Hunting Outfit

Hunting in the early years of the twentieth century combined two activities for which specialized clothes were developed: riding horses and shooting. Until the second half of the nineteenth century, men had hunted in a version of their normal attire. That changed with the introduction of the sack coat and the lounge jacket, both of which were adapted for riding with the addition of vents to allow freedom of movement. By the turn of the century a wing-shape cut had evolved, along with special riding jackets accompanied by flared skirts and vents. In addition, riding breeches had largely replaced trousers by the 1890s.

When shooting, the typical English huntsman of the first decade of the twentieth century wore a tweed jacket with or without leather gun pads at the shoulders. The most popular type of hunting jacket, in England as well as in the United States, was the Norfolk jacket. The Norfolk was modeled after the hunting suit worn on the estate of the Duke of Norfolk in the early nineteenth century. Tradition has it that the Prince of Wales himself ordered a garment from his tailors that would allow him to swing a gun with greater ease than the tight-fitting, tailored suit jackets he usually wore. The jacket's pockets were large enough to hold small game, or animals. The Norfolk jacket was unusual in two ways: as the rare garment that was specifically designed rather than adapted for use in sports; and as a waist-length jacket that did not require matching trousers.

Hunting clothes allowed for the freedom of movement necessary for the hunt. Reproduced by permission of © .

To complete his outfit, the early twentieth-century hunter wore cloth breeches or knickerbockers (short pants that fasten tightly at the knee), stockings, and boots. Beginning in the first decade of the twentieth century, black jack-boots (heavy riding boots with high plain tops) were popular, though after a couple of seasons a novice hunter could expect to graduate to top boots (black boots with brown leather tops). On the head, felt or tweed caps and hats were common, including the tweed "fore-and-aft," or deerstalker cap, with its earflaps tied over the top of the head. Silk top hats and bowler hats were also quite fashionable while hunting.

An informal variation on hunting attire also developed during this period. Called the "ratcatcher" after a remark by King Edward VII (1841–1910) to one of his lords, the style combined riding jacket, cloth breeches, and a cloth cap or soft felt hat. Ratcatcher hunting attire is still worn in certain seasons or under certain conditions in both the United States and Great Britain into the twenty-first century.


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