Countryside Fashions

I recently received my Christmas gift from Julie. This was a bit early, but there was a good reason. It is a new pair of Wellington boots. Not just any old boots, but serious winter boots, made by Grubs, all the way from America, where they are designed to endure cold of up to -40 degrees, and to face up to any mud, snow, and rough ground. This may seem extreme for reasonably gentle dog-walking in Norfolk, but experience has taught me that I needed the best. Three hours in the thick of winter, and your feet can suffer badly in conventional rubber boots. These neoprene wonders, with a sole like tractor tyres, reinforced toes, and unbelievable insulation inside, should solve all winter walking problems. With not much change from £100, I certainly hope that they live up to their claims.

Getting excited about Wellington boots, is not an experience I ever believed would happen to me. Life in the countryside, and advancing years, have drastically changed my outlook on fashion, clothing, and what I consider to be acceptable to be seen in. When I was a teenager, I was only interested in the Mod fashions, all the rage in London at the time. Smart suits, shiny shoes, tassel loafers, and high collar, or button down collar shirts. Any casual clothing had to be the right brand, and I would sooner have not gone out, than not looked right when I did. Of course, I did not always have enough money to look the part, but I tried hard to fit in, and to always be considered smart. Trips to the barber every week, ties worn in the latest way, and of the correct width. We would never wear a raincoat, or heavy coat, as it covered the expensive suit we had waited so long to acquire. The suit had to be right too. Narrow lapels, centre vent at the back, covered buttons, ticket pockets, all De Rigueur. This changed constantly too, with jacket lengths, cloth styles, waistcoats, trouser turn-ups, all coming and going. It was hard to keep up, but it had to be done.

Over the years into my twenties, this continued, with wearing suits for smartness changing to wearing them for work; a transition that was seamless. There were occasional fashion blips, best forgotten. The huge wide lapels and flared trousers of the 1970’s, unfortunately recalled for eternity, in the photos of my first wedding. Stacked heel shoes, that may have afforded the benefit of two extra inches in height, but were undeniably clumpy and ugly. A made to measure grey leather coat, bought at considerable expense, out of fashion almost by the time it arrived. Throughout all this time, I never owned a T shirt, or a pair of denim jeans. I would not have been seen dead in a sleeveless jumper, high waist trousers, or a kaftan. I never grew a beard or moustache, and always had short hair. During the next two decades, I allowed myself to mellow. I bought some canvas trousers, and even my first pair of denim jeans. I had a polo shirt, and unbelievably, a cardigan, knitted by my Mum. I was still careful what I was seen in, though as I started to wear a formal uniform for work everyday, I did seek out some more casual clothes for my leisure time. My saviour was always the onset of hot weather, when I could wear shorts, and a cotton shirt, my summer uniform ever since.

Mind you, I still wore suits for anything remotely considered to be a social event. Work parties, meals in restaurants, visiting friends for dinner, and even taking one on holiday. I occasionally allowed myself to drop the wearing of a tie, though I remember thinking it disgraceful (and still do) to see men attending weddings, christenings, and even funerals, wearing casual attire. I carefully avoided the trend for rugby shirts and cargo pants, and certainly did not own a hoody, or a baseball cap. The only trainers I ever bought were all white, and completely unadorned, only to be worn on long walks, usually abroad on holiday. I still spent far too much money on good shoes, and never owned less than four suits. The first T shirt I ever owned, was issued to me as part of an ambulance uniform, after 1990.

As I got older, I started to consider a smart shirt and trousers to be acceptable wear for a restaurant. I began to prefer the fashions popularised by some criminals; heavy leather coats, all-black attire, and overcoats, or trench coats. I cut my now-thinning hair even shorter, and began to look for classic, high-value clothing items that would remain timeless. Fashion had escaped me by then, and it seemed to only apply to someone else, but not to me, not anymore. Once I turned fifty, I would even occasionally carry an umbrella, and I started to look at clothes for warmth, waterproofing, and practicality. Waiting at bus stops, or walking long distances on London streets, has a way of dramatically changing your sense of style. I got a full-length parka, with a fur-trimmed hood, and some heavy, and sensible, walking shoes. Trousers were purchased for ease of care and economy, so had to be washable and easy to iron. Without uniform to fall back on, I had to have a reasonably extensive range of shirts, for all seasons, so they had to come from high street chain stores. I had to settle for acceptable; smart but normal. I still wore the suits when I went out, often to comments of derision, that I was ‘over-dressed’. I didn’t care though, as I wasn’t over-dressed by my standards.

Go forward almost ten years. retirement is looming, and we have bought a house in the countryside in Norfolk. I soon buy a zip up fleece, to combat the cold. Then I need Wellingtons, to cope with the mud. Trousers of choice are fleece joggers, and I need T shirts, to layer under jumpers and fleeces. Socks are as thick as rhino skin, and I have slippers that are lined with lambswool. In 2012, I move here for good. My first thought is to buy more fleeces, more jumpers, and extra T shirts. I have to have a better outdoor coat, so get a Schott parka, with an additional inner quilted layer. I buy knee-length socks, to wear in the boots, and start to peruse catalogues, and the Internet, for extra-warm clothing and footwear. The suits go into storage bags in the wardrobe, and the shoes into a box in the loft. I spend an astronomical amount on a new pair of bootee slippers, wool-lined, with a hard base, for trips to the freezer and garage. Most mornings and evenings are spent wrapped in a snuggly dressing-gown, and it takes me forever to get dressed, with all the layers and zips, when I go out. I even bought a hat; a sure sign that it is all over for me now.

So, farewell Fashion. Welcome old age, and the countryside

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20 thoughts on “Countryside Fashions

  1. Pete, you sound like a dapper chap. I am more of the dragged through a hedge backwards aficionado, but we share a common passion, wellies! My primary footwear, donned everyday, I have had countless of pairs since I moved to the Hebrides, some +£100 that have failed in weeks, others cheap as chips (current experiment £12 holding out ok). Just to prove I can be a fashionista, I bought a pair of Dr Marten (biker) boots last week, first pair of DMs since my teens :). And don’t even get me started on the virtues of fleeces and Gortex….

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    1. Dapper is a mere memory Tracey. I am following your lead now, fleeces and wellies. My £10 Dunlops have served me well for two years, but they are just too cold in the bad winters, hence the expensive experiment.
      I hope you can get those DM boots broken in before next summer!
      Regards as always, Pete. x

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  2. Pete,

    I had to research to find out what Wellington boots were. I think I will remain at the beach where style. for me, has remained the same for 20 or 30 years. Shorts, t-shirt or good aloha shirt and, yes, you guessed it, flip-flops.

    Then, again, if I lived in your world, I would Love the feel of new boots and the challenge of breaking them in.

    Take care,
    Phil

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    1. I must confess to being envious of your beach lifestyle Phil. It must always be easy to decide what to wear, and a pleasure not to have to wrap up in three layers, with heavy shoes and coats.
      Regards as always, Pete.

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  3. Great blog old friend.
    Having known Pete for more than 40 years I was privileged to witness his always immaculate dress codes!! He did take some stick over his suits or rather over the fact that he insisted on wearing a suit. In retrospect, this was an identity statement and one which was awfully well made, copacetic dear man, copacetic.
    Personally, as time drifts on I realise how much fashion means to me and I have become mutton dressed up as adolescent lamb (late lamb!). I force myself into tight troos and wear perky hats, ignoring the snickers of women in their mid twenties (teenagers don’t even notice).
    I hope your new boots love you and treat you with the respect and comfort you deserve.
    R x

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    1. You always carry it off so well though Ro!
      Copacetic! Between you and Brian, I will have to buy a new dictionary…
      Thanks for the confirmation of some good memories. Great days mate.
      Love as always, Pete. x

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  4. I was thinking about this just recently! I have always been very conscious of good materials, and have tried over the years to find the perfect combination between comfort and style, although at the moment I must admit comfort is definitely winning! In my rubber boots and mittens, I look like I am going to milk the cows rather than a stylish downtown dweller (which I should be, by location). We live at the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district and if there is a way to tell a person’s age, it is by looking at what people are wearing Saturday night when it is -5 degrees outside. I don’t even understand how these girls do it: I would be sick for a week if I would go out without a jacket in high heel sandals! I have been told I look like an Icelandic elf, but if that keeps me toasty and warm, I am happy with that ☺
    Congratulations for the new boots – may they last a long time and keep you warm!

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    1. Finnish Elf, surely Mari!
      You have it a lot colder there, so I agree that you should err on the side of comfort and warmth. We also have the young women, out in all weathers, in very short dresses, and no coats.
      The follies of youth are still to be applauded though.
      Regards as always, Pete.

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  5. Pete, I got a tickle out of lines like “…wearing suits for smartness changing to wearing them for work; a transition that was seamless.” I’ve always enjoyed a good play on words. I also liked your simile: “Socks are as thick as rhino skin…” Your writing has a logical flow to it, and a cleverness about it, that really makes reading your blogs a pure joy.

    I used to be a blue jeans / t-shirt guy–at least during my leisure hours. I still wear denims (preferably, faded) regularly, but now prefer buttoned shirts. I do have a couple of coats and jackets, but rarely wear them because it just doesn’t get cold enough here to slip them on without fear of sweating in them. Waterproof attire is worthless 99% of the time. Having grown up in the Midwest, where life is quite casual, and nobody really cares much about fashion, I always go with “cheap and comfortable.” I’ve had jobs where a tie was mandatory, of course, but I ripped them off the moment I hit the exit door.

    There are clothes, however, that I refuse to wear. I have never worn sweat pants (or a jogging suit), and never will. I will never wear shorts (unless you count cut-off denims for swimming), which are as common as men’s legs here in Las Vegas. I will never wear a hat (even if I do one day lose my mop of hair). And I will never don white socks (when I was a kid, those were for gym class, not for wearing on the street, and I’ve stuck with that view, regardless of how silly it is). Although I wear buttoned shirts, I’ve never felt comfortable with long sleeves (most of the time, they are not long enough for my arms, anyway), and I tend to stick with conservative colors and designs. If fashion depended on my wallet, fashion would go bankrupt by 9:30 am.

    As for my wife, she has mostly adhered to her European clothing standards, but she has nevertheless succumbed to some American ways. She has become a Nike convert (much to the chagrin of French and Italian shoemakers), and now owns a couple pairs of denims, a jeans jacket, and a few t-shirts. But she still prefers some class, and so shops Anthropologie, Ann Taylor, and Aéropostale rather than WalMart or Target.

    Here in the States (at least the western half), I doubt if many people experience the transition from “smart and fashionable” to “casual, comfortable, and practical,” as we pretty much go with the latter category from the outset. I suppose there are a few metrosexuals lurking in the shadows, here and there, and, of course, those folks in the upper social strata tend to “dress to impress.” But most of us are quite comfortable looking like slobs.

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    1. David, thanks very much for the kind comments about my writing. A little flattery always goes down well!
      I am with you on the white socks, but couldn’t go without my cotton shorts in the warm weather. I must agree that the differences in climate between here and Nevada make sartorial similarities unthinkable. Perhaps if you had to live here for any length of time, you might see your opinions beginning to alter, as I have found myself. I was bought another hat yesterday, a gift from Julie. It is a bright green Peruvian-style hat that has long ear-flaps, with Yoda’s face and ears! She has dared me to wear it out!
      Regards and best wishes to you both from England, Pete.

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  6. Another interesting insight into your life Pete – the suit thing reminds me of my brother who always wore a suit to go out in causing much amusement from my ‘hippie’ friends (he was 5 years older than me) when he popped in to the pub to offer me a lift home! Except for when I was working I think I have lived in denims and T-shirts since I was about twenty – I like my comfort 🙂

    Oh, and get yourself some thermal underwear – long johns you can wear under your trousers, they worked for my youngsters when the had early morning paper-rounds many years ago 😀

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    1. I missed it off the post Jude, but the thermal long johns ( in fetching blue) arrived last week, via M+S.com, with a new red fleece, and two pairs of extra long thermal socks. Way ahead of you! x
      (I had you down as a flower-child!)

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      1. Too much information Pete 😀

        I did spend a lot of time in SA wearing long floaty dresses and cheesecloth smock tops (good for hiding the various bumps) and I had a lovely maxi dress in black, all hand embroidered (by me) when I was seventeen, worn with a purple velvet jacket. You can see how that contrasted with my big bro!

        I think the denim thing arose because my mother refused to buy me jeans – she said only labourers wore them (a bit of a snob, my mother 🙂 ) so when I could afford to buy them I did – probably to piss her off!

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  7. Hubby is the same – since moving to the North East of Scotland and going to visit the Glens and the Highlands he too wears warmer clothing and gets me to find it for him!
    In 2011 I bought him a pair of the Wellingtons that you now have – what value for money – he still wears them on wet and snowy conditions and for tramps out in the Glens when full of snow. I think that they have to be the most loved and worn thing I have ever got him.
    I also bought him some thick, waterproof bib and brace type fishing suits and they are fantastic. Both are the type you step into and one is full body while the other is bib and brace – one doesn’t need a coat and the other just needs a jacket. He is warm and does not get soaked to the skin and would be great for going even further North as he plans to do if he gets time this winter.
    At home he wears jogging bottoms in winter, shorts in summer. Going out to the shops or dog walking (he’s recently got a dog and is in his element :)), he wears Craghoppers trousers as he finds them the most comfortable, both in winter and summer.
    He now owns 1 suit, a couple of long sleeved shirts, many short sleeved shirts, his Craghoppers, some T-shirts and his joggers. He’s a happy man.

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    1. Thanks for the tip Jaypot. I like the sound of the waterproof bib and brace under my bigger coat. I have seen a Craghoppers advert too, so will also check them out on your recommendation.
      It was good to hear that the Grubs boots are worth the money, especially as I didn’t buy them!
      Regards from Norfolk, Pete.

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  8. I was very fashion conscious when I was younger. I look back on that time of wearing very short skirts and fishnet stocking in 20 degree weather as a particular kind of foolishness that time has obliterated. Now, I go for warmth first. I still buy any high quality clothing I can, in Thrift Stores. Congratulations to you on your new serious winter boots and may they make you happy and serve you well in upcoming winter months.

    We’re having an Arctic blast here in New England and I’m dressed in layers to the max.

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    1. Sorry to hear about the arctic blast Gretchen, hope it soon goes away.
      If you still have any photos, i reckon you should let us see one of you in your heyday, with short skirt and fishnets! Or you could paint it…

      Strange, how warmth becomes so important, with advancing years. Must be why so many of the older people in the USA move down to Florida, or the South-West.
      Regards and best wishes as always, Pete.

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