Adam Edwards: Dressed to impress
13:00 06 February 2017
There is every excuse for dressing badly in the countryside, particularly if you live here as opposed to dropping by on a Friday night for 48 hours of open fires and warming claret
When the clocks change so does my wardrobe. At the beginning of November, I pull on a chunky black-flecked sweater and, except for high days and holidays, wear it every day until the clocks spring forward.
I bought the pullover for 60 quid in a sale from a gents’ outfitters some years ago and I shall continue to sport it until it wears out, which I have to say it is now, sadly, threatening to do. Three weeks ago, for example, my friend Rachel noticed a large hole at the belly button and remarked that she had just such a hole in her jumper and that a dog jumping up had probably been the cause of the rip.
What I thought was most interesting about this observation was not that Rachel thought it a sartorial faux pas but the rarity of any sort of comment on my winter outfit. For I have observed in the Cotswolds, and I except Cheltenham from this generalisation, that the wardrobe of those who live here full-time is invisible. Nobody has a clue what anybody else is wearing unless it is conspicuous, when fun will be poked at it.
I mention the above because from the moment the ploughshare hits the stubble in late September newspapers, magazines, and my letterbox are chock-a-block with articles, suggestions and advertisements for spanking new country gear. The Sunday Times Style magazine for example recently had a two-page spread on Joules as ‘the go-to label for the rural set’. According to the article, “City dwellers may not know nor care for the brand but if you live in a pretty cottage, drive a Land Rover Defender or holiday with the kids in the UK you wear Joules”. And by way of example it cited the Duchess of Cambridge, who often can be found in a Joules store, Prince George who wears a Joules quilted jacket and the Cambridges’ mutt Lupo, who sleeps on a Joules dog bed. I have never heard of Joules but I am quite certain that those wearing its apparel don’t live in my parish.
Equally baffling are the late autumn advertisements and many articles extolling classic tweed suits, jackets and old-fashioned brogues. I have to say I am keen on the old sports jacket but when was the last time any rustic regularly wore one? Certainly not this century because, quite simply, the fleece has become the all conquering day-time uniform while in the evening most countrymen will be wearing what has been dubbed the Hampshire Code – a brightly coloured cashmere sweater, hi-visibility corduroys and loafers.
Last month the fashion journalist Anna Murphy wrote in The Times that “The countryside used to be a style-dead zone. You dressed practically, which meant perforce that you dressed at best boringly, at worst badly. There is no excuse for not dressing well when tackling the great outdoors”. She then proceeded to recommend pages of ‘fashionable’ country clothes.
Actually, Anna, there is every excuse for dressing boringly or even badly in the countryside, particularly if you actually live here as opposed to dropping by on a Friday night for 48 hours of open fires and warming claret. Firstly the countryside is cold and layers are necessary, starting with thermals followed by a host of additional wrappings. Secondly the countryside is dark and so winter clothes are mostly dark too (and anyway are only seen for a few brief hours in the middle of the day) and thirdly it is unfashionable to be fashionable.
In the country the accepted wisdom states that sporting kit, in particular shooting clobber, remains stuck in time while country fashion is for weekenders. Rural designer clothes are for the soft-handed sons and daughters of the city. They are, to bastardise a cliché, God’s way of saying you live in town.
Meanwhile I was taught, when I lived in London, that one didn’t notice what a well-dressed Englishman wore. His clothes were understated and to comment on them was vulgar. I now realise that that remark is also true in the Cotswolds, only here it needs to be amended to ‘One should not notice what a badly dressed countryman wears’.
And so I shall continue wearing my chunky black sweater until spring is sprung. However, I have turned it around so that the manufacturer’s label that used to be at the back of my neck is now at the front while the hole made by the dog is at the back. That should avoid any more unnecessary compliments about my livery.
For more from Adam Edwards, follow him on Twitter @cotswoldhack