The Sportsman's Guide to London
For a stroll through sporting history, take a tour of the U.K. capital's revered outfitters
Of all the great cities for the sportsman, London inevitably leads the list. The reason is that bird shooting, fly-fishing, foxhunting, big-game hunting, and polo all either began or reached their apex in England. As a result, the U.K. capital has superb stores for these gentlemanly, and now gentlewomanly, sports. Herewith, a guide to London's top purveyors for discerning sportsmen, organized along the British lines of a walking tour starting in Pall Mall, at the eastern end, near Trafalgar Square.
Farlows runs largely on a seasonal basis to supply the trout fisherman with the most goodies in the spring and summer, and the bird shooter in the late summer and fall; salmon fishermen and big-game fishermen can fill their needs all year round. You feel welcome whether you're buying $10 worth of flies or $10,000 worth of tackle. There is much to be enticed by: premium bamboo fly rods, leather-bound fishing and game books, and diaries with gold-edged paper. Outdoor clothing, boots, and accessories from top brands share space with traditional country clothing. The store also offers a few salmon fishing and spey casting clinics each spring.
9 Pall Mall; farlows.co.uk
Lock & Co. Hatters
At this small shop, close to St. James's Palace, you'll find a variety of hats-everything from the panama to the bowler, or derby, here called a Coke, after William Coke of Norfolk, who wanted a hat designed to "protect the heads of gamekeepers from overhanging branches of trees." The prototype was created by Thomas and William Bowler, and it was brought to Lock & Co., where, as the story goes, Coke tested it by jumping on it. It withstood the shock. Riders will also find hunt caps, crash skulls (well suited to schooling and eventing), and tweed shooting caps, including deerstalkers-as in "Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot." Just never wear a deerstalker while bird shooting.
6 St. James's St.; lockhatters.co.uk
John Lobb has the feel of a workshop from an era gone by. Here, shoes and boots are made by hand to customers' specifications, and wooden casts of their feet are kept to facilitate reorders. The hide is selected by a "clicker," who chooses the skin and particular pieces, bearing in mind the shoe's purpose. Lasts are made from beech, maple, or hornbeam. Greatness, of course, does not come cheap. A pair of hunting boots with tops and trees (to preserve the shape) will set you back about £6500, or around $10,000. After a wait of eight to nine months, you will get a pair of boots made of waxed calf (reversed, naturally), which can be boned to get the scratches out. With proper care, they should outlive you.
9 St. James's St.; johnlobbltd.co.uk