Amazingly, I am not a born and bred city boy. I say amazingly, for there are very few things I love as much as the grand city of London. I was in fact reared in the pseudo-countryside of south west Dorset, a place of bucolic idyll interrupted by those great arteries of suburban county life: dual carriageways. Memories are a mixture of tree-tops and pylons, the scurrying of a deer with the just-discernable sound of distant traffic. That I should feel such affection, and attachment, to this giant metropolis is a little strange but even more strange is that I should reject so many opportunities to return to the old homestead for a walk in the woods or to light an autumn bonfire.
I have more than a little of the farmer in me. I rather like animals. I like country walks, the sound of swaying trees and an expansive view of the sunset across the fields. I like the moment before dusk when the lights go on in the house and the pink sky darkens, taking an ale by the fireside before settling in for a roast dinner. The problem is, what I never ever really liked – and still do not to some extent – is country attire. Necessarily practical, any decoration is wasted on the sheep and the chirruping birds. After depositing muddied boots by the door, the aesthete in me yearns for Piccadilly and the opportunity for fine cloths, pocket squares and leather shoes; things which, in the depths of a Dorset winter, seem a world away.
However, I think my low enthusiasm is unjustified. Yes, the country does present it’s problems, problems which would not occur on the pavements of London. There are no barbed fences in Westminster, no hedges, no passages blocked by fallen branches. But there is no need to feel that the countryside, the deeply practical, barrow-wheeling, tree-logging, sheep-tending countryside, has to be some spartan affair of ugly, ornament-free comfort clothing.
Starting at the feet, the Wellington boot is the saviour of countryside dandies. For though they have a cold, industrial, rubberised aesthetic – not the beautiful calf-leather of town – they enable a chap to don a pair of purple cords with an oatmeal waistcoat and not really worry whether his imperially toned trousers get splattered by a cow’s back end. The best thing is, Wellington boots have moved on significantly. Hunter might be a predictable choice but they offer some pretty unpredictable designs (and colours). In fact, their splendid Balmoral range is arguably the grandest selection of wellies ever seen.
A Barbour might not have the elegance of a houndstooth blazer, but it is a darn sight better than most of the waterproof jackets worn in London by rucksacked commuters. With a brown cord collar and brass buttons, it enables a man to cut a dash in his own field like nothing else. Add this to the waistcoat, cords and splendid Hunters and you have the makings of the dandy farmer. The final touch would be a paisley silk neck scarf, soft and luxurious, which would keep Farmer Brummell warm as he surveyed the landscape, looking forward to his fireside drink and hearty dinner.