Do you wear a tie when shooting? Is it a sartorial anachronism or essential kit, asks Charlotte Mackaness
Being properly kitted out in the field is important: for safety, comfort but also so one feels at ease and can enjoy the day to the full. Make sure to check out some of The Field‘s brilliant guides to essential kit, including the best shooting socks, best shooting coats, best gilets and, naturally, the best shooting ties.
Is wearing a tie when shooting in the line of fire?
Field readers are famous for not following the crowd. They are gamely holding the line when it comes to resisting the pernicious spread of dressing down, certainly when it comes to being correctly kitted out and keeping the formal end of evening wear well and truly up. But is wearing a tie when shooting in the line of fire? While the closure of Tie Rack some years ago doesn’t seem so shocking now given how neckwear has become such a rarity in the business world, not wearing a tie shooting remains unthinkable for many. International summits may have become back-slapping, open-shirted jamborees but not the shooting field.
“Dress-down Fridays. What rubbish. Fridays should be about dressing up. And shooting without a tie? I wouldn’t entertain the idea,” declared the late James Mackaness, father-in-law, plain speaker and tie-wearing diehard, when asked his view on the subject. Given he even skied an indoor slope kitted out in cords, sports jacket and tie, perhaps the robust response should have been expected but are his sentiments merely a reflection of his generation?
“I have a lone tie in my desk drawer that I pull out for certain meetings,” says Will Fraser-Allen, who flees the City at weekends for his country home. “The tie has become a bit of a dinosaur; a piece of theatre like the morning suit and black tie brought out for special occasions. These days I tend to be guided by my host as to whether a tie is required shooting.””
Wearing a tie shows respect for the host and the quarry
For Charles Hepburn, a Warwickshire-based developer, time has stiffened his attitudes towards neckwear. “When I was in my twenties and thirties, I rarely wore a tie when shooting but with age I’ve matured and think about it much more,” he admits. “Above all, it is about respect for the quarry. One old buffer once told me that he was brought up to wear a tie when shooting and if you were going to kill, and that included his time in the Army. The latter doesn’t apply any more but the former most definitely does.
“Dressing up gives a sense of occasion, respectability and tradition. It’s also a shared uniform that I believe is significant. The camaraderie between guns, keepers and beaters and a sense of continuity and timelessness is important, especially with the threats to our sport.”
However traditional our world, even dress for shooting has moved with the times but, according to The Field‘s deputy editor Ed Wills, a tie is timeless: “These days not everyone has a shooting suit, especially younger people. Guns might wear the more modern shooting trousers or plus-fours with long boots but wearing a tie when shooting creates that bit of occasion. Also, no matter how muddy you become, you’ll still look presentable.
No matter how muddy the rest of you, a tie will smarten things up
Any land agent with filthy trousers after a muddy farm visit will attest to the fact that a tie can help divert from muck elsewhere, and the same goes for shooting. Farmer and keen shot Mark Beaty offers this no-nonsense advice: “If in doubt, so wear a tie when shooting. You can always take it off. At the very least, keep an emergency tie in the car.” Wearing a tie shooting also has the benefits of keeping out the cold on chilly days, although the same might not be true if grouse- or partridge-shooting.
“For all the shooting events I attend around various parts of the country, either as a corporate or social guest, a tie is essential – even on warm days – and quite rightly so,” says Jeff Penman. “I almost never wear a tie for work anymore, so shooting remains one of the last bastions of British formality, which should be enjoyed and celebrated. Game-shooting just wouldn’t be the same with 10 guns in jeans and trainers. The dress code is all part of the day, and shows respect for one’s host, the keeper and beaters, and the quarry.”
But are there any rules about what sort of tie to wear? Not really but particularly bright colours, white or anything shiny that might catch the light should be avoided – especially if wearing a V-neck jumper or on a milder day when more of the tie might be on display. For many, wearing a tie shooting bearing a gamebird motif is a way of expressing their love for their sport and the countryside.
Tie advice from a rock god
Gary Salmon is a former gamekeeper of the year. “At a really good driven shoot, quite frankly the birds will still be going overhead no matter how dazzling your outfit. You see the odd gun wearing a bright yellow tie when shooting and matching socks, and that sort of thing. They tend to be the characters. I like it; every shoot needs a bit of colour,” he says. Salmon prefers to see ties at the ready. “It is about respect. Some might find that ridiculous because a bird is still dead whether you’re wearing breeks, jeans or a tutu but I believe it is important,” he maintains.
An absolute failsafe is the wool tie, says Hillary Bacon from Cordings. “It is inexpensive and looks wonderful against tweed. Alternatively, a silk woven tie with a sporting motif is fabulous with a shooting suit. Eric Clapton, Cordings’ joint managing director, once bought every single colourway of our March Hare wool and silk tie,” she reveals.
Legendary rock stars buying in bulk tells us everything about how cool it would be to NOT wear a tie shooting.
There are, of course, two additional and extremely good reasons why the tie should and must remain a mainstay of male attire: sprouting chest hair and knobbly Adam’s apples. Perhaps another reason women are rather keen on them is that the shooting tie offers a failsafe Christmas or birthday present for partners. Whatever one’s motivation for wearing a tie when shooting, The Field says long may it last.
THREE TIE-TYING TIPS
- A rough-textured tie is preferable for shooting. Something shiny might catch
the light and spook the birds.
- No matter what your height, the tip of a tie should sit at your belt line. Missing it
by two or three inches looks scruffy and can be unflattering, especially if your
- Secure your tie with a discreet silver pin. It will prevent it flapping around in the wind or dangling in your food later. However, make sure to reuse the same hole each time to minimise damage to the fabric.
More shooting content from The Field
If you enjoyed this feature, take a look at others on our website including our guide to country style for ladies in the city, the best ear defenders for shooting and best shooting jumpers. Don’t miss our George Digweed’s guide to grouse