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Shooting breeks: this is how I choose mine

Giles Catchpole hunts down the perfect pair of breeks

shooting breeks

It will always pay to keep outdoor clothing properly maintained, as it's a key piece of equipment

Mothed breeks

I pulled my britches off the hanger, and the bulk of the fabric disintegrated in a cloud of tweedy dust. I had been thoroughly mothed. The first lesson to be taken from the experience is that it is always advisable to have your tweeds dry-cleaned before putting them away at the end of the season. Moths don’t enjoy clean cloth. They want the good stuff, flavoured with sweat and blood and dog slobber, and all the other delicious things that you have dropped into your lap or wiped on your trews across a busy few months in the field. And once they have latched on, they leave nothing behind but dust and despair.

So I needed some new breeks in short order. But finding a suitable pair was not easy. I dare say that there are those in a position simply to telephone their tailor and tell him to pop a new pair round in time for the weekend, but I am not one of them. I did once have a shooting suit built, and very spectacular it was, but it was a great deal more complicated than you might imagine – and it wasn’t quick. I’ll tell you about it sometime. I had a bit of a look online – as you do – but it’s a jungle out there, isn’t it? (Read our list of the best shooting breeks in moleskin and tweed.)

What to choose?

The difficulty is that everyone seems to have a different idea of what a pair of breeks should look like. Plus-two. Plus-four. Plus more? Straight, tapered or flared? Belt looped or braces buttoned? Two pockets or four? Or five? Zip fly or buttons? Before you’ve even gone three steps into the topic, you find yourself in a maze of conflicting opinions and designs. And that’s before you come to the questions of fabric and colour.

Plus-twos are for golfers, by the way, unless they are tapered, in which case they are for mountaineering so that they don’t get caught in your crampons.

My preferred version is a flared plus-four, which is wider at the knee than at the hip so the roll falls outside the tops of my boots, and therefore doesn’t deliver waves of rainwater down my shins. (Read why plus-fours add that little extra to shooting attire.)

I like a goodly high waistband up around my tummy button because I don’t like the breeze wafting about my kidneys when I’m reaching for those archangels, and I live in dread, as I’m sure we all do, of finding that my shirt-tails have come out for an airing.

I like wearing braces rather than a belt, mostly because I feel that clothes are always better hung from the shoulder than dangled from the hip, although I don’t mind braces and a belt just in case one has to use the belt to rescue a fellow Gun, or perhaps a lady Shot, from quicksand, for example. You may laugh, but stranger things have happened out in the field, and you won’t look quick-thinking and classy for long if your breeks are round your ankles. (Read how you should wear your socks when shooting.)

I also require a comfortable fit with plenty of material in all the right places so that there is no unseemly rucking and mauling as I climb aboard the Gun bus or settle on a shooting stick.

With these specifications in mind, I set out on a tour of the local gunshops and country stores to see what was available.

The more perceptive of you may have noticed at this point that price hasn’t yet been mentioned. Well, I had assumed that there would be a range of prices, but I hadn’t expected it to be between exorbitant and eye-watering.

I eventually found what I was looking for in the Equine Requisites & Country Store (mowers serviced) at the back of the industrial estate on the edge of town. They were XXL in a nondescript tweed at the end of a rail marked “old stock, half price”. That’ll do me. Marvellous.