Every summer there comes a moment when I’m suddenly bored of wearing thin shirts, cotton trousers and going sockless in deck shoes. This summer that moment coincides with the first day of the grouse season. It might be August but I want to get back in amongst my winter wardrobe; despite the humidity in town, I’ve got corduroy and tweed on my mind.
Not having ever visited a grouse moor the appeal of the glorious twelfth is, to me, entirely superficial and based chiefly on the assumption that all the guns will be dressed in heavy tweed suits, tattersall shirts and silk ties. As this isn’t an assumption that is going to be challenged by reality any time soon I can put out of mind the possibility that in fact the moors are dotted with men swishing about in ugly fleeces and nylon technical jackets.
As far as I’m concerned the ideal look is pretty close to that created for the shooting lunch scene in Robert Altman’s superb film Gosford Park, and if a man can accessorise it with Kristin Scott Thomas in a fur stole, so much the better. However, finding good country-ish clothes off-the-peg isn’t easy, because the cut is normally so entirely shapeless that you think they must have been designed with junior land agents in mind.
For jackets the only answer, I’m afraid, is a good tailor (you better hurry if you want something made by the time the grouse season closes on December 10th), not least because ready-to-wear tweed jackets are almost invariably shapeless things with three buttons and a centre vent.
But, with effort, it is possible to find flattering and reasonably priced trousers – the cut and fit are vital because badly fitting country clothes are incredibly ageing.
The key is to buy slim fully-fashioned trousers that have forward pleats, darts in the back and are cut to sit on the waist rather than on the hips, because any other style will leave you looking like a young farmer dressed for church.
As for the grouse the nearest I’m likely to get this year is a plate of the stuff at Wiltons. I’ll be dressed in tweed and corduroy of course.