora of designs available. In fact, the market is absolutely bursting at the seams. Everything from ostrich leather, zebra hide, patriotic Union Jack designs or elegant plain leather designs from Purdey are waiting for you. Really Wild Clothing also offer two different tweed designs with smart leather trim. Shooting stockings and garters are the final addition to your new outfit. I always feel that it is worth splashing out in this department, as you’ll get what you pay for. Beware of poor-quality examples that end up too short and lack a generous turnover.
Perhaps the most important thing about your shooting outfit is that it reflects your personality. If you are a gregarious sort I doubt you will want to blend in on the shooting field. This is only a rough guide, but hopefully it will point you in the right direction.