As the season progresses, it’s time to consider what’s underfoot as much as overhead. Here is our essential guide to sporting footwear.
Shooting is a sport that contains multitudes. For a truly satisfying day in the field you’ll want to be a keen aim with a Side-by-Side – but the pastime’s rich, rarefied history is also a minefield of long-established sartorial etiquette and practical nuance that it’s essential to adhere to ensure the utmost of comfort (and politeness) in the field.
Game shooting possesses a specific and rather esoteric wardrobe – from traditional elements like a tattersall shirts, tweed breeks, sporting vests, knitted socks and garters, to practical (but still aesthetically specific) elements like field coats, overtrousers, flat caps, gun slips and footwear.
Today, we’re talking about the latter. One’s boots are perhaps the single most important element in a country ensemble, somewhat more malleable to the weather than some of the more stringently traditional elements in a shooter’s wardrobe (pity the amateur who arrives at a formal shoot without his tie, irrespective of the season). You’ll be spending a long, hard day on your feet so comfort is a premium.
Wellingtons have long been de rigeur, and ideal for traipsing through the sopping grass, muddy fields and dank woodland typical of an inclement British shooting season. Stalking boots, though, are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and are often more technically updated to the sportsperson’s needs. Dryness and warmth are of a premium; as are structure and support for traversing rough and uneven terrain – from bogs to carpets of heather, grasses and even mountainsides, depending on your drive. Ask your host if you need a little extra guidance; formality can waver from shoot-to-shoot, and they’ll be au fait with the landscape at hand.
First and foremost: never arrive at your shoot lodge or estate in wellingtons, or any other grubby layers that have been exposed to the elements. You should be able to enter a dining room for breakfast without feeling obliged to change any footwear in the process. A pair of unlined, calf leather Purdey Penny Loafers would be ideal. Respect for your host is paramount.
Appetite sated, it’s time to change into your shoot-appropriate clothing and footwear. Just what this is will depend on where, when and what you’re shooting. If you’ve swung an early season invite to somewhere grand and the ground is relatively dry, then a pair of resplendent Purdey Rough Out Nubuck Twin Straps with tweed breeks, knitted socks and garters are a formal standard. A balmy day in an informal setting – a summer lesson or clay shoot, for instance – means a lower-cut field boot, perhaps even with chinos for a tutorial. These burnished grain-leather Ankle Boots, built with sturdy Goodyear welted construction, are an ideal option. So, too, are our elegantly rugged Rough Out Nubuck Boots if you desire something a little sturdier.
It's all weather depending, of course – there’s always a fraught toss-up between looking spectacular while avoiding sodden feet. It’s one thing drifting around a rarefied Hampshire estate on a bright day; it’s quite another braving a Highland squall which will demand wellingtons, over-trousers and other pieces correct for the context. Etiquette is important; but pragmatism is all.
Whether a walked-up or peg shoot, a day in the field requires a degree of walking – how much and on what terrain will make a difference to your needs regarding footwear, but apply some common sense and, again, ask your host for intel on the ground if you’re unsure.
Outright stalking is something else. Negotiating miles of hills, bogs and mountainsides – and attempting to remain as silent and nimble as possible while doing so – requires something seriously sturdy, up to and including calf-high, hyper-robust stalking boots. Add a gaiter if you really want to keep the mud and rain out.
In short: adaptability to the elements, understanding your terrain, an adherence to age-old traditions and a little dose of common sense should make a day’s shooting a pleasure rather than a damp, socially-moribund debacle. Keep those in mind – and commit the last 600 words to memory – and you’ll find your feet in no time.