Country style is an icon of British fashion, reflecting the browns and greens of the countryside, it’s an instantly recognisable look. Often worn casually but always effortlessly smart, the waxed jackets, tweed and wellington boots we associate with the style conjure images of a healthy, rural lifestyle filled with good food, fresh air and brisk walks across green fields.
But these clothes are not just for walks in the woods. At Archie Foal, we looked at the utility aspects of country clothing, warmth, durability, waterproofed and worked them into styles that take the country look out of the fields and into the city. We want our clothing to look as good in the Lake District as they do on the streets of Hackney.
In this article, the Archie Foal team takes a look at the history of British country clothing and defines exactly what makes its appeal so enduring both in the UK and internationally.
A brief history of country clothing
The country style began in the 19th century in the estates of landed gentry. Waxed jackets and tweed were staples of the affluent hunting set, providing rugged, waterproof protection against the elements, while remaining formal enough to swig down glasses of port at a high society dinner afterwards.
It was Prince Albert and the Victorian royal family that really pushed the style into the mainstream. When the Balmoral Estate was purchased and the castle built, Albert insisted that anyone working on the estate wore the tweed that he had designed.
The tweed was designed not only to blend in perfectly with the surrounding countryside, but also to stroke Albert’s ego by giving the staff a look that indicated that they worked on a royal estate. Just like Meghan Markle wearing an M&S jumper, seeing the Royals in tweed and wax propelled the look into the limelight.
By the turn of the 20th century country style had become a definite fashion statement, with major brands such as Barbour and Hunter having fully established themselves. It may have spread out of the estates, but British country style shows no sign of disappearing - Barbour, for instance, have over 30 retail stores.
For many, country clothing is seen as a kind of British national dress. But it’s all too often associated with a stuffy kind of stiff-upper-lip Brit who knows what they like and doesn’t want to change that one bit. Let’s be honest, that’s not exactly the most exciting way to dress. We all like a bit of tweed, but we’re not Prince Charles and we’re not out on a hunt every other weekend.
It’s a style born in the Victorian era, but one that we believe can still work today, and not just on rain-spattered Scottish hills. Read on to discover what defines the country style and how Archie Foal has worked that into our clothing ranges.
Utility is perhaps the most central feature of the country style. The central elements of almost every piece in a country wardrobe are angled towards the practical. Remember that the style was developed with hiking, hunting and fishing in mind - ruggedness is at its heart.
As such, country-wear needs to be warm, showerproof and able to withstand the tug of a few brambles and branches on the sleeves. For us, that translated into our durable and waterproof wax cotton jackets. Durability is number one for us, but the practicality in our outerwear is focussed less on how many shotgun shells can fit in the pockets of your coat and more on making sure the dash from the cab to the restaurant doesn’t wash you out too much.
While there are many country-styled imitators, true country fashion should be made of high-quality material that’s more than able to stand up to the elements.
While country wear should always be practical, the style should also prioritise comfort. After a long day or evening out - whether that’s on a shoot or on the town - the style has to exude comfort. Here at Archie Foal, we prioritise the philosophy of Lustrous Utility in our country styles. Our ethos means that we always strive to create comfortable, high-quality clothing that still serves a purpose.
Archie Foal clothing is defined by the ability of the clothes to be rugged and warm, while never taking away from your ability to look sharp and comfortable. Think about the most successful luxury wellies – they look and feel just as good walking down the high street as they do traipsing through the Lake District. Whether arriving at your grand estate, or stepping into that brand new laid-back bar, Archie Foal takes the outdoors into the urban sphere.
Country style has a truly British heritage and is seen as a kind of national dress. It may be worn in Downton Abbey and rocked by Prince William, but there’s so much more to it than that old school British charm.
British country clothing is like British food, some see it as too old-fashioned and a little bit bland, but there are mavericks constantly mixing things up. We all love a traditional shepherd’s pie, but we want to promote the Gordon Ramsays and Heston Blumenthals - the game-changers.
Many brands have begun outsourcing abroad and going for completely new designs, often losing that very Britishness that defines the country style. At Archie Foal, we’re proud to say that the majority of our clothing is born out of this tradition - we love having our garments made in the UK. All of our clothing comes out of reinvention, but we still stay strongly aligned with those traditional values that made the country style so unique, so well-made and so popular in the first place.
At Archie Foal, our waxed cotton jackets and coats relish in lustrous utility, delivering clothes inspired by the countryside but with a series urban streak. Shop the collection today.