Style guides may be abound with townie essentials, but here's how to dress for the country without looking like an extra from Last Of The Summer Wine.
So, you’ve got your out-on-the-town gear sorted, summer-ware all purchased and waiting for the weather, a couple of peacock suits hanging up for those special occasions…but what about clothes for those rural excursions, be it a fishing/camping trip, hike in the hills, boat ride or outdoor festival? It’s all very well sticking to ‘town’ wear, but ultimately impractical – that £300 designer jacket might last the course on shopping trips and drinking binges, but one small walk through a prickly forest and you’ll come out the other side looking like Robinson Crusoe. Unlike the ‘town’ clothing market, which is seen and advertised everywhere, with no end of practical guidance as to what’s good and what’s not, country-clothing remains a specialist market, in spite of a host of outdoor shops in rural areas, with the emphasis on function over appearance, Taking the following tips on board will ensure you’re not only dressed practically for any outdoor trip, but that you’ll also look the business.
1) Tweed Jackets
Forget the farming/fishing/Last of the Summer Wine image – there are sound reasons why tweed is worn by country folk. It’s warm, breathable, shower-proof and hardy, and whilst your designer jacket will snag and ruin when brushing past a gorse bush, the heavier tweeds will look back at said bush and laugh. Moreover, tweed can look as smart as any other jacket, you won’t stick out like a sore thumb and even the local chavs (for we get them in the country too) will have seen it all before and find someone less tweedy to pick on. Harris Tweed is amongst the best, and for versatility stick to a solid grey shade, which only resembles tweed up close. Avoid faux tweed in manmade fibres, even if you trust the brand – for the country, it’s simply not up to the job.
A name well-known and still beloved by a host of football Casuals, Hackett is worn by country folk not for its ‘hip’ name, but due to its durability and quality. Hackett’s woollen crew-necks are super in colder weather and won’t look tired after a single season’s wear. Their hunting jackets are great in all weathers, and due to their intended use come with a staggering array of pockets, so you’ll have plenty room to secrete whatever ‘essentials’ you take with you on your country trip, and the local bobby won’t suspect a thing. Thanks to the Casuals, you won’t look out of place wearing one in town either, and their iconic status means you’ll never look like ‘last year’.
It may be tempting to go for something a tad more adventurous looks-wise, but imagine what they’ll look like caked in mud and sheep-shit and think again.
3) Waterproof Trousers
One of the more difficult articles of outdoor clothing to get right, they’re nevertheless an essential – those raw denim selvage jeans just won’t last the pace. You’ll find a huge array in outdoor shops of similar quality – Peter Storm, Craghoppers or North Face are as good a brand as any – best to go for the pair that fits best and are breathable, as there’s nothing worse than clothing that keeps the rain off but makes you sweat like a £10 whore. The key is to stick to sombre colours, such as grey, a light brown or khaki, avoiding anything bright. It may be a subtle difference but it’s easier to match such colours with the rest of your wardrobe, and unlike the average outsider in their bright reds, you won’t stand out like a sore dick. Obvious as it sounds, an important distinction should be made between shower- and waterproof trousers – the former are ideal in most situations and look far better; the latter (basically a trouser-shaped plastic bag that fit over whatever you’re wearing), are best left rolled up in one of your many pockets for emergency situations. When the weather is bad enough to need them, you’ll be beyond caring what you look like, and there’ll be no one around to notice anyway.
Like footwear for any occasion, buy the best you can afford, as with care and a little maintenance they’ll last a very long time. Go for waterproof hiking ankle boots over shoes – Hi-Tec, Karrimor and Brasher are all reliable brands, and £100 will net you an excellent pair. Make sure they’re leather, not suede, and stick to a dark brown colour with a grippy rubber soul. It may be tempting to go for something a tad more adventurous looks-wise, but imagine what they’ll look like caked in mud and sheep-shit and think again. As for keeping them looking good, remove as much mud as you can after every outing, and stuff them full of newspaper to help keep their shape. If saturated allow them to try naturally away from a heat source to prevent the leather cracking and the sole warping. Scuffed boots will let in water, so polish as you would a normal pair and use Dubbin or clear wax before you go out.
If you’ve never had the balls to wear a hat before, now’s your chance, as an astonishing number of people wear hats in the countryside, so it’s the perfect place in which to experiment in safety. It’s interesting to note that most hat styles were born in the country and worn for practical purposes, including the Bowler, long-considered by most to be the ultimate city slicker hat, yet originally conceived as a hard hat for gamekeepers that was harder to lose when riding horseback through dense forests, unlike the sticky-outy top hat then favoured. In Cumbria, where I live, flat caps, trilbies and deerstalkers are seen on a daily basis, worn by all ages. The flat cap is the ideal starting point for the wary, and Harris Tweed do a shape to suit everyone, be it traditional, baker boy or newsboy (8-panel) in style. As with the jacket, avoid faux-tweeds from designer labels, which simply won’t last. In cold weather, when covering the ears is essential and you can’t bring yourself to don a deerstalker, then a good quality plain woollen beanie will do the job.
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