What To Wear For A Weekend In The Country
How to dress when out of town in 2018
In bygone days, when town and country wasn’t just a geographical distinction but a sartorial one as well, both grew all sorts of maxims dictating how one should dress. Never wear brown in town. Oxfords not brogues. Whenever you escaped to the countryside, you’d be confronted with a whole other set of rules, too. Most of them involving flat caps and a staggering amount of tweed.
All that seems a little arbitrary now. Still, the legacy of so-called country casuals has stuck with us over the years; where would our wardrobes be, for example, if the Duke of Windsor hadn’t decided to wear a jaunty Fair Isle sweater while holidaying in Scotland? These days, though, you don’t have to be a keen golfer or a deposed king to pull one off. In fact, it doesn’t much matter where you wear this kind of garb nowadays – did you bat a bleary eye at any of your fellow commuters wearing Barbour jackets on the tube this morning? No. Waxed jackets are as ubiquitous in the city today as they once were on the moor. And while rigid dress codes might apply here and there, for most of us, most of the time, we can happily tear up Debrett’s Handbook without a second thought.
So, how exactly should you dress for an escape to the country? And keep in mind we’re thinking along the lines of a short stay in a charming B&B somewhere in the Cotswolds, not scaling Snowdonia. To help you, we’ve come up with a few guidelines that should give city dwellers a hand. And what’s more, we have aimed for outfits you can wear on the bus to the train station without getting funny looks.
The fleece’s recent rehabilitation has been music to our moderately chilly ears this autumn. Sure, there was a period not too long ago when we’d have recoiled in abject horror at the prospect of wearing one in public, but the times, like the seasons, are a-changing. And if our endorsement isn’t enough to convince any apprehensive types, keep in mind that the fluffy number redeems itself on the functional front alone.
Why? Because, for starters, the fleece is warm. Also, unlike bulkier pieces such as the down jacket, it lends itself well to layering – think of it as shearling’s almost-as-cosy-but-lighter-weight cousin, which you can wear under or over pretty much anything. Speaking of which, we particularly like the effect achieved by pulling this Patagonia Retro-X (the clue is in the name) design over a mustard rollneck, which seems to say, “Yes, I know I’m wearing something akin to what my dad wore on that camping trip we took in 1994, but I’m extremely comfortable right now.”
A suit isn’t exactly what you’d call practical. And it wouldn’t be our first choice for a hike, say. But, on the whole, jackets are becoming looser and trouser cuts more forgiving in the tailoring department. The fabrics are less structured, too – poplin, jersey and cashmere all get a look in this season, though one reigns supreme in our eyes.
Like our very own prodigal son, corduroy may have done us wrong in the past, but all is now forgiven. Even before it was welcomed back into the sartorial fold, we longed for its return – you only need to Google it along with “MR PORTER” to see just how many times we’ve written about it. Our penchant for the material might have something to do with the (probably apocryphal) tale that its name translates to “cloth of kings” in the original French. Then again, it could be because it’s just really comfortable. Even in suit form. This Joseph two-piece comes in a rich forest green so you won’t have any trouble blending into leafy locales. And if you’re still worried about looking a little too dressed up for the obligatory trip to the pub (what else is there to do in a sleepy English village, anyway?), throwing a parka over the top should remedy that in no time.
If you’ve been having flashbacks to the 1990s lately, don’t worry – inducing nostalgia for the decade has been most designers’ aim the last few seasons or so. Like the aforementioned fleece, it was previously assumed that cargo trousers were irredeemable in fashion’s sometimes judgemental eye. But the style world is a fickle one. And in the MR PORTER office, the practical merits of cargo trousers have won us over – to quote one individual, particularly jubilant at news of their return: “Rejoice, pocket lovers!” So, there it is: with a handy pair of cargo trousers, you can pack away all your bits and bobs, entirely forgoing the need for a bag. What’s more, the humble cargo is a little more dressy these days – indeed, smarter colour and fabric combinations make some styles almost office-appropriate. But not just any old pair will do, especially if you’re after a style you can dress up (with a blazer) and down (a belt bag is a spirited choice). Cream of the recent crop is this pair from ultra-refined brand Brunello Cucinelli, which comes in a suitably rugged army-green herringbone – a weave that nods to classic suiting but happens to be as hardwearing and working as twill.
As devoted as we are to our Common Projects, the box-fresh sneakers are no match for a proper pair of boots. While MR PORTER does stock performance hiking styles (ROA or Arc’teryx will sort you out if you’re in the market for some), we strongly advise you don’t wear this Arpenteur + Paraboot pair for anything more gruelling than a long winter walk. Firstly, they’re made from wonderfully soft suede – not exactly known for its ability to repel water and mud. And though you can treat them with protectant to render them splash- and stain-resistant (Jason Markk makes an excellent solution), this bit of country kit is more about looking like you’re right at home in the great outdoors, even if you are at home in Tribeca. That’s not to say they’re not impressively sturdy, though, what with their Norwegian welt and cleated rubber soles. And, worn with the central tenets of this season’s workwear trend – a chore jacket, denim shirt and fisherman’s sweater – you won’t put a foot wrong.
Fair Isle Sweater
We’ll admit, there’s lots to talk about here. The cornflower blue Prada shirt. The pleated Gucci chinos. We could zero in on the Burberry jacket and write a whole micro-history on how the 1980s-inspired colour block challenges conceptions of hegemonic masculinity. But it’s what’s underneath that counts in this case – the Acne Studios’ sweater vest, specifically. It already feels like forever ago that any mention of Fair Isle would conjure warm, fuzzy hygge-type thoughts or, at the other end of the cultural spectrum, dark Scandi crime dramas. The classic has been revamped. Or gone back to its old self, we should say. As if in homage to the styles popularised in the 1920s and 1930s, the patterned knit has a bolder, jazzier profile of late, which serves as the perfect antidote to grey, overcast skies this season. Look out for logo-fied iterations, too, from the likes of Balenciaga, Gucci and Missoni to name but a few.
This checked Holiday Boileau coat is one of those classic pieces that you can easily image your great-grandfather owning. The key to wearing it without actually looking like your great-grandfather, however, is to mix and match with technical pieces. Here, our wise fashion editors have layered it over a Dries Van Noten gilet so you’ll have no trouble braving the cold. It also helps that, in this context, the marble-print shell is a dead ringer for camouflage, which has an innate ability to make any outfit look infinitely more intrepid.