Ever seen a shirt that needs an owner’s manual? Or breaking in? Or that might stop birdshot? Well, OK, not that. But Avedon & Colby’s Signature Field Shirt is like no other in my closet. It has, by my count, 19 distinct high-tech features, eight of which appear to be unique to this garment. Do you know what a “double-reversed underarm gusset” might be? Me neither.
Whatever it is, that gusset—along with the pivot sleeves, retractable bi-swing back, articulated elbows and tailored side panels—makes this the least-constricting shirt I’ve ever worn. (See what I mean about the owner’s manual?) Swinging a shotgun, aiming a rifle, double-hauling a streamer fly or just raking out the garden after a very long winter—whenever I expect the shirt might bind, it just doesn’t.
The fabric is bush poplin (half-weight canvas) woven of high-twist yarns of premium long-staple cotton that’s tannin-dyed to give it the traditional British Tan khaki hue. (The British Army found that on long marches dust from India’s red-clay roads made a terrible mess of its tropical whites, so it began dying them in tea. This created, in effect, the first camouflage military uniforms, and the fabric and color carried over into the Great War and then East Africa.) The fabric is so tightly woven that it seems to shed water and so apparently indestructible that this shirt may become part of my estate.
I haven’t worn it in tropical sun yet, but the shirt’s heavy cotton is backed by sweat-wicking polyester mesh at the back, and the collar has a hidden extension that can be flipped up to shield the neck. The collar also has hidden buttons, to keep it from flapping, and a foldaway “throat latch” to snug up everything against the wind. The sleeves roll and button up. Behind each full-bellows pocket is a security pocket with a brass zipper. Pocket flaps are notched to be tucked away, to prevent snagging when a gun is raised to the shoulder. The shirt’s 15 buttons are made of horn molded with high-strength urea-methanol resin to withstand commercial laundering or safari-camp chambermaids, and the raised button rims protect their stout thread from hot irons. And so on and so forth, ending with surged, single-needle stitching as in bespoke-dress wear.
If this shirt brings to mind classic Willis & Geiger expedition clothing (I’ll never wear mine again, those shorts with the 32-inch waists), it’s no coincidence. It was designed by Burt Avedon, WWII fighter pilot and then professional hunter (go ahead, Google him), and Susan Colby, who operated W&G for many years as a brand of Land’s End. Avedon & Colby was born in 1999, when Burt and Susan were unable to buy Willis & Geiger. In 2013, after years of designing clothing for others and when Burt turned 90, they decided to create a new collection of “performance garments” under their own names. The Signature Field Shirt is the first item. It sells for $179 from www.avedoncolby.com. —Silvio Calabi
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The January/February 2016 issue of Shooting Sportsman is now available online and on newsstands. Our "Safari Issue" travels the world to hunt ducks, desert quail and sage grouse, with an emphasis on the more exotic fine guns and wingshooting travel. On the cover: Gun and loader on a driven shoot in the UK, photographed by Bob Atkins and provided courtesy of Fieldsports Magazine.