Dressing for the peg. Jonathan Young: The Field

Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Dressing for the peg. Jonathan Young: The Field

Jonathan Young – Editor of The Field magazine, has been on every type of shoot day imaginable, so who better to give advice on what to wear on a day in the field?

Although chained under the tightest security, having narrowly escaped an ASBO order, my favourite set of tweeds is totally bespoke, the plus fours and matching shooting vest sport a pattern based on the colouring of a Michigan pheasant, the blue rather prominent. It’s not quite Mr Toad of that hall but wearing the ensemble requires that outré amphibian’s jaunty self-confidence. Donning it involves a personal challenge: grouse must bounce on heather; pheasants obligingly drop from the cirrus. Dufferdom must be exiled or the tweeds send out another message, connected instantly to the unforgiving critics in the beating line: “prat”.

In recent years we’ve all shed our kit faster than Dita Von Teese in a sauna, thick jumpers and jackets being discarded for light layers that provide maximum warmth and minimal constraint on gun movement. If my shooting host doesn’t wear a tie (an increasingly common phenomenon), then I’ll pull on a silk roll-neck vest, roll-neck merino/silk pullover and light padded gilet. My children have christened this the “Dodgy Seventies Ski Instructor Look” but it works.

Below it’s plus-fours or plus-sixes, which stop the cold and unsightly gap between breeches and shooting stockings. Some friends now sport plus-nines and even plus-12s, arguing, rightly, that the tweed overhang stops rain dripping into your boots. But I think that style is the preserve of grouse keepers and should be respected as such.

Essential kit – plus twos, shooting stockings and a dark coloured tattersal.

Then comes the stout brogues and shooting socks, the only consideration being that the latter are long enough to wear comfortably over the breeks (never under) and innocent of “amusing” bon mots.

But if it does pee down, wear a jacket that’s actually waterproof, has a safe, dry pocket for cash, fags and car-keys, and is the right shade of green. The coat must be light, truly waterproof and have cartridge pockets that hold at least a box.

The Schoffel Ptarmigan Shooting Coat – waterproof and light, the prefect combination

Regardless of weather, most Shots wear hats, either to keep out the rain or the sun. Mine are big tweed caps, as they allow me to wear full ear-defenders. Trilbies also work, for taller men. I’m not a celeb, so baseball caps are verboten (though they are fetching worn by women with pony tails), and lack of clannish blood discounts a deerstalker. Our fathers’ generation often favoured the “fore and aft”, a twin-peaked cap, and I’m surprised they’ve fallen out of favour.

Cap, cartridge bag and action back jacket.

If there’s an overnight stay in the house, then I check exactly what’s required, having once pitched up at a “kitchen supper, come-as-you-are” affair in Perthshire only to find everyone else in black tie. A tweed jacket, cardigan and strides normally suffice though grouse parties tend to dress in their own plumage of cream shirt, no tie, smoking jacket, dress trousers and velvet slippers.

Elegant British made velvet slippers – perfect evening wear on grouse days.
The perfect opportunity to wear a smoking jacket – grouse evenings

All this takes some packing, and I’ve found an old cricket bag, stolen from my son, the ideal piece of luggage. Unpacking it at the other end is also a chore, but best done by oneself. A chum allowed the butler to do it for him at a smart grouse lodge, and when he came up from drinks he found it all neatly laid out, including the three pairs of wispy thongs his girlfriend had left in the bag from the previous weekend!