‘Why is Cotswold man suddenly behaving like an urban teenager?’ wonders Adam Edwards
- Credit: Archant
‘Why is Cotswold man (and woman) suddenly behaving like an insecure urban teenager? And what’s wrong with a Tibetan tribesman’s waistcoat?’ wonders Adam Edwards.
A designer label is, or at least was, an anathema for an English gent. His suits are bespoke, his shirts are from Jermyn Street or the provincial equivalent and his shoes are leather and lace-up.
This rule of dressing has held true for most of the 20th and 21st centuries. There have of course been lapses – Levi jeans, the Gucci loafer, the Hunter Wellington boot and the dreadful Lacoste polo shirt with its nasty green crocodile logo on the left breast were all slavishly adopted at one time or another. Most famously of all there was the Barbour. In the Sixties and Seventies it became the mark of the well-bred rural beast. The green wax jacket with its naff tartan lining and corduroy collar was the football shirt of the squirearchy before, in the Eighties, Yuppies and Johnny Foreigner appropriated it. This newfound mass popularity meant the elitist gentry abandoned the jacket and once more there was an absence of brand names in the smart countryman’s wardrobe.
Or at least that was true until a couple of years ago. The dumbing down of the greasy Barbour led directly to a rise in a variety of smart shooting jackets, in particular ones that didn’t smell of wet dog. One of the most successful of these was a washable Schoffel coat, produced by a company that specialised in skiwear, which had a detachable olive-coloured inner lining that was mostly redundant unless one was shooting polar bears in minus 50 degrees. For years it hung in cloakrooms and gunrooms across the shires unused until an imaginative yeoman had the idea of wearing it as a stand-alone gilet.
It is not, it has to be said, the most elegant of garments. It is made of 100% polyester technically known as Polartec with fake leather edging and a stud clip at the back of the neck to attach it to its parent threads. It is known colloquially as a fleece and if it had a hood it would be helping the police with their inquiries.
What distinguishes it from every other fleece is not only the discreetly embroider word Schoffel on the left breast but also its exorbitant price. Despite the fact that, from my cursory research on the internet, it costs less than £5 from its wholesale manufacturers in the Far East, it sells in upmarket shooting shops for £120. Almost all comparable fleeces, all of which are just as effective and stylish, are half that price.
And yet the branding and the cost have not dissuaded every man jack of the gentry from donning the trademarked garment. Last month a friend and I popped into a pub in the Coln Valley and were met with a platoon of such fleeces. “It is the uniform of the Cotswold Waffen SS,” joked my mate. And he was right.
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I have since observed that it is the unofficial livery of Aggies at the Cirencester Agricultural College (I can’t bring myself to call it a university) and that Cotswold woman, she of the blonde highlights, tight jeans, pearls and cashmere sweater has recently adopted it. My inside source at the Cotswold Shooting Company, the gunsmith for toffs that also does natty line in shooting gear, says the Schoffel fleece, now in many colours but still with its stud clip at the nape, is flying off the shelves. It was easily the shop’s best-seller this and last Christmas.
Why I wonder is Cotswold man (and woman) suddenly behaving like an insecure urban teenager? Okay the Schoffel is a useful bit of kit that can be worn over a sweater and has two zip pockets that can easily hold a wallet, dog lead and packet of fags, but that doesn’t explain why Gloucestershire’s well-heeled have turned into designer sheep?
This is the moment to come clean. Many years ago I owned a Schoffel shooting jacket that came with just such a fleece and four or five years ago I too started wearing the inner lining as a gilet. In those days only a few of us sported them. This year, not wishing to be part of the crowd, I rejected it. Instead I bought a plain woollen Indian waistcoat of a type that has been worn by Tibetan tribesman for centuries and when the winter chill took hold I wore it to the pub.
My local Waffen SS greeted me with horror and merriment in equal parts. Why, they asked as they lounged about in their identical expensive fleeces, did I wish to look like a Taliban refugee?
I didn’t have the wit to reply “Because I didn’t want to look like a posh squaddie in a chav designer army”, but later this year the shooting field may be enriched by a tall Cotswold Life journalist wearing a red nylon Wayne Rooney football shirt. That’ll learn ’em.
This article by Adam Edwards is from the January 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.
For more from Adam, follow him on Twitter: @Cotswoldhack