Since 2010 when Downton Abbey became Sunday night’s must-see TV, there has been a marked uptick in the way that British style has been seen over the last decade. The obsession Americans seem to have with posh people doing posh things in posh settings has meant a growth in waxed jackets, Wellington boots, and Barbara Pym novels. Now, with added focus back on the Royal Family, that obsession doesn’t appear to be slowing anytime soon.
The landed gentry of England just have a way of making the most rugged sports seem, in a word, gentlemanly. Take, for instance, hunting. Whether grouse, pheasant, fox, or rabbit, a sort of uniform is required. While not everyone has a country house for a shooting party a la Gosford Park, there are a few style elements that can be incorporated for your hunting style to reflect more Duke of Devonshire and less Duck Dynasty. Best of all, the best pieces work just as well in town as they do in the country.
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What to Wear: An Overview
While one can easily see the polish of British hunting dress, it’s important to note the basic wardrobe needed to blend in for a long weekend. As Martha, Lady Sitwell, a prominent hunter herself and the former face of the Royal Ascot, tells Robb Report, “One should be smartly attired in tweed with a complementary waistcoat and jacket. It should be worn with a shirt, tie, and a cap of a different pattern than the jacket itself. You don’t want to appear too coordinated or matchy. Over this outfit one may wear a weatherproof coat that’s not too bright. The point is to appear put together, but to not have the animals notice your presence.”
Top Picks for British Sporting Style
Barbour Beaufort Jacket
While there are many styles of Barbour, the most popular is the Beaufort. Named after the Duke of Beaufort, who was known for his fox hunts, its heritage alone fits in with the theme of country sport. With a weatherproof waxed cotton shell, generous exterior pockets (in fact, the posterior pockets are built to fit a grouse, or perhaps just a copy of the Times), and a moleskin lining, this jacket is the de rigeur choice for hunters. Because you’ll be layering, make sure to go a size or two up.
Hunter Wellington Boots
Hunters are really the most classic shape when it comes to Wellies. With their red and white label and their simple silhouette, it’s British heritage in its most simple form. No wonder they’ve been the boot of choice of the British countryside since 1856 and has continuously held a royal warrant since 1977.
While Hunters might be the most iconic brand, Cad & The Dandy’s founder James Sleater notes that French boot brand Le Chameau is gaining popularity. Hunters are hardy rubber boots, but Le Chameau have the added comfort of a neoprene or engineered cotton interior for extra comfort and warmth.
Tricker’s Derby Shoes
While in most cases, wellies are your best choice, you may want to change into something more comfortable after the shoot is done and you’re resting with something strong by the fire. Tricker’s Bourton and Stow is that shoe. Derby shoes have a long history as being a country shoe of choice and it doesn’t get much better than Tricker’s if you want a simple style done right. Tricker’s sales director, David Jeffrey, explains, “The Bourton and Stow is unmistakable—a heavy Derby shoe and boot that bears the brogue detailing synonymous with true country shoes. It’s one that will last a lifetime, being able to take a beating and only gets better with age.” If that isn’t the best testimonial for a pair of Derby’s, I don’t know what is. And if they’re good enough for King Charles, they’re good enough for me.
A Bespoke Tweed Suit
“People want to still look smart,” says Sleater. While stateside one may be able to get away with an orange vest and some camouflage pants, the same can’t be said for our British brethren. Many people still opt for the classic tweed suit. Going for a bolder pattern than what they would normally wear in their daily lives, the suit allows, almost paradoxically, for a relaxed atmosphere. Think of this suit as less of a stuffy uniform and more as comfortable workwear and an excuse to try something new.
Sleater recommends the bespoke route for the best fit and expertise from a tailor with know-how on the subject of hunting attire. He also recommends going with a respected tweed supplier that can withstand the elements and years of wear, like Lovat Mill in Hawick, Scotland.
Alan Paine Tweed Cap
To top off the ensemble, go for a tweed cap that, as Lady Sitwell noted above, contrasts your tweed slightly. Alan Paine makes great flat cap options at a reasonable price in a range of patterns that will complement any outfit you may pick up from Cad & The Dandy. They’re fully lined for added waterproofing while also coming in a variety of sizes (versus the standard S, M, L) for a comfortable fit and to help avoid slippage while you’re shooting.
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