Buying Country clothing, particularly jackets, can be a daunting task when you consider the range of different uses and conditions you’ll need it for, and the huge range of technically diverse garments on the market. There is a constant stream of new innovations, but sometimes the tried and tested traditional approach is best.
Let’s take the wax jacket as a starting point.
Wax has come back into fashion over the last few years, with more and more people appreciating its unique qualities. To start with, it’s waterproof, and you can keep re-waxing it year after year so that it carries on keeping out the water. If you buy a jacket where the base material is made from good quality cotton, probably at least a 6oz fabric, then you can get years and years of wear out of it. It’s not unusual for jackets from leading brands like Barbour to last over 20 years. For those who are rough with their jackets, the rugged nature of waxed cotton also protects from bramble and thorns, and hence an alternative term now rarely used for the wax jacket is ‘thornproof’.
The big downside to wax is that it doesn’t ‘breathe’, and the consequence of all that trapped in sweat is that it is not as warm as modern breathable fabrics. Gore-Tex is the leading brand in breathable fabric technology, although there are now many other quality breathable fabrics on the market, such as Seetex, which are comparable but much more reasonably priced. For over 20 years, Musto have led the way with incorporating Gore-Tex fabrics into shooting coats: their Highland jacket was the first ever Gore-Tex shooting jacket, and is still the market leader today.
By combining breathable membrane s with other technically advanced and durable fabrics, Musto and other technically innovative brands have been able to produce jackets that are lighter, warmer, more comfortable, and just as durable as their wax cotton predecessors.
The most traditional of all shooting jacket materials is Tweed, woven from pure wool. Traditional tweeds are waterproof because the weave is so thick and tightly woven that water cannot penetrate. However, this means that whilst a good tweed has a lovely soft feel, it is very heavy to wear, and gets heavier and heavier as it soaks up water in the rain. The leading brands such as Barbour and Musto have developed some innovative solutions to this, such as incorporating nylon and lycra into the weave to give it strength and stretch but without the weight, and combining the lighter tweed with a waterproof membrane like Gore-Tex or a coating like Teflon to keep the water out.
Another problem with pure wool tweed is that it can only be dry cleaned, which becomes a problem after a day out with the dogs in a muddy shooting field. In the last 2 years, a few companies have developed machine washable tweeds where the wool is pre-treated before weaving so that it doesn’t shrink when washed. The same process also adds durability to the wool, meaning they can be woven lighter than traditional tweed. Whilst expensive, machine washable tweeds are perhaps the holy grail; warm, lightweight, waterproof, breathable, machine washable, smart, traditional and high tech! All the features to look for combined into 1 jacket.