Monday, 16 December 2013

Winter activities, and Cordings (and What To Wear on a shoot)

My pursuit of country pursuits, and the right clothes in which to pursue them, took me last week to Cordings on Picadilly. While I've often looked longingly in at the window, which has amongst the most elegant displays of tweed you will see anywhere in London, I've never actually ventured inside. However, when I realised I needed some new shooting breeks at the last minute Cordings immediately sprung to mind as the obvious place to go. Farlows on Pall Mall is also an excellent choice, and possibly even a bit cheaper, but it's a little more 'sporting' and a little less traditional than Cordings and, more important, closes earlier in the evening. As I was in a hurry after work, I didn't have much choice.

Cordings, which is now half-owned by Eric Clapton, has a tiny space on the ground floor, but rather more room in the basement, where most of the menswear is. It has a remarkable selection of traditional men's country-wear, with a particular emphasis on shooting. Many of the tweeds come in up to 7 pieces: breeks (sometimes the option of plus-twos or plus-fours, but I'll count that as one), trousers, waistcoat, shooting waistcoat, jacket, field coat, and cap. They have a variety of patterns ranging from the very conservative to the extremely 'bold' as well as all the accessories you could possibly want, including some very lovely and implausibly expensive shooting socks, of the knee-length variety needed for wear with breeks.

I went for plus-twos, which often better suit the taller and slimmer chap, but managed to resist the full 7-piece suit. I did, however, make sure to check that I was buying a check that was kept regularly in stock and not a short-run seasonal piece, so I could return to get other pieces at some later date. 

What to wear on a shoot

And for those who have landed on this page because they're desperate for some advice, here's my view:
On most shoots, there is a 'smart' dress code, but that doesn't necessarily mean full-on three-piece tweeds, nor is that often a particularly practical option for all sorts of reasons (warmth, water-proof-ness, and a decent shoulder surface). So, the standard outfit for all but the very smartest shoots seems to be breeks, a shirt and tie, a jumper (assuming it's cold enough) and a field coat of some variety. I am modelling this popular and broadly-acceptable look in the picture above. The long, warm socks are held up by brightly coloured garters, the tassels of which hang from the folded tops of the socks and add a nice bit of colour and panache. If you have an eye for colour, or the assistance of a very nice man in Cordings, you can coordinate socks, garters and breeks to great effect.

If you are somewhere hugely smart, or simply like dressing up a bit, then you can go considerably more formal than this without raising any eyebrows, though. Adding a waistcoat that matches your breeks is a good alternative to a jumper, while a shooting waistcoat (which has large bellow pockets for cartridges, and suede-covered shoulders) can be particularly useful if it's warm enough to shoot without a coat. Equally, a matching field-coat is a straightforward addition and makes your shooting 'outfit' into more of a shooting 'suit'.

If you do want to wear an old-fashioned tweed suit, you can up the practicality levels a bit by adding suede to one or both of the shoulders, and bellow pockets. That would probably call for a bespoke request, although no doubt there are places that will do these off the peg. Cordings is probably one of them, but my visit was so brief that I didn't see.


  1. Great rig...but please tell us more about the side by side you are holding. I am always far more interested in the gun than the clothes.
    We were shooting a Continental style affair yesterday here in Pennsylvania,USA and it was 30 degrees F and windy with 3 inches of snow on the field.. Hence our footwear was a bit bulkier and there were more layers of waxed canvas and fleece.

    1. Ah - good question! It's a William Evans Connaught 12-bore, one of a pair. The Connaught is a 5-pin sidelock and a rather cheaper option from an otherwise fairly pricey manufacturer, but deliberately classically-styled so they're quite attractive. Walnut stock, hand-chequered, all very nice!

  2. Driven pheasants I assume. What loads were you shooting thru that fine double gun?

    1. Quite right. 30g 6 shot by and large. I think we had some 28g in there, but that was more of an accident than any tactical decision...!

  3. The fact that Clapton owns half of Cordings makes it that much more amazing! Also, I googled the side-by-side – it is indeed a beautiful piece! 'twould be a joy to shoot.


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