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bbirdseye.detail.sir francis grant.the melton.1839.oil on canvA few Meltonians sport blue birdseye stocks under their scarlet coats in this painting by Sir Francis Grant (1839)

Several years ago, Foxhunting Life published a story about an attractive item of attire from foxhunting’s earliest days―the blue birdseye stock tie. Eye-catching and colorful, it can be seen in eighteenth-century foxhunting prints if you look closely.

Mostly unknown in North America, the blue birdseye stock tie had long been worn by a stylish and knowledgeable few in England and Ireland. We decided it deserved to be resurrected here as well. So, we located appropriate material and introduced it to North American foxhunters in our shop It was a hit, and since then, at the start of every new season―strictly for fun―we publish an article of reminder. And the story.

Though foxhunters of yore wore blue birdseye stock ties under scarlet coats, today it is often worn during the informal season with ratcatcher and during the formal season with blue, black, and charcoal coats. For your convenience, we still offer it in our shop, but we believe it can now be found in some tack shops as well.

The first time I saw what I later learned was a blue birdseye stock tie it was neatly tied under the huntsman’s scarlet coat. “What in the world is that man wearing about his neck?” I wondered.

The huntsman, a dear friend, is an ex-Master and experienced professional huntsman of renown. Yet, he appeared to be oblivious to “correct” foxhunting attire. I’m referring to Hugh Robards, one of the hunting world’s foremost huntsmen during the late twentieth/early twenty-first century.

Robards is also an author and possesses an extensive sporting library. I thought he should have known better, but not wanting to embarrass him, I remained silent.

As it turned out, I was the ignorant one. Later, Robards patiently explained that he was wearing an article of traditional foxhunting attire called a blue birdseye stock tie. During his twenty-seven-year stint as huntsman for Lord Daresbury at the County Limerick Foxhounds (IRE), he and the Master wore their blue birdseye stock ties through the autumn hunting season.

I wondered how many foxhunters of today had ever heard of such a thing. Then I realized what fun it would be to bring this handsome stock tie back into our hunting fields.

I was informed by the well-read Robards that the Earl of Wilton, hunting with the Quorn, is shown wearing a blue birdseye hunting stock in Nimrod's Hunting Reminiscences; Mr. Thomas Assheton Smith, when Master of the Tedworth, wore one; John Peel had been drawn wearing one; and ''Nimrod,'' Charles James Appleby, also had a liking for this type of neckwear.

While the blue birdseye stock tie may not be considered “correct” during the formal season for professional hunt staff, Robards maintains that it is more useful than a collar and tie for emergencies during the informal season. And while field members of yore wore them with their scarlet coats, one has to wonder how they might clash with the various colors of hunt collars we wear nowadays. But surely, with an appropriate tweed coat during autumn hunting and later on informal hunting days, they are a handsome accouterment for both men and women. They look smashing on ladies wearing dark blue coats during the formal season, and with gray Melton and black formal coats as well

In Willy Poole’s Hunting: An Introductory Handbook (1988), that most knowledgeable and outspoken English writer/reporter states, “A white tie is normal [during the formal season], although you will see some aged toffs who still wear a blue birdseye stock tie. These went out of general wear before World War I, but they are still correct if you have the style to carry them off.”

Whether or not we have the style will be for others to judge, but why not be bold? Click here if you’d like one or more for your own or for gifts.

Orginially Posted September 2, 2021

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