You’ve been invited to a day of country pursuits and have absolutely no idea what to wear. Whether it’s a corporate jolly or your new girlfriend’s annual family shoot, the last thing you need is to make a fool of yourself.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s some easy, practical advice on how to stay comfortable, stylish and safe.
Country dress codes
First things first, check the invitation for any mention of a dress code. If no dress code is stated, it’s perfectly acceptable to contact the host and ask what the dress code is – better that than risk embarrassing both of you.
If your host is likely to know even less about these things than you do (e.g. if you’ve been invited along to a corporate event by your city slicker CEO), contact the venue or check their website for the dos and don’ts.
Close your eyes and imagine the quintessential British country gent – that’s the style known as ‘country formal’. If your invitation specifies a country formal dress code, you’ll need to get yourself some serious tweed.
A tweed suit jacket and trousers should be worn over a long sleeve tattersall shirt in a natural tone. A tweed cap and brown leather brogues will finish off your look.
Lastly, we consider a woollen tie to be an essential. There is debate among the shooting fraternity about whether ties still have a place in the country dress code. Many argue (and we agree) that wearing a tie shows respect for your quarry and lends a sense of occasion which will flatter any host.
And it’s infinitely easier to take a tie off, than to magic one out of thin air should you find yourself out of step with the other members of your party.
If your invitation states ‘country casual’ you can keep the tattersall shirt, tweed cap and brogues. But swap the tweed suit for some cords or chinos (depending on the season) and top with a waxed jacket to keep out the wind and the wet, as illustrated above.
Some of you might feel tempted to go ‘hi tech’ and ditch sartorial elegance in favour of more modern high-performance fabrics and gear. But a traditional country casual look is always going to be more aesthetically appealing than the drab practicality of hiking garb.
Tailor your clothes to the occasion
Different country occasions require changes to the staple wardrobes described above. Let’s have a look at a couple of them in more detail:
Ear defenders or earplugs are essential clay shooting accessories. You’ll be pulling the trigger many times during the course of the day and shotguns are very, very loud. Eye protection is also wise. You should be able to hire or borrow ear and eye protection from the shooting ground but do check beforehand.
A shooting vest – with padding and reinforcement in the shoulder area – will also help you retain your manly stance while getting used to shotgun recoil.
If you’ve been invited deer stalking you should plan for every discomfort. It’s likely to be uneven and boggy underfoot, so wear sensible, sturdy walking boots.
And the wet ground you’ll be crawling along is frequently plagued by ticks. If you’re forced to wear traditional ‘breeks’ or plus-fours, team them with impenetrable gaiters or top them with waterproof overtrousers to keep the blood-sucking blighters (and the damp) out.
Now you know what to wear, all that’s left is to learn a few country manners:
- Arrive early. Allow extra time for your journey in case you get lost or held up and plan to get there 15 minutes before the event starts.
- Leave your mobile in your car. A ringing phone on a shoot is the ultimate faux pas.
- Stay safe. As etiquette tutor William Hanson advises:
“Never attend a shoot if you have never held a gun or had adequate training. Being dangerous is considered frightfully rude.”
- Tip the head keeper personally and say thank you. Find out what the going rate is (anywhere from £15 to £80).