Riding, Shooting And Hunting Suits

Hunting, Riding & Shooting Suits from the 1930’s

After discussing Nucky Thompson’s clothes in Boardwalk Empire, I want to present to you a slightly edited article about hunting and riding which I found in an Apparel Arts magazine from 1934. It sums up the the development of American men’s clothing towards more casual fabrics. With hunting season upon us, we will have some discussion on the  actual hunting, riding, and shooting outfit illustrations from the 1930’s.

Apparel Arts Article

Big Game Hunting Dress

Big Game Hunting Dress

“During the last few years we have experienced the glorification of the weekend as the logical outgrowth of the five-day week and the general trend toward breaking up the working routine with a change of scene and variation of activity. On every hand are seen the signs of increased leisure, with the national government taking an official part in what might be regarded as one of the most individual of pursuits. Certainly, the American male is finding himself with a larger portion of leisure time at his command and the result can only be that a good share of it will naturally be directed toward satisfying the almost universal desire to “rough it.”

Horses, dogs, guns and rough country have long been concomitants of masculine sport, and today the hunting season is becoming more and more a period of recreation for the average man. It is all part of the contemporary counterpart of the pioneer days of Kit Carson when hunting was a necessity and the game bag stood for the equivalent of the modern oiled paper parcel from the butcher.

To be sure, the horse has been replaced in the field of transportation by the automobile and the gun has yielded to the butcher’s cleaver as an instrument in the purveying of food. But both horse and gun have undergone a metamorphosis into the world of sport and they stand as prime symbols of masculine recreation.

Hunting and riding are pastimes that are enjoyed by and open to all. And, as in all other sports, there is a wardrobe to fit the occasion.

While it is not to be expected that the average American man will go in for such higher fashions as are represented by grouse helmets and leather anklets, although it should be remembered that the above-average man also deserves his share of catering and, in fact, a little more than his share, at the same time there will be many who “will adopt the rougher” outfit of the lumberjack with moleskin breeches, Pendleton flannel shirt and chamois vest in their pursuit of quail or pheasant. Big game hunting is still a tangible reality in many states and the lumberjack type of outfit is best adapted for this kind of sport.

Tweed Shooting Suits

Tweed Shooting Suits

As for riding, its scope knows no limitations of physical boundaries and it ranks high among the active sports in all sections of the country. The riding ensembles from which a choice may be made are numerous, while accessories for the horseman are another point not to be overlooked. Sweaters, stocks and gloves are essentials with the correct outfit for the occasion.

 In connection with the fabric cut-outs and sketches, it may be emphasized that the roughness of tweeds, the warmth of flannel and the stoutness of brogues are all conducive to greater comfort in the out-of-doors chill of autumn. While tweed and wool have long been the standbys of the British gentleman, protecting him during damp days afield, the popularity of these rougher fabrics is only recently to be found on the increase on this side of the Atlantic. This fact is all the more curious in view of the point that the American fall comes about as close to resembling the English climate — as is possible. Unquestionably, outdoor sportsmen in this country, especially in the fall and spring, can find no worthier protection than in these English fabrics.

An interesting aspect of this  trend toward increased participation in the sports of riding and hunting is the augmented invasion, of both fields by women. With more women joining the ranks of hunters and riders, the current general increase in style-consciousness among men may be expected to extend to the domain of sport in intensified form.

The “dude ranch” is a by-product of this trend in the riding category, and now that the new trapshooting fashion has turned to skeet, women are also coming in for their share of the fun in the field of shooting. With the feminine influence on the ascendancy, it is only natural that the desirability of being correctly attired for the various sports occasions will receive renewed emphasis.

But the important point is the fact that what were once considered comparatively “restricted” sports, when contrasted with the more popular forms of outdoor recreation, are reaching out to include more partisans than ever before.”

Hunting & Riding Suits

Scottish Hunting Suit

Scottish Hunting Suit

Let’s start with two interesting outfits that were actually created out of the aforementioned fabrics! The figure on the left wears riding attire with a brown Harris tweed jacket, a yellow flannel Tattersall vest, a sunflower yellow ascot, tan twill riding breeches, brown knee high boots and a dark brown snapbrim hat. The shooting gentleman wears a lighter brown a brown Harris tweed with overplaid and knickerbockers. His plaid shirt is hardly visible because of the yellow knit tie, and on his head he wears shepherd check cap. Of course, the plaid is way too big but I thought it was an interesting deviation from fashion illustrations. On the back, these jackets feature action pleats, which allows to wearer to move more easily when aiming the rifle. Today, these action pleats are almost exclusively found on bespoke garments (and a very few at that), although they are also great for golf.

The person in the checked suit on the right wears typical shooting dress as it was seen back then in Scotland, and surprisingly, it was also somewhat popular on Long Island estates! The coat is, of course, single breasted  – as all classic country jackets are – and features a four-button front. On the side, you see roomy bellow pockets and matching spacious knickerbockers.

Casual Tweed Country Outfit

Casual Tweed Country Outfit

Even the hat, something that looks like a grouse helmet, is made of the same checked tweed. In order to protect the ankles, he wears leather anklets and solid brogue shoes. The right shoulder  is protected with a chamois gun pad in order to protect the cloth from the recoil. Without the pad, the tweed would wear out much faster.

The chap on the left wears a country kit, which consists of a overlong tweed riding coat with slanting flap pockets and a flap on the breast pocket. The flaps were supposed to ensure that things stored in the pocket would actually stay in there. His twill breeches and soft-legged field boots work well with the flannel shirt, sleeveless sweater vest, and soft felt hat.

Finally, there is another outfit on page 1 that was characteristic for hunting big game. It merely consists of a shooting vest with cartridge cases, breeches, heavy wool hose, high elk moccasin boots, plaid flannel shirt, and shooting hat.

As you can see, not all country outfits were alike, and breeches and knickerbockers especially are nearly completely extinct nowadays. However, interesting tweed jackets, vests and flannel shirts are still very functional when it comes to outdoor dress, and if you should ever come across a pair of knickerbockers or a shooting jacket, you should consider buying a pair for hunting or even hiking! You would certainly be the best dressed man in the vicinity.


2 replies
  1. David Wansac says:

    I have been reading your articles now for aprox-3months and a new client for less than 2 weeks. It would be great when you have article on I.E.- clothes from the 1930’s that you could find someone that makes those today or something near that as a match for the article. I also enjoyed the article on the cuff link convention. The more of these obscure hard to find acessories-the better. I live in downtown Chicago and in my travels when I find these places I will pass them on to you. Let’s Keep In Touch—Best Regards, David Wansac

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear David,
      Thanks for your kind words. Unfortunately, I have never found anybody who really produces high quality items as they did in the 1930’s but I will let you know if I find something. Is there anything specific you are looking for?

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