How To Pick A Sport With The Most Style

Jeremy Langmead on the sartorial challenge of being athletic

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Living in the countryside, a novice to nature, has its pros and cons.

I now love looking at endless green fields through the bedroom window, am no longer scared of giant horses, have a growing respect for trees, and adore my walk-in wardrobe. I even, without too much fuss, allowed myself to be dragged to the flower festival at the local church last weekend since one of the arrangements had been named after our house. And I didn’t look too shocked when someone there commented on how wonderful the rape was. It took me a few moments to realise that they were talking about the fields of yellow rapeseed and not that week’s episode of Game of Thrones.

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I still, of course, find it a little odd that while doing that, and picking up enormous piles of great dane poo, trying to persuade chickens to come out of their coop each morning and topping the soil off the latest molehill, my friends are having carafe-filled lunches at Spuntino, napping through arthouse films at the Everyman and going to birthday parties on the roof of Shoreditch House.

My Instagram feed used to be filled with pictures of shoes; now it’s dominated by snaps of sheep.

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However, before you feel too sorry for me, I have found comfort in the fact we have a tennis court. It is hidden away far from the house, and has just been restored. If you tire of your employment any time soon, become a tennis court maintenance man. I had to wait months for someone to come and de-weed, de-moss and re-paint it. 

Apparently, TC practitioners are in high demand all year round. The reason I mention this is that taking up a new sport means investing in a new wardrobe. (Hoorah. I love sport.) I already have my riding kit, all pristine for those two times a year I sit on a horse and have my photograph taken for a Facebook update, and now I’ve invested in a tennis outfit or two.

Fortunately, Mr Porter has introduced a sports section on its website, so I’ve been able to shop quite freely. The label I’ve invested in is called Boast, rather appropriately. It has a preppy American country club feel – crisp cotton pique polo shirts, white shorts with navy stripes down the side, and knitted tennis jackets sporting its discreet maple leaf logo. The look is definitely more Federer than Nadal.

Since my spouse doesn’t play tennis, I’ve also invested in one of those machines that fires tennis balls at you. It and I haven’t really hit it off yet, so to speak. I can’t seem to get the angle or the timer right. Each time, the machine fires about 70 tennis balls in quick succession at every part of the court except the spot I happen to be in. I run backwards and forwards trying to adjust the angle on it only to discover that, just as we are almost there, the battery needs recharging. Still, it’s a sport of sorts, I suppose.

If I don’t figure it out soon I will have to find another sport to pretend I’m good at. Golf’s a bit boring, I’ve tried that one before; sailing looks fun, but since our river is about four inches deep it is not really an option so I’m wondering about wandering. Outdoor sports – encompassing anything from hiking to climbing – have some rather handsome clobber attached, although it seems they’re more of an autumn pastime than a summer one since Arc’Teryx, Patagonia and Musto Shooting tend to specialise in gilets, fleeces and waterproofs (well, a summer sport if you’re holidaying in the UK).

By happy coincidence, hiking is in fashion this autumn. I won’t spoil your holiday by banging on about all the winter trends yet – that’s next month’s treat – except to say that you should make the most of your beach-friendly flip-flops and sports sandals. After the next few weeks, you won’t see much of your toes again for quite some time.

Ankle-high hiking boots with commando grip soles, sturdy hook lace-ups and tough leather uppers will be the go-to shoe whether you’re trudging through mountainous and rough terrain in the Lake District or along the elegant pavements of Jermyn Street. Check out the smart, all-occasion ones by the Japanese label Visvim, the Canadian brand Viberg or the home-grown O’Keeffe.

I’m going to wear mine for climbing up and down the stairs so I’ll burn calories but not get my new designer hiking boots dirty. I may even launch a stay-clean, menswear-friendly exercise video. I think the idea’s got legs.

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