My Coat of many colours

Today there is a vast choice of clothes for stalking, and an on going debate on which is best camouflage patterns or plain green .

Though many see it as old fashioned there is still a lot to be said for the traditional tweed especially on the hill.

The story of tweed begins in the distant past, where it emerged among the small farmers and land workers of Scotland and Ireland, originally hand woven in earthy colours, the rugged cloth's wind and water resistant quality's were ideal for day to day work ware.

In the 1800s the increased volume of wool being imported from Australia led to a decline in the fortunes of Highland landowners, and they were forced to look for another source of income.

Selling deer stalking and Grouse shooting was one such source of income, and it was much in demand by those who had made fortunes in the industrial south, thus the sporting estate was born.

Now these gentlemen needed an estate of their own, if they could not afford to buy one they rented one, it became fashionable among new owners or tenants to commission special tweed for their estates, they wanted to take on the tradition of having their retainers clothed in an estate pattern, but they did not have the right to wear tartan.

Now these estate owners wanted several things from their estate tweed they wanted it to be exclusive to them ,just as the tartan that they were replacing had been exclusive to the clan chief that preceded them, so when a tweed was developed that suited them they had it registered and that tweed would be made for them and them only.

They also wanted it to be recognised as to whom it belonged and not be mistaken for that of some other estate.

Sporting tweed was developed to break up the wearers appearance and help them blend into the landscape, the majority of them having some sort of check usually of a brighter contrasting colour than the background again harking back to the tartan theme.

While some of these patterns can appear garish when seen out of their own environment not so when on their home ground, as the a lot of time was taken in developing patterns that would
merge into the background on their home range.

It is amazing how even the brightest colours reds, yellows, orange, blues when combined with more sober ones blend in with the heather and mountain scenery.

The first estate tweed Glenfeshie was founded around 1835 for keepers and ghillies of that estate.
By 1900 there were 200 registered estate tweeds

Today the estate tweed is alive and well and still worn by landowners,keepers and stalkers
though the landowner and his stalker dress the same there are subtle differences, the stalker will probably wear a tie when he meets his boss in the morning though it will probably soon be dispensed with, the landowner in most cases won't.
The landowners stockings will usually be in some bright colour contrasting with his tweeds, the stalkers are likely to be less garish, but the dead give away is how they are worn the tops of landowners stockings will more than likely be worn over the bottoms of his +2s or+4s the stalkers traditionally are worn with his +4s buckled on top of his stocking tops.

Over the years there have been many styles of jacket Norfolk, Bisley, one vent, two vent,bellows pockets the list goes on and on , today many stalkers depending on the weather will dispense with the jacket in estate tweed and replacing it with one of the modern smocks if the weather is foul, though he will probably still meet his guests wearing the estate jacket in the morning.

Many Grouse keepers now have adopted a gilet in estate tweed for walking in the beating line
far more comfortable than a heavy tweed jacket on a hot early season day.
Many of them have also taken to wearing baseball type caps in estate tweed in preference to the cap or fore and aft of their predecessors.

Keepers and stalkers were normally entitled to an estate suit after completing a years employment and each year thereafter a keeper or stalker gaining employment in the spring of the year would often be given a suit for the start of the season on the condition he would hand it back should he leave before the year was up, in practise seldom if ever was a suit handed back.

So it was for me, one evening the head keeper handed me a box containing my first suit which I had been measured for some time before, telling me brusquely you better be properly dressed tomorrow as you will be on TV.
At that time the estate I worked on hosted the International Pointer & Setter trials my job the following day was going to be to walk behind the dogs with a flag keeping the spectators who were following the trial behind me, close enough for them to see the dogs working but far enough back not to get in the way.

Sure enough in the afternoon the BBC crew arrived the trials were being filmed for an early evening program on BBC Scotland called A Quick Look Round hosted by Mary Marquis

How did I feel proud, self conscious ,awkward embarrassed ? all of these, heady stuff for a naive sixteen year old.

And yes I was on TV that evening , and my photo was in the Field a few weeks later

Its forty seven years since that day I first put on my coat of many colours, but it feels as if it was only yesterday.
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Well-Known Member
Great stuff, I too enjoyed reading it. I am hoping to get some traditional stalking tweed organised for next year but I really don't know where to start looking! any suggestions welcome folks.