Ray Ward is one of British shooting’s finest success stories. Established in Surrey in 1961, Ray Ward originally began selling a wide range of sporting goods and cartridges to a local shop. However, it was not until 1970 that Ray Ward started selling shooting and field equipment. Although Ray Ward lacks the years of, say, Holland and Holland (an unfair comparison, I know), it has personal pedigree; Ray Ward himself won many a national title back in the day and it’s fair to say he knows his way around the business of shooting like you know your way around your house. If a firm he founded doesn’t know what shooters want, no one does.
Although this 2014/2015 collection focuses on shooters, there are also products of interest to the average, non-shooting customer. Since it’s almost the depths of winter, most of us are thinking of winter coats. Tweed is deep in fashion right now, so if you’re looking for a good quality coat that’s fashionable, look no further. If you live in the country, you probably already have a large tweed shooting coat. If you live in the town, you probably don’t. I cannot recommend that you buy one enough. These coats are designed to weather the worst of whatever the weather can throw at them; there’s no cover when shooting pheasants, for instance, and it’s done in the middle of winter. In some really exposed terrain – if it can cope with Cumbria in January, it can cope with anything that you can throw at it. As well as being hardier than a Greek mountain goat, it also looks fantastic. If you’re going out to a smart casual event, then a tweed coat is perfect – it marries well with any shirt or jacket combination. Also, they are usually built larger than normal coats to allow for underlayers – this means it’s comfortable to wear a jacket underneath them.
However, these coats shouldn’t be degraded to just being fashionable. This is hardwearing, purposeful kit. It’s been created with the shooter in mind. For this target market, the new collection hits the mark perfectly. Not only are there traditional styles of tweed, such as the Cadogan and the large check Pimlico, but there is also the new style of tweed that is becoming popular; it abandons both traditional styles of shooting coat; the traditional monochrome (usually green), the checked approach and the ‘tooth’ pattern approach. Instead, the ‘Sloane’ opts for a completely monochrome style outside of the earthen colours spectrum. Although this break with tradition hasn’t gained ground in the field yet, it’s still early days. It won’t be long, mind, that you will see monochrome shooting clothing in different colours everywhere. Expect it to start with blacks, like the Sloane, and greys – and expect it to be big. I love these clothes. I love the feel, the heritage – I love what is says about you. However, there has been many a time I’ve walked into an office or meeting in green or checked tweed and looked completely out of place. With the incoming of this new, more subtle style, utilising softer Loden over tweed – of which the Sloane is a pioneer- you can now wear shooting kit in a more discreet fashion. It’s perfect for showing up to a party in – you won’t over do anything, but you will be discreetly elegant.
As for the more traditional tweed in this collection, there is plenty to go at. These are, as has become expected from Ray Ward, rather good looking English pieces. Tying into founder’s son John Ward’s passion for game shooting, these pieces would draw the envy of any eye on a shoot day. The dark green of the Pimlico range looks great with larger check shirts, as this contrasts and brings out the subtle large windowpane checks of the garment. The whole kit, when assembled, is sublime. The dark blue of the lining, padding and detail contrasts with the red in the check – this looks good from afar – it looks even better up close. The Exclusive Tweed plumps for a colour that’s been slightly dormant in the shooting world recently-brown. Green, it seems, is all the rage – brown has become confined to detail and linings. It’s nice to see it being bought back as the primary colour. It’s also fantastic to see a firm as well established as Ray Ward attempting something new with a much loved classic; I’m talking here about the most unusual shooting gilet – it’s not just two tone, it’s also dual material. The centre of the gilet is tweed, as are the pockets. However, the outer sides aren’t –this creates an original look that reminds me of older, traditional shooting coats – the sort that Jackie Charlton would have worn in his prime. Yes, Jackie Charlton the footballer.
Finally, we get to my personal highlight of the collection – the Cadogan. The full Cadogan kit looks fantastic. It’s a light green, as opposed to the traditionally deep field green that shooting clothing comes in. This, of course will make you stand out. It isn’t different enough, mind, to make you stick out like a sore thumb. Remember that those who wear tweed or shoot are a traditionally conservative bunch, so change isn’t always received well. Baby steps, rather than revolution; the Cadogan’s rather bright orange lining is certainly one of those baby steps to change. Although bright linings are actually not that unusual, to pair them with such a light colour is. However, when the colour is transferred in large check and detail to the pattern, it creates a thoroughly modern look that brings new life to tweed. What I also really love is the jacket in this collection – it looks great in the Cadogan pattern. In fact, the jacket looks good in almost any pattern. It’s an unusual design to most, any it is very rare you’d see a jacket like this in a high street shop; however, the over-extension of the collar over the top of the lapel is making a bit of a comeback in certain circles. However, something you see very rarely is the out-of-the-lining pocket. It’s a very unusual look, made even more unusual by the fact that the pockets are square. I think, however that both put together make a really great alternative to the usual smart jackets. Wearing the Cadogan jacket will turn many a head from discerning gents.
This collection is well grounded in English sporting traditions. It’s built on the foundations of hundreds of years of tweed heritage, but it also manages to push the envelope. Although there are some very traditional designs, which would look great in the field or the local pub post-walk, there are also some fantastic designs that would look better in less, shall we say, rural settings? This collection strikes a fantastic balance between town and country – perfect for those of you who work in a city with your passion in the countryside.