Gardening clothes

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Does it matter what one wears for gardening? Obviously most people look for warmth in winter, cool in summer and comfort all year; elegance is not much of a consideration.

Gardening hatsDoes it matter what one wears for gardening? Obviously most people look for warmth in winter, cool in summer and comfort all year; elegance is not really much of a consideration.

My father-in-law, for example, has a waxed jacket which is more hole than jacket. Yet wearing tatty old clothes for gardening is a relatively new phenomenon. If you look at the famous photographs of Vita Sackville-West in her high laced boots (which must have wasted at least 15 minutes of good gardening time just getting into them) or Nancy Lancaster in capri pants and a sombrero it is obvious that style was important. (There are some wonderful pictures, taken by the great Valerie Finnis, in 'Garden People' by Ursula Buchan and Anna Pavord.

Even professional gardeners always maintained a certain decorum - ties, waistcoats and (for the head gardener) a black hat and heavy fob watch. Not for them a pair of holey jeans and a sweater grimy with compost and dusted with spilled rooting powder.

Nowadays anything goes. I have laid a patio in tweed plus fours and I remember once putting up a fence wearing a kilt but that was a short affectation - the wind and splinters got into uncomfortable places. I long ago discovered the advantages of a large hat when gardening; it shelters me from the rain, protects from the sun and - if it is really hot - can be filled with water and slammed on the head as a cooling shower. At the moment I have four. There were more but a dog ate one and another was snaffled as headgear for a bonfire night guy.

Apart from protective hats the most important pieces of gardening gear are good boots (Gertrude Jekyll knew the benefits of sturdy footwear - her boots were painted by William Nicholson in 1920) and, when handling thorny things, a pair of stout gloves.

Monty Don has a range of individual outfits in corduroy and strong cotton that make him look a bit like a 1930's farmworker hoicking sheaves of corn and eating chunks of strong cheddar. Chris Beardshaw has a range of foul weather gear that would make an Icelandic fisherman jealous. Sarah Raven always looks elegantly rumpled and is never seen in mucky jeans. Joe Swift needs to wear a woolly hat.

People fall into habits and often have favourite gardening clothes - not always savoury and occasionally rescued from the jumble sale. It would be interesting to hear what other people wear in the garden...

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Gardeners' World Web User 29/01/2008 at 13:27

Sturdy ankle boots, jeans and tee shirt with various over layers depending on the weather. I have a belt for the Felco holster which is big enough to go over my coat if necessary or can be tightened for over jeans. I have a large collection of hats too but I don't seem to wear them in the garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 29/01/2008 at 16:49

One of the best things about gardening programmes is looking at what people wear. I'm sure Monty must have hoards of female fans stamping on his cotton jackets to get them to have that "what this old thing, I've had it for years" look. Carol Klein has you running for the sunglasses and Chris Beardshaw goes for the rugged manly look - but at least they all have dirty fingernails - never trust a gardener with smooth hands and clean fingernails. But at least the clothes defineth the man, if you can't remember the name then "the one with the big hat" couldn't be anyone else but you James.

Gardeners' World Web User 29/01/2008 at 19:42

I wear a pair of cream jodpurs that I have had in my draw for years. They are warmer than jeans, fit right into my wellies, dont reveal my underwear when I kneel and no matter what I do to them they always come clean!! Perfect!

Gardeners' World Web User 29/01/2008 at 22:12

The most essential pieces of gardening clothing has to be, a body warmer with lots of pockets and a pair of combat trousers also with extra pockets in the sides. They are so useful for all those extra bits of twine, pruning clippers and the all important pocket knife for cuttings.

Gardeners' World Web User 30/01/2008 at 13:42

I always end up wearing clothes that i love but which are no longer fit for public view - the T-shirt with a stain or torn jumper.

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