As I have mentioned before, I amgrateful for having been introduced to the world of shooting. I find that theprospect of needing to concentrate on an activity that requires some level ofphysical co-ordination and mastering the slightly abstract notion of shootingwhere 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 acomputer. The change of activity and location freshens up my mind (and heavenknows it needs freshening). And, of course, there are the sartorialcompensations; in fact it is the population of a new wardrobe that strikes meas the other chief benefit.
Each season teaches me somethingnew about the pastime and the clothing, and this year has been no exception. Apair of Loden breeches worn by a very stylish shot particularly inspired me. Heuses a pair of 20 bores, which in itself is chic; it means you are able to hitsomething with less shot (by contrast, in order to stand any chance of hittinganything I really need a blunderbuss and a slow-moving, or preferablystationary, target).
Anyway, back to the importantmatter of these breeches: they had a large patch pocket at the side with abutton flap, not unlike a pair of what I believe are called “cargo pants”. Hadyou suggested the idea to me I would have baulked, which shows just how littleI know as the reality was utterly brilliant, inspired even. It struck me asreminiscent of the days when men wore plus fours for all sorts of sportingactivities and exertion: golf, shooting, motorcycling, mountaineering andexploration (you will remember that the adventuresome young Tintin was big onplus 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) islargely in the clothes. You are unlikely to see me in a football shirt orbaseball cap, but tweed is another matter, and even though horses scare me I amnot averse to a good hacking jacket. As soon as I saw this extra pocket on theplus fours I knew I had to give it a go, it is perfect for everything from mapsto crampons and tools or, in my case, cigars. Inspired, I immediately calledTerry Haste to commission just such a pair with two such pockets.
Well, almost immediately, as mynext call was to the JM Weston shop on Jermyn Street. Weston makes animpregnable shoe called La Chasse: a piece of footwear with a severe identitycrisis, in that it thinks it is a fortified bunker. I have seen less solidlybuilt ramparts, and had Weston been in charge of the Theodosian walls ofConstantinople, then Sultan Mehmet’s cannon would never have been able tobreach the city’s fortifications in 1453, and the whole course of world historywould have been different.
Anyway, La Chasse has the mostaggressive Norwegian stitching I think I have ever seen and would make theperfect companion for a day out in the country – the only trouble is whichcolour to order. I would normally say brown, and then agonise over the exactshade, probably going for a burnt oak colour and then shining it with blackpolish until it resembled a piece of Jacobean furniture. But I have heard fromsome well-informed and elegant men that in fact black and not brown is thereally smart colour for shoes to wear shooting. Needless to say, this has beenquite 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 leastnine months, so the pressure is off… for the time being.