Norton of Morton

Read a new instalment of Norton of Morton every Saturday at 4 o'clock

Saturday 18 January 2014

If the jacket fits, wear it

In which G.M. Norton examines the history of the Hacking Jacket.

I was lucky enough to chance upon a hacking jacket, when I visited a vintage fair before Christmas. 

I briefly shared my purchase with you but I thought it was deserving of its very own posting.

Made from a lovely tweed with greens and orange running throughout (and previously owned by a country gamekeeper no less), it really is a handsome thing to behold. Although I am yet to give the jacket its inaugural outing, it’s already one of my favourite items of clothing.

I love hacking jackets. The structured, elongated cut is a classic piece of tailoring, providing the wearer with a fitted silhouette. 

The hacking jacket is believed to have been constructed in the 18th century, to meet the needs of the country gentleman.

When taking a ride on horseback across the country estate, Mr. Country Gentleman was in need of a jacket that allowed for freedom of movement in the saddle; easy access to his pockets; something warm and sturdy; and importantly, something which looked just the ticket when stood back on his own two feet. Always poised and ready to meet their client’s demands, the tailors of the day did just that and so, the Hacking Jacket was born.

As always, the devil is in the detail and with the hacking jacket, the details are just divine.

For starters, there’s the Ghillie Collar - a strap with buttons at each end that fastens across the upturned collar. Very useful at keeping the icy wind at bay. Ingeniously, it buttons onto the back of the lapel when not in use…

Single-breasted with three-buttons - note the original leather buttons…

There’s a generous flap breast pocket. I like the shape of the flaps (known as scalloped flaps, I understand). Quite similar to the design found on military uniforms…

Three sleeve buttons…

Long centre vent so the jacket hangs correctly on horseback, plus an opening at the top which is presumably to aid arm movement…

Now for the surprise. The pockets...

Traditionally, hacking jackets have slanted pockets to allow the wearer easy access when on horseback. Interestingly, my jacket has straight patch pockets (with perhaps a very slight downwards slant, rather than upwards). Perhaps it was a stipulation from the original owner when the jacket was first constructed.

The jacket itself was manufactured by David Ripper & Son in Macclesfield, England. I’m led to believe that their items are extremely difficult to come by and are of exceptional quality, as my own purchase also suggests.

I feel extraordinarily lucky to have snaffled one that fits so snugly. A hacking jacket really should have pride of place in a gentleman’s wardrobe.

As I’m not of landed gentry stock, the line between stylish and slightly pretentious is as thin as cheese wire with garments like this. 

I quite fancy teaming it with a nice waistcoat before treading the old tightrope.

Wish me luck!

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’

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