Swellboy on… shooting outfits

Our man gets an education in pan-European ensembles, some that are too flamboyant even for him

Image: Brijesh Patel

I often reflect that thebest luxury goods come with a goût de terroir – it is the ultimate protector ofidentity. After all, Château Cheval Blanc cannot be made in, say, the Barossaor Napa Valleys; nor can Havana cigars come from anywhere other than thefactories of the Cuban capital, where they are blended and rolled with tobaccogrown in the Vuelta Abajo.

And with the shooting season upon us, and as Ibegin the research into my Beretta book, I reflect that this is also true ofthe shooting world. The town of Gardone Val Trompia in the Brescia province of Italy is home to literallydozens of gun-makers and associated businesses. Beretta may be the best known, but this picturesque town, with its dramatic mountains, has as much of a historyas a locus classicus of human excellence (alloyed with naturally occurring rawmaterials) as any French vineyard.

The people of the Val Trompia area were extracting and working with iron ore as far back as the Dark Ages, longbefore the invention of the firearm and, as such, the gun is as much a culturalobject as it is a cunningly wrought machine. Happily for me, the culture ofshooting has a much richer sartorial code than winemaking and even cigarsmoking.

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Even though I do not drink, Iam sometimes called upon to visit a vineyard, and I find that a single-button, violently checked, tweed sports coat worn with a cravat and a pair of flannels or cavalry twills gives just the right impression of a Frenchman trying to looklike an Englishman. Similarly, in Havana,in the absence of any codification of clothing, I have had to come up with asmoking ensemble comprising brightly coloured guayabera, contrasting andequally bright linen trousers with a pair of polarised sunglasses fromMeyrowitz and either a panama hat or linen cap.

With shooting, however, thereis a rich palette of clothing on which to draw. I am, of course, familiar with the English gear, but I am always learning – viz my observation earlier this year that, according to one source, blackshooting shoes are posher than brown.

But my eyes are being openedto a wider pan-European sartorial heritage: for instance, I am lookingforward to trying out that fabled Frenchfortified citadel for the foot that is La Chasse from JM Weston. Andthanks to my inculcation into the Italian way of shooting, I have also beenintroduced to some fairly innovative – at least for me – shooting garments, suchas the Beretta Maremanna, a multi-pocket coat in moleskin.

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And I sense that this is just the beginningof a voyage into uncharted sartorial seas. The other day, for example, Icame across a fabulous photograph of Franco Beretta’s great uncle in tweedknickerbockers, a bandolier slung around his waist, his head topped with abroad-brimmed hat that had the suggestion of a Stetson about it, and a flamboyantneckerchief fluttering rakishly from an open-necked shirt. It is a great look – part Butch Cassidyand the Sundance Kid,part The Shooting Party – but not one I am quite confident enough to inflict upon any host kind enough to inviteme to shoot… at least not this coming season.

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