by Eve Jones
Dressing for any day in the field requires a balance of taste and practicality but the etiquette involved when dressing for shooting in the United Kingdom varies in formality and style, dependent on the day, the weather and the quarry. Driven pheasant, partridge or grouse shooting will generally require more formal attire, (considered respectful to both your host and the quarry) where as clay shooting is much more relaxed. While it’s best to check with your host before you arrive, there are essentials that will serve you well on any British shoot and a huge range you can tailor to wear shooting on different days.
Essentials on any shoot.
Ear defenders are a must to protect your hearing, which can deteriorate over time if you shoot regularly without proper protection. They vary in style and budget, from disposable ear plugs to more technical options which cancel harmful noise levels only.
A hat will shield your eyes from the elements, and a tweed cap flat is suitable for all types of shoots.
Good footwear that gives you a stable base and suits the terrain you are on is vital. Research the clay ground you will be shooting on to see which is most suitable for your day.
Driven game shooting
It’s always sensible to check with your host to ensure you dress appropriately for the day. If in doubt it’s advisable to opt for a smarter turnout but certainly green and brown earthy tones (but not camo) are a suitable start for any day.
On the smartest driven shoots many men wear a three piece suit. They will at least be expected to wear a shirt and tie with tweed breeks or trousers, which compliment, if not match their shooting vest and jacket. If you have opted for plus fours or breeks you will need shooting socks with garters as well. It’s worth investing in good quality socks as you could be walking lots and blisters can spoil a day.
Women also wear breeks, although there is a degree of flexibility. A shooting skirt or culottes for example or even smart cotton, cord or moleskin trousers are acceptable as well on most shoots when teamed with a shirt and/or knitwear with a shooting vest and jacket.
On less formal driven shoots, moleskin or cotton breeks or trousers are suitable (denim jeans are not appropriate) and a fleece gilet and or woolen jumper over a shirt will suffice.
When grouse shooting, birds fly at lower heights towards guns so you will need to blend in to the landscape more. Given it may also be warm, with the season starting on 12th August, you may well be in shirt sleeves so it is important they are dark or muted tones. In warm weather a shooting vest can replace a jacket, or a lightweight cotton shooting jacket with cord or cotton breeks or trousers are fine. Shooting socks with walking boots with supported ankles may be more appropriate that tall boots or wellies, which are recommended in winter.
In winter months it’s very possible you’ll be in cold and wet conditions so investing in a good field coat is key. Something warm, waterproof but breathable and with enough room for you to comfortably move without hindering your swing is important. Likewise, weather proof gloves with good grip are advisable. Being cold and wet inevitably means being miserable which is neither good for your morale nor your company’s!
Ensure you have plenty of cartridges, of the correct bore and a good cartridge bag to carry them. You could also invest in a cartridge belt for ease.
If you are a guest but not shooting, you are still expected to turnout as neatly and in appropriate colours just as the guns, albeit not in technical clothing (warmth and good footwear is still paramount). It is considered respectful to not just your host but a traditional nod of respect to the quarry.
Clay shooting is much more informal and there is no dress etiquette, other than the practicalities. Terrain may vary from a manmade surface to undulating countryside so given the weather permits, footwear and clothing can just be comfortable and allow you to move.
Eye Protection is essential when clay shooting. Many grounds provide glasses but it is worth checking before. A hat which allows for ear protection and has a peak to shield eyes. Baseball caps are perfectly acceptable. A shooting vest with easy to reach pockets with ample room for ammunition and either added protection or room for a recoil pad is advised.
Much clay shooting happens throughout the summer so lightweight clothes are usually sufficient, as long as they are fitted well enough not to catch when mounting your gun. Casual trousers, including jeans are acceptable as are trainers, although it’s worth bearing in mind surfaces can be wet or uneven so wellies or walking boots might be more suitable at times.
Waterproof over coat which come in varying weights. Tweed or wax type coats are typically worn.
A traditionally tailored jacket worn with shirt and tie and usually matching breeks.
Waistcoats that come in various materials and weights, often with quilted shoulder pads and pockets for internal recoil pads. Worn over shirts and under field coats.
Trousers that extend 4 inches (10 cm) below the knee.
A slimmer trouser similar to plus fours also finishing below the knees.
On or below the knee, designed for ability to move and shoot comfortably. Made in tweed, wax and other suitable, waterproof materials.
Appears like a split skirt and available in a variety of smart tweeds.
A flat cap is by far the most popular choice of shooting. Works to keep sun and rain out of the eyes. Generally tweed but come in different materials.
Knee length socks which meet breeks at the knee, tied with garters. A variety of colours are available and considered appropriate. Worth investing in cashmere or merino.
Narrow strips of fabric fastened above the calf to stop socks slipping.
Essential protection against ear damage from gunshot noise varying from in-earplugs to ear muff design.
Important particularly for shooting clays these are technical glasses to protect your eyes from falling debris. There are a range available, some offering interchangeable lenses for varying weather.
For both men and women, long, rubber, waterproof boots, favoured in muddy conditions. A variety are available with different shapes and linings.
For both men and women. Long, smart waterproof boots usually made from a combination of materials with a leather appearance.
Sturdy boots with significant ankle support. Can be teamed with gaiters.
Can be worn with walking boots to keep legs warm and dry as an alternative to wellies or country boots. They strap under the foot and fasten up the calf.
A bag to carry enough cartridges for your day shooting designed that they are easily accessed and with a comfortable carrying strap.