What to wear and when to wear it has been a long-running topic of discussion, which shows little sign of abating. Times change and the way we conduct our sport has altered considerably in the past 50 years. So should our clothes reflect the change in fashion and public perception?
The right hat
Nowadays most people wear crash helmets and I do not believe a master of hounds should tell anyone what they should wear on their head. It is up to the individual, whose decision will be based on safety, as well as fashion and comfort.
A silk hat is a remarkably smart piece of kit and was once considered very safe. Nowadays, it is regarded as exactly the opposite, but there is no doubt that those who wear one add great style to the proceedings.
The bowler hat is now seldom worn in the hunting field. I have found that a bowler hat is both practical and, if fitted properly, offers some protection, as does the traditional hunting cap, which is still worn by most hunt servants.
Having said that, I insisted that my child wore a crash helmet to go hunting, although, now that he has reached the age of consent, he wears one of Mr Patey’s best.
Dress for the weather
The scarlet coat is now discouraged, which leaves us with black, blue or tweed coats, all of which are splendid. However, it is important to bear in mind whatever coat you wear, it should be thick and waterproof enough to keep out the wind, rain and the cold.
Hunting shirts, waistcoats, jerseys, silk vests etc are to be worn as required and good, thick woollen gloves are wonderful. A spare pair should be kept under the girth straps.
The hunting tie, sometimes called a stock, should be white when worn with a black coat. Coloured ones worn by ladies in the autumn are acceptable. It should be tied tightly and secured with as many safety pins as necessary to keep it contained.
I prefer baggy woollen breeches, but accept that the young and beautiful will not.
There are some marvellous boots on the market, rubber ones lined with leather and other fabrics. They are warm, eminently practical and very easy to clean. Personally I prefer leather ones. First, they offer more protection. Second, I think they are more comfortable and third, I find them warmer. The foot should always be slightly too big, to accommodate socks, thermal insoles and all that sort of thing.
The spurs should sit along the ankle seam of the boot — boots look much better with them.
An alternative is jodhpurs and jodhpur boots. My wife wears these to go cubhunting and very smart they look, too. However, they offer little or no protection against thorns, gateposts or kicking horses.
I never quite understand why people do not carry hunting whips out hunting. It is so much easier to open a gate with one and the thong, if used correctly, will prevent any hounds getting under your horse’s heels.
Ratcatcher is worn in the autumn and spring of the year and is basically a tweed coat with either black or brown boots. This may be worn with either a collar and tie or a hunting tie.
For regular hunting, ratcatcher is permissible but possibly not as warm as the traditional hunting coat. Macs, Barbours and other waterproofs can be a great boon on a wet day.
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