Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Submariner - North Sea Clothing





























Submariner Beard

The submariner has to be built of stern stuff. Cooped up for days under water, he faces the grimmest of perils, with no access to daylight, or fresh drinking water, or razors.

There was a time when all ranks in the British Army were not allowed to shave above the top lip, making moustaches compulsory. Moustaches are now optional (and civilisation descends). Beards are only allowed for some ranks and roles. In the Royal Navy, however, full-set beards are allowed (full-set meaning the beard needs an accompanying moustache). This is a blessing when you are a submariner and you run out of razors many fathoms beneath the ocean.

Submariner Sweaters
























He can sport a beard, but what might our intrepid submariner wear?

Most U.S. films featuring submarines tend to be based in the Pacific. There will be scenes where the crew sits out a threat bleeping ominously on the sonar, engines shut off, the patches of sweat expanding on their khakis and vests.

But many famous British submarine operations took place in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea — sweater territory. Submariners needed to be insulated in these cold waters with the thick knitwear and duffle coats that were standard issue. You'll see this in films like Above Us the Waves [Amazon] and We Dive at Dawn [Amazon].

Of particular note were the white or natural-coloured woollen polo necks submariners wore — the classic submariner sweater.





North Sea Clothing

The ecru Submariner Jumper (top and below) by North Sea Clothing, London, is based on the sweaters originally manufactured for the Ministry of Defence.

Made in England, the sweater is a chunky, heavy knit designed for maximum warmth; but also able to resist water, aided by the thickness of the knit and the lanolin in the wool.

These mighty sweaters are also available from the Imperial War Museum to verify their authenticity.

I suggest you add one to your timeless wardrobe. Perhaps you should grow a beard this winter too? I think it will make you look distinguished.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Bath Time - A Weekend in Bath Spa


'Weekend' in Bath

If you're thinking of a spending a weekend away, and you're strangely thinking of staying in Britain — despite the weather, the queues, and the general dysfunction — why not give London a miss and head to the city of Bath? If Bath is no longer all tea rooms and twin sets any more, parts of it are still almost civilised if you squint.

Timing will be everything. Don't try and visit Bath between May and October. You'll be trampled by camera-toting tourists fairly badly. Forget Saturdays too. That's when everyone from the surrounding area arrives to shop, and day-trippers from London pile out of coaches and trains. Hopeless. Let's make your weekend Sunday and Monday.

The stone used to build the Georgian centre of the city positively glows in sunshine, so you must visit when it's sunny too. Visiting on a sunny day in January is generally optimal. For added Georgian flavour, try and coincide with one of the regular Jane Austen festivals in the city.

Sunday as Saturday in Bath


You've got the timing right and you're now in sunny Bath on a Sunday. Let's take a little tour. It won't take long if you don't keep stopping to look in the shops.

Head up the main street until you get to Gieves and Hawkes in New Bond Street. You can ignore anything lower today. From here take a stroll to the top of Milsom Street. When you get to the top, turn right and look for a small lane called Bartlett Street on the other side of the road where you will see the Antiques Centre. Now the city gets a bit quieter. This will take you up towards the Assembly Rooms where the Fashion Museum is housed. Go all the way to the top and take tea in Bea's Vintage Tea Rooms. This is an order.

From Bea's head towards The Circus and then onto the Royal Crescent via Brock Street — all signposted from here. I'll leave you to yourselves now. I would make the further suggestion to either head down to enjoy Victoria Park; or head up from Marlborough Buildings, at the far end of the Crescent, to walk through the middle of the pitch-and-putt golf course and enjoy the view of Bath from the heights of Lansdown. You can enjoy the Marlborough Tavern and continue on to the Hare and Hounds from Lansdown if you are a stout walker.

See you tomorrow.

The Abbey and Pump Rooms

As you're here on a Monday, the area around the Abbey and the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms won't be so busy. Do visit them both. You Anglo-Saxons will be interested to note that King Edgar was crowned King of all England in Bath Abbey in 973.

Afternoon tea can be pleasant in the Pump Rooms, and is sometimes accompanied by a recital. Again, I'll leave you to explore for the rest of the day. Don't bother with Southgate and the area around the train station — a shockingly bland and echoing valley of chain shops.

After the Abbey, you could wander down Pulteney Street and look in at the Holbourne Museum. Yes, do that.

Shops


Bath does have a hat shop — The British Hatter — and a cigar shop — Frederick Tranter — so it ticks two boxes on Tweedy's civilised city index.

What else can I say on shops in Bath? Little in terms of menswear, I'm afraid. I'll list a few places, but I'm peckish as I type this list, so that might be influencing its direction...

(Whisper) There are some nice restaurants in Bath, but I don't review restaurants. All I can say is that I've always eaten well at hidden-away The Bath Priory Hotel, and the Porter is very nice. Madrid is excellent for Spanish food.





Pubs



There are some reasonably good pubs in Bath. Some old and established, plus a couple of relative newcomers that replicate all that we like in decent hostelries.

Here's a list from a while back.

As I mentioned, The Hare and Hounds is an outlier that's worth a walk.

Bath Ales run some of these.



Saturday, 22 November 2014

Deakin & Francis since 1786


















Deakin & Francis - English Cufflinker of Note

Deakin & Francis offer an absolutely spiffing collection of cufflinks. If you can't find any that you'd like to see peeking out of your jacket sleeve, well I'll be a monkey's uncle.

The company is family-owned and based in Birmingham, England, where all of their fine jewellery is made.

James and Henry Deakin are currently at the helm, with an eighth-generation hopefully in the wings — such continuity, such tradition. (Who was Francis?)

Deakin & Francis is an English heritage company with literally centuries of experience in all aspects of jewellery design, creation and manufacture. Their workforce specialises in a particular aspect of the craft, be that shaping, enamelling or engraving.

Don't listen to my advice — have a look at their collection for yourself — but I rather like the Bacchanalian suggestion of the gold and amethyst Grape cufflinks above.

The gold Fishing Fly cufflinks below show off some exquisite enamelling. Perfect for sitting under a tweed jacket on a country jaunt. Note the fish-shaped clasps.
















Of course, any of these would make a lovely gift for a certain tweed-clad pig you know.

One for Bond Lovers













Following a collaboration with Anthony Sinclair (of the conduit cut James Bond suit), Bond lovers might be interested to see the Deakin & Francis range inspired by Geoffrey Holder, who played the henchman Baron Samedi in the 1973 film version of Live and Let Die, the first Bond film to star Roger Moore.

The gold ones above have a moving jaw that reveals diamond eyes when opened. Dramatic stuff.

The Live and Let Die range is available exclusively from Anthony Sinclair.



Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton


































Fighter and Lover

Denys Finch Hatton lived through that extraordinary period of change at the start of the 20th century. He was an English aristocrat and top-rate charmer; his charm compensating for a general lack of ambition. You know the type: 'Old Etonian drifter'. You may be familiar with his name through the film Out of Africa where he is played wholly inaccurately by Robert Redford.

Denys was a big-game hunter (later photographer), adventurer and settler in Kenya who was awarded the Military Cross in the First World War. He was part of the Happy Valley Set in Kenya in the 1920s, where he is most famous for his affair with Baroness Karen Blixen. His (equal) love of the landscape in East Africa led him in later life to be a determined conservationist.

Sarah Wheeler's biography of Denys, Too Close To The Sun: The Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton [Amazon], is an enjoyable read that uses themes from his life as an attractive hook on which to vividly describe English colonial society in that era.

Of Denys Finch Hatton, it was said: 'No one who ever met him whether man or woman, old or young, white or black, failed to come under his spell.' 

Drink to Denys Finch Hatton

There is a pub in Ewerby, Linconshire, that was previously used as hunting lodge by DFH. It's naturally called The Finch Hatton Arms. I think he would enjoy that recognition. Who amongst us wouldn't like a pub named after them?

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Jodhpur Boot






















The English Cowboy Boot 

People find great comfort in stereotypes. When things are as you expect, it simplifies the worldview, smoothing the chaos and bringing order to the universe and the space-time continuum — weltanschauung and all that. Stereotypically, we imagine our American friends to be wearing button-down shirts and chinos, but we're equally happy to turn up the American volume and picture them sporting a Stetson and cowboy boots. Conversely, we see our Englishmen in bowler hats or tattersall shirts.

This got me thinking, rather haphazardly, as to what would be the English equivalent of the cowboy boot. To my way of thinking, it would have to be the jodhpur boot, with its buckled straps that fasten around the ankle.

Ostensibly equestrian footwear, like the cowboy boot, you are just as likely see the jodhpur boot being worn without a horse underneath — like the cowboy boot.

Ready-Made Jodhpur Boot by Crocket & Jones

By common consent, the Crockett and Jones Cottesmore (above) is as good a ready-to-wear jodhpur boot as you may find; in calf leather, with double leather sole. I think this version in burnished chestnut is nigh on perfect.

Best worn with trousers that have a cavalry (military) hem.















Bespoke Jodhpur Boot by Horace Batten


Here is a great bespoke alternative for jodhpur boots. I don't have a good image to demonstrate this (just the measly effort below), but go take a look over at the Horace Batten web site and read about their history.

Batten do cracking bespoke strap jodhpur boots in a range of leather colours. They even supply the dear bones to polish your boots.

This is one of those wonderful human-scale British companies I really like to promote. They make around ten pairs of boots a week, they take their time, and they put the product before the branding. They are family-owned and on to the seventh generation of Batten. All the exact opposite of 'fast fashion'.

Clearly, everyone should buy from them and help preserve the name.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday


This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. No doubt you will have seen the images of the incredibly popular, and fittingly transient, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London. Designed by Tom Piper, the installation features 888,246 ceramic red poppies created by Paul Cummins — a poppy representing each British and Colonial fatality during the Great War.

Zoom in and there is a tragic story behind each one.


Talent Cut Short

And the stories go on through each subsequent conflict up to the present day. I was reminded of the poignant story of the British society painter, illustrator and designer Rex Whistler by a reader.

Rex died on his first day in action in the Second World War, aged 39.

Rex was proud to be commissioned into the Welsh Guards. When his uniform arrived, he painted the self-portrait above. The painting is now part of the National Army Museum collection.

Rex also drew the kit layouts below to amuse his fellow servicemen. Our reader had found the photographs of soldier's inventories by Thom Atkinson fascinating. He wondered if he had been influenced by Whistler's drawings.



A memorial to Rex Whistler, a glass prism engraved by his brother Laurence, is housed in Salisbury Cathedral.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bond & Knight - The Original Origami Wallet



















Bond & Knight

You think you know all you need to know about wallets, then a wallet comes along to shake all the certainties you held dear. I had such an experience when I clapped my peepers on this incredible wallet from Derbyshire-based Bond & Knight (as stocked by our very good chums at Lombres).

Consider this: the wallet is made from a single folded piece of high-grade, naturally-tanned Italian leather. Yes, a single piece. I have no probable need to point out that this means there are no stitches or seams — though there is some glue involved — this wallet is intrinsically smooth and slim.

The leather compounds the smoothness to a level not seen since Roger Moore picked up a Walther PPK. Popping this wallet in and out of your jacket pocket is like sliding metal on ice.

The wallet performs well on function, accommodating cards and bank notes neatly amongst its folds. The 'origami' design is actually a bygone approach to wallet-making. Bond & Knight tell me the design was popularised in the 1940s, and a result of the make-do-and-mend mentality of war time — less materials were used. Bond & Knight has updated such a clever idea with contemporary colour contrasts, making the design their own.

Bond & Knight Folded Wallet in Chestnut and Yellow 

The one I have (below) is in chestnut and yellow. Glory at the lovely packaging in which it arrived. See how it glides friction-free into the jacket pocket of my vintage Maurice Sedwell hopsack jacket (the tailoring of which is second to none — so many tiny hand-stitches).

I'm so taken with the wallet that I've invited it to come on a trip with me next week. My longstanding peccary travel wallet has had a jolly good run. I won't forget you, old chum.

If you're looking for an 'origami wallet', insist on an original Bond & Knight. Made in England.





Monday, 3 November 2014

Verity - The Colossus of Ilfracombe






















Hirst Scores

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. If you were hitherto unimpressed by the work of artist Damien Hirst, and considered his work little more than aseptic marketing activity designed to push brand Hirst, then I would suggest a trip to the Devonshire seaside town of Ilfracombe.

Tweedy's tweed-clad gang took a detour there recently — cream tea cravings — and the fact is we were quite thrilled by the statue created by Hirst that has been installed on Ilfracombe harbour-side.

Called Verity, the statue is the tallest in the UK; and it is awesome in the truest sense of the word. When the gang took a stroll to the harbour, we weren't quite prepared for the size of the thing. It is huge, and impresses like the Colossus at Rhodes surely would have done.

The statue is cast from stainless steel and bronze by Pangolin Editions. Pregnant and holding a sword aloft, Verity looks out from the harbour towards the sea. One half of the body — closest to the sea — has the skin stripped back to reveal her anatomy — which I suppose is a bit of a macabre Hirst flourish. One of our troupe nearly dropped their cockles at the sight from that side.

What's Hirst's connection with the town? Hirst lives nearby and has a restaurant there.

Reception to the installation of the statue has been mixed by the townsfolk. They have the statue on loan for 20 years. They must embrace it and not let go of it. In 20 years it will become part of the fabric of the town.

Parts of Ilfracombe are a little run down, particularly the main high street. But around the harbour, with the Pier Brewery Tap & Grill pub, cafes and galleries, you see signs of this picturesque Victorian town being reinvigorated.

Outward-looking Verity shows the way forward. The campaign to keep the statue on the harbour begins here.


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Scabal Camel Hair


Scabal Classic Camel Hair Overcoat

Here's one for your timeless wardrobe. Scabal have fashioned some of their pure camel hair overcoating, in its in its natural tone, into a double-breasted overcoat. As always, it was from Britain that camel hair fabric production gained traction. The double-breasted full-length camel overcoat became a popular coat to wear over formal City wear, which remains the case. I believe such a coat is referred to as a Polo Coat in the US. They seem to want to tie everything in with polo.

The camel hair used for overcoating is the undercoat and is gathered when the camel moults; which is a good thing as you wouldn't ant to sheer a camel. They're bad-tempered bleeders at the best of times. They have nice eyes though.


Noël in Camel

Wondering whether or not to take the plunge? You won't find a better advert for the camel hair overcoat than this picture of dear Noël Peirce Coward.







Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Hallowe'en: Biscuits and Blood-Sucking






















Dracula Jolly Ginger from Biscuiteers

Hallowe'en (or Samhain for our Pagan readers) is upon us. It's not something we celebrate in any significant way at Tweed Towers, but we will try and make the day a little spookier than normal.

For example, we might substitute our tea time assortment for a plate of terrifying Hallowe'en biscuits from London-based family firm Biscuiteers. That's Dracula Jolly Ginger above.

And instead of watching Room with a View for the umpteenth time, we might watch Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre.

I think that's enough.

Nosferatu — Phantom der Nacht

















If a stake were being held to my undying heart, I might say that Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of Nosferatu the Vampyre is my favourite (traditional) horror film.

I'm very pleased to say that Nosferatu the Vampyre has now been remastered and re-released on blu-ray [Amazon].






























The film has a dream-like quality, and is very slow-paced, with ponderous dialog-free long shots and long takes of scenery — mountains, forests, and the lovely city of Delft (standing in as the Hanseatic town of Wismar). This may be considered to be its main strength (or its weakness if you are fidgety juvenile). You are being asked to reflect on the existential themes of the story.

The film could be viewed as an elegy, but here it is a lament for the undead. Our vampire is suffering, lonely and in despair: "The absence of love is the most abject pain."

Klaus Kinski is perfect as the blood-sucking predator. Isabelle Adjani is ravishing (and moreish) as his ultimate prey, and saving grace, Lucy.

The beauty of the cinematography is underpinned by a soundtrack of suitably melancholic gothic by German 'kosmische musik' band Popol Vuh.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Silk Paisley Boxers - Derek Rose




















Classic Paisley Boxer Short

We would need to go all the way back to 2012 to find our last mention of the Paisley pattern. This is an outrage for such a classic pattern. Luckily, Derek Rose have given us the perfect excuse to mention it again; doubling the excusableness by having the pattern on their silk Otis boxer shorts: a classic boxer short pattern in anyone's book. Otis are made in England from a classic cut.

Let's zoom in on the printed pattern on the silk material. Note the adjustable two-button fly.




















The wearer will supply their own shudder of delight each time they slide them on. This would be out of their control. Parts of their body will be very thankful and will want to say something about it.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Marfin Shaving Brushes - Pennelli da Barba Fatti a Mano






















Marfin Shaving Brushes

Marco Finardi is the Italian master craftsman behind these incredible shaving brushes. Under the Marfin brand, the brushes he makes are each unique and hand-crafted.

He uses plateau briar wood to make the handles.

What's plateau briar wood? Read on:

Briar wood is from the root of a type of heather, the Erica Arborea or 'tree heath', and is the material used to make pipes for smoking due to the tightness of its grain, its hardness and heat resistance. The wood has two cuts: ebauchon, which is smooth and cut from the inside of the root burl; and the plateau, where wood is cut from the edge of the root, showing the natural rough edges of the root, and giving better grain patterns.





















Marco works the best briar wood into the handles of his brushes, which are stained, waxed and oiled to an incredible finish. The brush is finished with silvertip badger hair. All material and construction are Italian.

If you take your shaving seriously, then you must use a shaving brush. You will also have to use the shaving brush every day. In the light of the extreme beauty of these Marfin shaving brushes, this rather dull proposition suddenly becomes utterly thrilling.

'I would actually get to see and use this brush every day?' questions your inner voice. 'Count me in', it splutters excitedly. 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever and so on. This is the very definition of everyday luxury.' Your inner voice is very wise. You should listen to it more often.




Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Doherty Evans & Stott - Chambray and Flannel Shirts






















Doherty Evans & Stott — Shirts and Shirting

Legendary Mancunian outfitters Doherty Evans & Stott have chosen some exquisite shirting fabrics for their own-label shirts. (I tried to cajole DES into putting someone forward for our Pin-Up series a while back. They were having none of it. You win some, you lose some.)





















The cotton chambray shirt above is made in England from Thomas Mason shirting. I'm feeling the softness in the picture. You really want to put the shirt on don't you? Thomas Mason was a Lancashire mill that was founded in 1746 and specialised in the manufacture of cotton shirting. The brand became part of the Italian Albini Group in 1992, and production moved to Bergamo, Italy.  I spent a nice weekend in Bergamo one time; the city has a splendid funicular to transport you between the 'upper city' and 'lower city'. Albini are custodians of the extensive Thomas Mason archive, which would be interesting to see.

Flannel shirts might conjure up images of plaid or tattersall, yet below we have a white flannel shirt from DES. The shirt is made in England again, but from Alumo flannel of the classic 80/20 cotton/wool flannel ratio. Alumo is a Swiss shirting manufacturer that uses the finest 'ingredients' to produce its shirting — extra-long staple Egyptian cotton, Sea Island cotton; the good stuff that reflects in the finish, drape and feel of the shirting.







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