When a pair of tickets to Blenheim Palace's CLA Game Fair landed on my desk I was intrigued. This was an event not known on my style savvy repertoire. Deciphering the acronym was my first port of call... Contemporary, Local and Artisan perhaps? Couture Something, Something... I very much doubted.
As a resident of the Cotswolds, one of Britain's most treasured AONB (Areas of Natural Beauty) where London's rurbanites and country cooing celebrities wile away the weekend hours in their manor house party pads, I pride myself on knowing the who's who and what's what of rural regalia. But admittedly I had no idea that CLA stood for Country Land and Business Association and sadly it left me somewhat lacklustre about my upcoming summer weekend jaunt. Wardrobe planning could wait.
But on further inspection it turns out that the annual CLA Game Fair is quite the go to rural gathering for the cool Hunter clad country gang, attracting believe it or not, the same amount of visitors as Glastonbury. This rural festival for the high living Barbour brigade, celebrates the great British countryside showcasing all things hunting, shooting, farming and fishing, as well as the obligatory organic and hand reared culinary fare, a combine harvester or two for good measure and of course, more tweed per square foot than muddy wellies at Glastonbury.
So what does one wear to such an event? I was expecting country kit en masse - Le Chameau wellies (Hunter's more pricey French rival), Barbours, bright chinos and of course tweed, but as all are very heavy threads, I wondered how this would translate in 20 plus degrees...? I opted for cool and classic - louche boyfriend shorts, a lightweight short-sleeved shirt and converse (for trekking Blenheim's sprawling estate). Not the most country inspired choices I admit, but there is nothing worse than being over dressed in the heat or trying too hard to fit in. I did however arrive in my BMW estate and have my yellow Labrador in tow – my homage to the country cliché.
But for the hip agricultural college students, third generation estate owners and Pony Club parents, even on the hottest day of the summer so far, they were not going to let the (country) side down and ditch their rural ensemble for weather worthy basics.
For the hardcore country crew, come rain or shine, style is the priority and their uniform worn to precision. Even in the blistering heat, there is a clear countryside dress code to be adhered to:
• Dubarry boots complete with the all-important baby pink alpaca socks under. Not wellies. Oh no. Heavy lined leather boots of course.
• High waisted skinny jeans or cut off to uber skimpy degrees if you are under twenty and temperatures over eighty.
• Cotton poplin striped tailored shirt (with floral collar and cuffs if possible)
• Tweed jacket (throw on for good measure when the sun pops behind the cloud)
Judging by the number of people I saw in this ensemble, I believe this to be an unspoken etiquette amongst the British country set. It is as implicit as not upstaging the bride at a wedding or covering your shoulders at the Vatican. Dubarrys and tweed are to country shows and game fairs what cut-off denim shorts, boho fringing and Hunters are to Glastonbury. The good news is, invest in a pair of Dubarrys now and you will be set for the winter. You have the whole year to decide if they will be your Havaianas replacement next summer...