Getting into shooting and hunting is a daunting task. As with any ‘hobby’, there are certain barriers to entry. Guns, equipment, boots, and the appropriate clothing are all requirements to getting in the field, and that’s after you have a place lined up to actually hunt. At Red Clay Soul, we like high value proposition, and we’ve found that from BraeVal.
BraeVal is as much of a lifestyle brand as they are a clothing brand. They produce some the world’s finest shooting apparel, carving out a niche that is a class all it’s own. In terms of competition, they are in line with a lot of the established English brands, but separates themselves with excellent, boutique-like customer service. This is a guiding principle of the ‘BraeVal-ian lifestyle’.
What is the BraeVal-ian lifestyle? It’s a person who understands the city, as well as the country. An educated person, who enjoys consuming more knowledge about an outdoor lifestyle, like history, guns, shooting, exotic hunts, etc, and puts that knowledge to use in the field or in the stream. It’s about the balance of nature: the beauty, and the hunt.
Gregor McCluskey is the founder of the brand, and is the curator of this BraeVal-ian lifestyle. He’s not one of those VC guys, slinging pricey and trendy clothing to the masses. Growing up as an athletic guy, his coaches could never understand why he was more attracted to the woods or the stream rather than the playing field. As Gregor puts it: “I’d rather chase a bird than a jersey”. Even today, he continues to be an avid outdoorsman and dog trainer. Earlier this year, his English Setter ‘Laddie’ was named Champion: National Champion Open Shooting Dog, and Runner Up: National Championship Amateur, All Age, at the Red Setter National Field Trail Championship.
His love for the outdoors eventually brought him into the industry via Timex, where he worked on their sporting goods line. This is where he saw his opening to create something special for people as enthusiastic about the outdoorsman lifestyle as himself. He wanted to translate this passion into a brand all his own.
He chose natural fabrics rather than technical options, and his first thought was to focus on merino wool. This worked, but after a chance encounter on a plane with a cotton expert, Gregor learned about the wool/cotton blend. This is where his idea became his obsession. After multiple iterations, the Tierra blend was born.
The Tiera fabric is an all-natural performance fabric. It’s breathable, sturdy, and keeps it’s color for much longer than other blends. It is washable, and does not break down like other blend-fabric shirts. They are built like a tank.
As for the elephant in the room: why do BraeVal shirts cost $200? According to Gregor: “Once a customer owns one, they get it. This shirt will last you 7-10 times longer than most other shirts. There are many subtle details, and the construction is the absolute best. I have worked for years to make this the best shirt I possibly can.”
Having my hands on a Paddock model for a while, here is my take:
The first thing I noticed was the quality of construction. This shirt is built like a tank. Nothing feels ‘loose’ or forced. Even thought it’s built to be an outdoor shirt, it has a ‘classic’ fit like a dress shirt. For example: I wear a size Medium ‘slim’ in Brooks Brothers’ sport shirts. This Paddock has a similar fit to a Medium ‘classic’ fit. Quite frankly, that works well for active situations. I’d rather have more room than any restriction, especially while shooting or casting.
Second, I like all the details. There are so many extras in this shirt, and they are all very functional. The elbow reinforcements are nice, and give the shirt a rugged feel. The signature buffalo plaid inside the cuffs and collar are nice. The leather loop under the pocket is great for pliers or sunglasses.
This shirt is a wool blend, but it is not heavy like a Viyella. It’s a lighter weight wool, which provides warmth, while also being breathable. The vents in the back are a big help for those really humid days.
There’s also a hidden zip pocket at the bottom of the shirt. This would be tucked in during a hunt, and is a nice place to store your license, or cash and cards. It’s a thoughtful touch.
It’s easy to see why BraeVal is stocked at some of the finest hunting plantations across the US, including Highland Hills Ranch, Rio Piedre Plantation, Bray’s Island and Pine Hill Plantation. They are a boutique brand, and the value proposition is very high. This shirt may cost a bit to get on your back, but it’ll stay there for years.