Adam Ed­wards

Why the ‘South­gate’ is noth­ing new

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - con­tact adampotlick­ @cotswold­hack

The Cotswolds, it could be said, has not con­trib­uted much to the long hot sum­mer of 2018. In our neck of the woods we have had no wild­fires, no flash floods, no sting­ing jel­ly­fish and no MPS re­sign­ing over Brexit. We have pro­duced no silly sea­son sto­ries and no sports­man of note, al­though Welsh­man Geraint Thomas must have done some of his early train­ing for his Tour de France vic­tory in our hills (there ap­pears to be no pro­fes­sional Bri­tish cy­clist that does not use our lanes as a velo­drome.)

The best we can claim is a de­cent chunk of the some 173 mil­lion bot­tles of sparkling wine drunk in July, and Prince Harry, who grew up in High­grove House near Tet­bury and was in the news with his mar­riage to Me­gan Markle in May. An­noy­ingly the cou­ple did not take ‘The Cotswolds’ as their ti­tle but in­stead be­came the Duke and Duchess of Sus­sex. On the other hand the royal love­birds are ru­moured to have leased a lo­cally con­verted cow shed for week­end breaks.

De­spite the above I like to think the Cotswolds can claim an un­likely and much de­layed 2018 vic­tory – the fash­ion­ing of the waist­coat. Eng­land foot­ball man­ager Gareth South­gate was praised for the re­vival of the jerkin, which he wore at every World Cup match this sum­mer, in­clud­ing at the ig­no­min­ious semi-fi­nal. “The Eng­land man­ager’s sar­to­rial el­e­gance has in­spired the re­vival of an item of cloth­ing that many used to nei­ther own, like nor wear,” re­ported the Sun­day Times last month. I take is­sue with that view. It is my opin­ion that the Cotswolds was re­spon­si­ble for the re­vival of the male gilet. Gareth South­gate in his old-fash­ioned three-piece suit did lit­tle more than ac­ci­den­tally re­mind ur­ban­ites of the use­ful vest.

I say this with some au­thor­ity. I wore a South­gate-style waist­coat every work­ing day in Lon­don in the eight­ies. I was one of the very few that did and so I re­tained an in­ter­est in its demise. A decade later the skinny tu­nic had com­pletely dis­ap­peared, with the honourable ex­cep­tion of bride­grooms and Fran­cis Rossi of Sta­tus Quo. The coun­try­side was equally bereft of the garb. The farmer’s Ru­pert Bear waist­coat had gone the way of the smock. Ru­ral Eng­land wore Bar­bours, Puf­fas or tweed sports jack­ets as its uni­form.

It was the rise of the olive green washable Schof­fel shoot­ing coat which re­placed the wax Barbour as the shoot­ing coat of choice, that in­di­rectly kick­started the cur­rent trend for coun­try waist­coats. The Schof­fel had a de­tach­able sleeve­less in­ner lin­ing, a polyester fleece with fake leather edg­ing and a clip at the back of its neck to at­tach it to its par­ent threads. Un­for­tu­nately it made the jacket too hot to wear and so it was left to hang un­no­ticed in cloak­rooms across the shires.

It was an ec­cen­tric friend of mine, liv­ing in the Coln Val­ley, who one day de­cided to adopt it, mi­nus the outer jacket, as his ev­ery­day wear much to the mer­ri­ment of his chums. How­ever, de­spite the teas­ing his friends slowly fol­lowed suit. Within a few years every mem­ber of the Cotswold gen­try, in­clud­ing every ‘Ag­gie’ from the Cirences­ter Agri­cul­tural Col­lege (as it was then), was wear­ing the jerkin. It be­came so ubiq­ui­tous that a vis­it­ing Lon­don ac­quain­tance, when con­fronted with a pla­toon of the fleeces in a Bibury pub, de­scribed it as “the uni­form of the Cotswold Waf­fen SS”.

Some of us who did not want to be tarred with that la­bel moved onto the In­dian Nehru waist­coat, which could be bought at Tet­bury’s Ar­tique – ‘a small piece of In­dia in the Cotswold Hills’ and at the Or­ganic Farm Shop out­side Cirences­ter. This, in turn, per­suaded a lo­cal cloth­ing com­pany, the Ox­ford Shirt Com­pany in Bur­ford, to at­tempt tweed gilets. Even­tu­ally that wo­ven num­ber took hold. To­day, af­ter the best part of a decade, the loose sleeve­less tweed Nehru is as much part of the Shires dress code as red cor­duroys and yel­low cash­mere sweaters.

Gareth South­gate has now jumped on the Cotswold fash­ion wagon by pop­u­lar­is­ing the tight fit­ting va­ri­ety for the ur­ban pop­u­lace. My bet is that the ‘South­gate’ will, within the next decade, evolve into a vari­a­tion of the loose bit of kit worn the by the Cotswolds gen­try, al­though prob­a­bly in a man-made fi­bre rather than a tweed. And if that is true then we in th­ese hills can look back on the sum­mer of 2018 with all the pride of the wearer of the yel­low jer­sey.

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