How to dress for Continental shootingMay 15, 2019 | Welcome
The wing-shooting scene in the United Kingdom is renowned for its enduring traditions. If you’re lucky enough to have some British driven dates in your diary, you’ll need to be prepared for something special but different. This applies to your clothes as much as it does to your gun: put aside any thoughts of a pump action, and clear your mind of camo.
Brits are also famously reluctant to set down easy-to-understand rules, whether the subject matter be the national constitution or the dress code for a day’s pheasant shooting. To add insult to injury, Brits also enjoy tutting when foreigners fail to stick to their mysterious rituals, but will they write the rules down to help us? Hell no.
Being practical people here at Gordy & Sons, however, we’ve taken the trouble to corral a bit of guidance to help you hit the right note as well as the right birds, so that all eyes will be on your barrels, not your apparel. As you’ll see momentarily, the rules themselves look simple enough – it’s the exceptions that you have to watch out for.
Put very simply, there are two basic ‘do’s’: dress smartly and dress practically. The smartness is a matter of respect. It not only shows appropriate reverence for the birds you’re privileged to be shooting, it also demonstrates gratitude to your host, and shows your appreciation of the gamekeeper and his team. The purpose of the practicality is also self-evident: hunting – wherever it takes place – is a sport that allows you to enjoy the outdoors in all its glory, and in all possible weather conditions.
So far, so straightforward. But that’s the easy part over. There are also a bunch of ‘don’ts’, and they do their best to contradict the do’s…
While smartness is a must, it’s almost equally important to avoid over-neatness. Do make an effort, but don’t look as though you’re trying too hard: to the sensitive British psyche, it smacks of showing off and being overly competitive. By all means show your superior sportsmanship, but let your shooting do the talking, not your clothes.
Similarly, subtlety is the order of the day when it comes to technical garments. In effect, your apparel needs to be fit for purpose, and therefore incorporate the best that modern fibre-technology has to offer, but it mustn’t look as though it does. There’s a big difference in the UK between ‘sporty’ sports, such as soccer, and ‘sporting’ sports, such as game shooting and hunting. It’s perfectly acceptable to cover yourself in Lycra and logos for the former, and is absolutely not the done thing for the latter. In much the same way as a Purdey is recognisable by its engraving, or a Rigby from the shape of its stock, good British fieldsports clothing is discernable by its cut, and often its own particular shades of green.
So, what does all this boil down to? Is the only option left a roughed-up, green, Goretex-lined Tuxedo? Fortunately not. We've chosen our in-stock apparel as carefully as our firearms. It will see you right no matter where you’re next hunt is. If you’re bound for Blighty, here are our top picks.
A good shirt will always stand you in good stead, and a high quality cotton will set the right tone. Checkered patterns are traditionally popular and pale, plain colors are best avoided. Schöffel and Barbour offer a good selection, ranging from timeless Tattersall patterns to the more modern Schöffel Banbury and Brancaster variations on the checkered theme. A fine collar needs a fine finish, and classic silk or woollen neckties in the colors of the British countryside, such as those in our Schöffel range, fit the bill with aplomb.
In the highly likely event that it’s too cold and wet to shoot in shirtsleeves alone, a woollen sweater, a tweed shooting vest, or a gilet are all acceptably British mid-layers. Schöffel’s Ptarmigan vest is a top choice for tweed and Barbour’s Lowerdale offers a quilted alternative. If opting for tweed, take care not to match too many elements of your ensemble. Having everything matching strikes a bum note with Brits. It contravenes the rule about not looking too neat and raises suspicions of trying to hard or – far worse – ‘having all the gear and no idea’.
For shoots when the weather is truly ‘British’ you’ll also need a coat. Tweed is still a popular choice and Gore-Tex has gained a lot of ground. Gordy & Sons’ range includes both. In terms of performance, there’s very little to choose between them. Both have all the requisite pockets for shells and so on, are cut for movement and are waterproof, flexible, breathable and hardwearing. Choose something that suits you and suits the weather you’ll be facing, whether it’s Purdey’s lightweight shooting coat, to Schöffel’s iconic Ptarmigan range with removable inner layers to add extra warmth.
When it comes to the legs, Brits like nothing better than breeks. Being a good deal shorter than standard pants, they allow the lower leg to fit effortlessly into long, waterproof boots made of rubber or leather. Schöffel’s Ptarmigan range gives you a choice of tweed or waterproof Cordura in perfect colors for the fields and moors of the UK. To cover the shortfall in fabric from the ankle up, the British like to wear substantial shooting socks. Length really does matter in this instance, and these woollen stockings should be proudly pulled up over the bottom of a sportsman’s breeks, where they’re held in place with knitted ties.
Top and tail it with a classic tweed flat cap and a sturdy pair of boots and you’re all set. In Britain, baseball caps are welcomed at shooting ranges and when pursuing pigeon, but newsboy style ‘flat’ caps, such as Schöffel’s V8, are the order of the day on formal game shoots. For solid grip and comfort in the stickiest British mud, slide your stockinged feet into a brace of well-made wellingtons: with their shock-absorbing soles and adjustable fit, Le Chameau’s Vierzon are ideal for the job.