Country chic: the heart of the rural uniform
‘Mention waxed cotton jackets or tweed, and the image that springs to mind is likely to be of conservative, and some might say, stuffy country landowners. But think again, as the country look is now ultra vogue, donned by every age whether from an urban or rural background.’
‘Look in the window of any fashionable clothing retailer or read the pages of a glossy fashion magazine, and you’ll see that this year’s look has more than a passing resemblance to the country squire. Thanks to fashion houses across the world, the rural look has gone from field, to catwalk, to high street. But does this mean the end of the classic countryside look?
No, says Alison Goodrum, reader in fashion at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Art and Design and researcher for the Fields of Fashion project, which studies trends in country wear and lifestyle.
‘There’s a phenonemon that has happened recently, with cool urbanites picking up on the rural look,’ she explains. ‘But the classic countryside look will still be worn when fashion has moved on to the next trend, as it will always be part of the rural heritage of countryside dwellers.’
However, she points out that while the classic countryside look remains, it too has changed to some degree in recent years. In the past, the look was much more conservative, yet today, it is more of a fusion between traditional and practical, playful and fashionable. ‘This means Barbour wax jackets are worn with short skirts, Dubarry boots are worn with jeans, casual tops and shirts.’
So what has driven this subtle change? Alison believes it has been the result of several factors, including improved access to information on fashions through the media and more purchasing opportunities via the internet.
‘I grew up in a very rural community, and apart from the occasional trip in the holidays to town-based shops, I did not have ready access to information on fashion or clothes,’ she continues. ‘Now the fashion supply chain has altered, giving those in the country much more access to garments and products, mainly through online retailing.’
Tim Rundle, programme leader for fashion, communication and promotion at the university, echoes Alison’s comments. He adds that the internet has resulted in fewer people making ‘fashion neutral’ buying decisions, even in remote locations. Younger or older, the vast majority of people now consider fashion in some way when purchasing.
However, he also explains that the rugged and practical look of rural clothing makes them an excellent contrast to fashion garments. ‘The quite masculine, dowdy and practical aspects of these clothes are a great counterpoint for those mixing fashion garments,’ he adds.
Matt Gill, fellow lecturer in fashion, communication and promotions at Nottingham Trent, points out that lifestyle changes have also played a part in countryside clothing becoming popular.
In particular, the increased popularity in music festivals, which has played a huge part in rural clothes becoming a must-have for younger, fashion-conscious purchasers.
‘A lot of people who did not have big chunks of their year sitting in muddy fields, now do,’ he says. ‘The fashion industry has responded aggressively to this in the last few years, with product development, niche marketing and retailing around festivals that did not exist just three years ago.’
‘The occasions to wear practical and rural clothing is now embedded into people’s calendar.’
So whether you’re at a local country show, the races, or a shoot, look out for the ‘country chic’ – no longer the poor cousin of its urban counterpart.’
THE RURAL UNIFORM FOR MEN
SHOES Brogues, Chelsea boot
TROUSERS straight-legged jeans or moleskin trouser, double pleated cords or classic fronted trouser. Younger countryside dwellers may wear chinos or straight, classic trousers
SHIRT button-down collar shirt, or polo shirt in warmer months
JUMPER V-neck wool
JACKET sports jacket or gilet
COAT waxed jacket or coat, tweed coat
ACCESSORIES country cap
THE RURAL UNIFORM FOR WOMEN
SHOES boots, loafer
TROUSERS classic jeans in mid blue
SKIRT younger countryside dwellers favour short skirts, usually denim or tweed, with thick tights in the colder months
TOP women’s tailored shirt
JACKET tweed jacket, quilted jacket or sleeveless jacket
COAT quilted, waxed jacket or covert coat
ACCESSORIES silk scarf
‘Nigel Musto, of MUSTO: ‘The countryside is a diverse mixture of landscape, people, animals and traditions – it is important that the clothes worn reflect this, MUSTO clothing uses high performance materials, ensuring that the wearer is warm, dry and comfortable in a design which follows the countryside style.’
(Originally published in Countryside magazine)
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