As I have mentioned before, I am grateful for having been introduced to the world of shooting. I find that the prospect of needing to concentrate on an activity that requires some level of physical co-ordination and mastering the slightly abstract notion of shooting where something is not – but might be by the time the pellets are in the sky – is remarkably restorative, rather like defragmenting the hard drive of a computer. The change of activity and location freshens up my mind (and heaven knows it needs freshening). And, of course, there are the sartorial compensations; in fact it is the population of a new wardrobe that strikes me as the other chief benefit.
Each season teaches me something new about the pastime and the clothing, and this year has been no exception. A pair of Loden breeches worn by a very stylish shot particularly inspired me. He uses a pair of 20 bores, which in itself is chic; it means you are able to hit something with less shot (by contrast, in order to stand any chance of hitting anything I really need a blunderbuss and a slow-moving, or preferably stationary, target).
Anyway, back to the important matter of these breeches: they had a large patch pocket at the side with a button flap, not unlike a pair of what I believe are called “cargo pants”. Had you suggested the idea to me I would have baulked, which shows just how little I know as the reality was utterly brilliant, inspired even. It struck me as reminiscent of the days when men wore plus fours for all sorts of sporting activities and exertion: golf, shooting, motorcycling, mountaineering and exploration (you will remember that the adventuresome young Tintin was big on plus fours). In fact, I’m beginning to see that the difference between a sport (say shooting and hunting) as opposed to a game (say soccer or baseball) is largely in the clothes. You are unlikely to see me in a football shirt or baseball cap, but tweed is another matter, and even though horses scare me I am not averse to a good hacking jacket. As soon as I saw this extra pocket on the plus fours I knew I had to give it a go, it is perfect for everything from maps to crampons and tools or, in my case, cigars. Inspired, I immediately called Terry Haste to commission just such a pair with two such pockets.
Well, almost immediately, as my next call was to the JM Weston shop on Jermyn Street. Weston makes an impregnable shoe called La Chasse: a piece of footwear with a severe identity crisis, in that it thinks it is a fortified bunker. I have seen less solidly built ramparts, and had Weston been in charge of the Theodosian walls of Constantinople, then Sultan Mehmet’s cannon would never have been able to breach the city’s fortifications in 1453, and the whole course of world history would have been different.
Anyway, La Chasse has the most aggressive Norwegian stitching I think I have ever seen and would make the perfect companion for a day out in the country – the only trouble is which colour to order. I would normally say brown, and then agonise over the exact shade, probably going for a burnt oak colour and then shining it with black polish until it resembled a piece of Jacobean furniture. But I have heard from some well-informed and elegant men that in fact black and not brown is the really smart colour for shoes to wear shooting. Needless to say, this has been quite a bombshell, not unlike being told that Father Christmas does not exist – it shakes one’s weltanschauung and I am still digesting the news. Happily, Weston cannot deliver a Chasse in any colour in my size for at least nine months, so the pressure is off… for the time being.