Sunday, 26 March 2017

Tweed TV: Saut Hermès Showjumping

Showjumping at the Gran Palais Courtesy of Hermès
Congratulations to Australia's Edwina Tops-Alexander who won the Grand Prix Hermès at the Saut Hermès showjumping competition at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, last weekend. What a fabulous venue to host a showjumping event.

Britain's John Whitaker, who has his own riding range, came sixth.

It was great to be able to watch the event on a live stream from the Saut Hermès web site (recorded video below). I would hope I can make the effort to attend another time, but it has certainly whetted my appetite for this year's British equestrian events.

Horse & Hound have a handy guide for all the major events. See you at Badminton.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Youth is a Dream

Paulo Sorrentino - Director-in-Residence
The Tweed Pig has adopted Paulo Sorrentino as our unofficial director-in-residence. (Whit Stillman, I decided, doesn't make enough films for this 'honour'.)

Paolo's films are beautiful, poetic and complex (or simple depending on how much you read into them) — with visual artistry, painstakingly arranged set pieces and unapologetically slow pacing that renders appreciative viewers spellbound.

Following on from Consequences of Love and The Great BeautyYouth [Amazon] offers another masculinist character study. With a script written by Paolo, the film contemplates the process of ageing and the consequent malaise when life's arc is descending towards decrepitude.

Michael Caine, dressed by Cesare Attolini of Naples (like Jep Gambardella in The Great Beauty), is superb as Fred Ballinger, a retired composer and conductor. Harvey Keitel, dressed by Brioni, plays Mick Boyle, a director working on a final film he hopes to be his magnum opus.

Fred and Mick are staying at a Swiss hotel, a setting of luxurious decadence. The two act as observers rather than participants, mulling their loss of vigour and creative spark as eccentric characters inhabit the mise en scène.

Mick is feeling nostalgic for the enthusiasms that fired his youth and inspired his creativity. Deep down he knows he has lost his edge in film making and the capability of having original ideas.

Fred has turned his back on his professional life, despite advances from the Queen's emissary to perform his most famous work, Simple Songs. He shuns the requests, and later explains with great poignancy why he has lost his enthusiasm.

Composer David Lang composed the original music for the film, including the moving Simple Song #3, which we get to hear in the film.

No Future
Caught up in their own predicament, the two men seem particularly helpless concerning their children. Fred's daughter, Lena, is also staying at the hotel and is married to Mick's son. Their children's marriage is falling apart. If greater insight is meant to come with age, the men are unable to offer any.

As the film progresses, the men arrive at different conclusions as to how they might accommodate past accomplishments with the impotency of the present and the colourlessness of the future.

I think I've made the film sound very bleak, when it actually has lots of humour in it. As well as being an absolute visual feast, it has one of Michael Caine's finest performances. And his hair has never looked better.

Roll on the next Paolo Sorrentino offering. I'm hearing very good things about The Young Pope with Jude Law.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Huntsman's Yak Hair Hopsack

A Noble Yarn
Huntsman of Savile Row provides suiting options in a hopsack fabric made from Mongolian yak hair. The yarn for the fabric is produced by Tengri.

Mongolian herders comb the underbellies of thousands of free-roaming semi-wild yaks to harvest the hair once a year. The buzzword here being sustainability.

London-based producers Tengri spin an undyed yarn from the hair that is a soft as cashmere, yet strong and naturally odour and water-resistant. The result is Khangai Noble Yarn, a high quality yak hair yarn that has a rare natural silver colour. A natural dye is introduced to provide an option on the fabric in ever wearable blue.

The yarn is woven into a loosely woven hopsack in a mid-weight 3.5 ounces by R. Gledhill of Delph, Yorkshire. (A mill not to be confused with Mallalieus of Delph, Lancashire — War of the Roses and all that. I remember shops in Manchester not accepting payments from Yorkshire Bank. They have long memories up there. I also remember fondly a jacket in lambswool cloth woven by the Lancashire Mallalieus. Must see what they're up to soon.)

Yaks are rather parsimonious with the amount of high-quality belly hair they can provide, much as they undoubtedly love having their bellies combed — as we all do. As a result, the fabric can only ever be produced in limited quantities. This is where you have to entrust a tailor like Huntsman to work their magic on the raw materials. Exhibit A being the jacket under construction with this fine fabric in the top photo.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Drake's Shirts - Cleeve in Twain

Old Shirts, New Reader
I shouldn't be surprised when I receive an email related to a post that was published years back. After all, what happens on the internet stays on the internet. A newly-acquired American reader got in touch to say he had been reading a post about Cleeve shirts being bought by Drake's and wondered if their current crop of shirts were also Cleeve. The shirts are still being made in Chard, Somerset, so in essence I'd say yes, though Drake's have now dropped Cleeve from the label.

Standard Details
The reader also wanted to know what to expect if he took the plunge. He's been loyal to a US shirt maker until now, but is attracted to Drake's button-down shirts.

I don't know about the button-downs, but I have a couple of the cut away collared shirts in stripes, which you can have a stickybeak at here. Standard details to note are the soft, un-fused collar and the mother of pearl buttons. The cotton is of the highest standard and the finish is excellent.

Tosh About Menswear Influencer and Style Authority
The bow tie is a bit skew-whiff in the photos, as I kept fiddling with it. I'm a terrible model, far too stiff, but at least we do it all ourselves here at Tweed Towers. We don't pay for subscribers or give ourselves silly titles like 'menswear influencer' or 'style authority'. Nor do we throw the term 'luxury' at everything. I have never, ever used the term luxury, because it is confused with indulgence; and seeking out quality and craftsmanship, and things that are made to last, should never infer extravagance.

Sweet Inverted Pleat
Some shirts have a rather terrific inverted pleat on the back. I really like this detail on the ones I have.

Let's bring in Daphne du Maurier to help out.

I realise that the photos don't provide a great deal of detail on the shirts, but I hope they give a flavour of what to expect should our reader take the plunge.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Simon Howie's Wee Black Pudding

Scotland's Favourite Butcher
Regular readers will know that I have a penchant for the traditional English breakfast, which should approach the benchmark set by the ultimate breakfast served by Hawksmoor according to the rules of the English Breakfast Society.

Black pudding is an essential ingredient for a proper English breakfast. The Wee Black Pudding from Simon Howie has become a big favourite at Tweed Towers. If you haven't tried it, you simply must.

Simon Howie is based in Perthsire, Scotland, with butcher's shops in Perth and Auchterarder, though it shouldn't be too difficult for sassenachs to obtain a Wee Black Pudding. They find their way into Tweed Towers somehow. Your local supermarket may stock them.

What is it about this black pudding? All down to the texture and ingredients, old chap. The pudding has a nice soft and smooth texture that grills to a nice crisp outer, but it's the 'caramelised apple and warming spices' that make this pudding sing.

Pitching Your Pudding
Though Simon's pudding has good purchase for hurling into a Yorkshire pudding, perhaps it wouldn't be allowed in the annual World Black Pudding Throwing Championships between Lancashire and Yorkshire in Ramsbottom, Lancashire.

I imagine the pudding must comply with certain specifications laid out in the rules of this ancient and noble game.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Commando - Zero Hour

Commando 5000
Commando have released a brand new story for their 5000th issue this month and it's a story that fittingly involves the British Commandos.

Zero Hour is the tale of Joe Hartley who joins the Commandos — formed by Churchill in 1940 — to honour the memory of his brother Terry who was killed in action fighting for the same unit. Will Joe be able to exact his revenge on the S.S. regiment who were responsible for his brother's death?

Commando first appeared in 1961, making it Britain's longest running war comic. Since that time it has brought to life the stories of 'thousands of soldiers from across the globe as they soar through the air, dive to the darkest depths of the sea and, brave the front lines of warfare on land'. 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Laddies in Lavender

A Touch of Lilac and Lavender
Sir Peregrine Worsthorne presents a magnificent combination of pink, lilac and lavender in the top picture. What a springtime display! What a punk rock provocation of sartorial defiance and individuality! We cannot do less than pay attention to each word he issues when wrapped in such a delightfully civilised way. People dress according to how they see the world and how they wish the world to see them.

Perry is not the only one who recognises the subversively cultured possibilities of lilac and lavender. Here we see Cecil Beaton in a splendid double-breasted corduroy suit.

Manolo Blahnik is also defiant in lilac and pink below, increasing the value of his message ten-fold.

Wearing lilac and lavender isn't for the faint-hearted. These men know what they're doing.

Below — not quite so brazenly — I introduce a pair of lavender trousers with a Cordings herringbone jacket. (More on this tremendous jacket soon.) By all means go full-lavender if you think you have what it takes, but you might want to introduce a touch here and there at first, and dip in and out so you don't become 'that lavender chap'. Any virtue taken to extreme becomes a vice.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Victor Muller's Duffle Coat

Allegations of Stylishness
The Dutch businessman Victor Muller is the founder of Spyker Cars and former CEO of Saab. Dubbed 'the rock star of the car world', Victor is currently on trial with former Saab employees accused of tax evasion and other corporate irregularities. I can't say I'm following the trial too closely, but the duffle coat he wore to trail this week certainly caught my attention, and was looking particularly good with the blue scarf.

You don't see many duffle coats in such a light colour. What would you say? Creamy white? Light beige? I guess the traditional colour was camel for the coats put to service by the British Royal Navy out in the North Atlantic. (We've written plenty on the beloved duffle coat.)

Memory serves, perhaps incorrectly, that a polar white or cream version was used by British Commandos in the Norwegian Campaign in the Second World War. I was hoping Gloverall might have one such for us, but to no avail. Perhaps next winter.

Pleated Trouser Gathers Momentum

Neat Pleats 
A year on from our in-depth report into the pleated trouser phenomenon, the appearance of folds on the front of our nation's trousers has gathered momentum.

Witness the Alfred trouser from Berg & Berg you see here. Alfred is available from one of our favourite Scandinavian outfitters as a handsome pleated trouser in navy and dark grey woollen twill.

What they are attempting with these Naples-made trousers is a commendable move away from the proliferation of uncomfortable low-rise, high-crotch trews that have been strangely popular for too long. The trousers have a higher rise and a wider thigh than other styles in the Berg & Berg trouser range — for which we are truly thankful.

The trousers come unfinished at the hem, which got me thinking about alternatives that could be offered to the customer of ready-made trousers. I bought a pair of Tom Ford trousers recently, purely because the thickness and rigidity of the cotton twill used in their construction was like nothing I've ever witnessed — and I felt a challenge to see how they would 'break in'. Swiss-made, by the way. The reason I mention them is that they came unfinished at the hem, but also with belt hoops unattached in a bag. As the trousers have side-adjusters, I haven't added the belt hoops, but the rise is suitable for brace buttons. I may release a few pictures some time, but what a jolly good idea. I'm all for more choice.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Safe Bets for the Cheltenham Festival

Straight Forecast
Prestbury Park is gearing up for the Cheltenham Festival this week. The Gold Cup, a chase over three miles long for horses over five years old, is running on Saint Patrick's Day. I'd like to wish our Irish readers a happy Saint Patrick's Day. It's a safe bet that most of you will be at Cheltenham for the festival this week — amongst the sea of brown trilbies and covert coats — so best of luck with your flutters too.

Cue Card or Native River are widely anticipated to take the prize — with the resultant low odds on each. Cue Card fell in the race last year, but he's priced to finish well and in good form. Both horses are trained by Colin Tizzard. You could back both in a Straight Forecast bet to amplify your certain winnings.

Delicious English Milk Stout for Saint Patrick's Day
Traditionally, a large quantity of stout is consumed at Prestbury Park during festival week. If our Irish friends can see it in themselves to drink an English stout on Saint Patrick's/Gold Cup Day, I heartily recommend the Spilt Milk stout from Bath's Electric Bear Brewing.

The street art-style labels and pump badges the brewery use for their beers aren't what a fuddy-duddy like me is used to — I'm a lions rampant insignia or Toby jug emblem kind of chap — but this English milk stout is terrific, with dark malts and lactose providing a delicious creamy coffee and chocolate taste. It's a veritable meal in itself.

Sláinte, my dear chaps.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Askwith Tall Billiard

Here Today: Tall Billiard
Chris Askwith has an absolute corker of a pipe available over at Askwith Pipes right now. The Tall Billiard with military mount and a handmade silver cap is a beauty. Look at the depth of that bowl.

As with all of Chris' pipes, it is stamped with Handmade in England and the year of production, and has the Askwith logo inset in the stem in sterling silver. At the time of writing, the pipe is still available, but you will need to be quick.

Gone Tomorrow: Ebony and Ivory Pipe
Late last year Chris brought out an Art Deco take on the bulldog style of pipe in black morta (bog oak) with an ivory stem (below).

The bulldog has a solid shape that is good for starting out in pipe smoking, which clenches well and and has a (generally) cool hold.

Obviously, this cracker was snapped up pretty quickly, but I really had to show it to you. What a marvel.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Cheaney - On the Street Where you Live

Cheaney in Covent Garden
Cheaney open their fifth shop in London and Northampton shoe-making goes from strength-to-strength. Thanks to people like you recognising quality craftsmanship, you will now see a Joseph Cheaney & Sons in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. The Made in England label has clout.

Speaking of Covent Garden, I watched the 50th anniversary restoration of My Fair Lady [Amazon] last night. What an absolute delight on every level. Intelligent, witty and such great songs. By George, they got it! I've mentioned the mediocrity of La La Land, but when you take in the visual majesty of the restored My Fair Lady — originally filmed in glorious (and rare) Super Panavision 70 — the contrast is utterly stark.

Back to Cheaney: The contemporary interior of their new shop presents the shoes amongst representations of the tools and materials used in their manufacture. Come, let's take a virtual tour:

New Arrivals
Hard to walk out that place without a shoe box under your arms. And if you head down to Cheaney's of Covent Garden now, you'll see the rather jolly Cheaney Brixworth has arrived.

The Goodyear welted Brixworth is a brown calf boot with suede ankle. The style has other colours and combinations, but this has the most contrast between leather and suede colours, which I think you prefer.

With the timeless styling of the Brixworth, they wouldn't look out of place in the Edwardian London of dear Henry 'Iggins. And I think the latter Eliza Doolittle would approve of their refined qualities.

We have to be so very glad that these styles are still in production and made available to us — and the atrocious Nike Inc et al couldn't quite kill off the British shoe industry by swamping our isles with its appalling neon clodhoppers.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Brackish Original Feather Bow Ties

In Fine Feather
On a road trip with friends from the Florida Keys to New York, a highlight stopover was Charleston, South Carolina, enjoying its ample southern charms; by which I mean hardly moving from a splendid bar in which we decided to pitch camp. The bar appeared to have some history and had a classic American layout, with a large square serving area at the centre. Ceiling fans on high ceilings cut the air slowly above our heads as we quaffed cooling, foamy beers to escape the sultry southern summer weather. I have no idea what the bar was called, but it comes highly recommended if it's still operating. And do consider exploring the old town of Charleston (preferably sober)  — named after our very own  King Charles II —  as it's rather well-preserved and splendid-looking.  

Brackish Ties, hailing from Charleston, do something rather unique and unusual with feathers. They use feathers to craft bow ties and other accessories by hand.

The idea for Brackish started in 207 when Ben Ross made a set of bow tie from turkey feathers for his wedding. A couple of years later, with partner Jeff Plotner, Brackish set up production in Charleston. The company now utilises the skills of fifty craftsmen.

The striking Etna bow tie in the top photo is made from pleasant pheasant feathers. The feathers are as nature intended so each tie is different. The complementary wraps in the centre of their bow ties are made from fabric or hand-stitched snakeskin. Due to the delicate nature of the materials they use to make the bow ties, they obviously come ready-tied.

For a white-tie occasion, the ruffled Carew from goose feathers adds a decadent touch:

Brackish accessories come in equally artisanal packaging. Each bow tie is pinned and mounted like a butterfly in a pine box.

Stick a Feather in Your Cap (or Lapel)
Stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni. Not quite with these subtle pins from Brackish, which can be pinned to a hat or attached to a lapel.

The pins are made from the thorns of wild plums, which are dried before the feathers are secured in place. The pins are presented in a copper box.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Shackleton's Plums in Brandy

Fruit in Brandy
Did you see the article on the 1914 Fortnum & Mason shopping list for Shackleton's Imperial Transarctic Expedition in Country Life's Ernest Shackelton’s arctic shopping list, and other secrets of Britain’s great shops? Fascinating.

Happily, the shopping list is preserved in Fortnum's famous archives. And speaking of preserving, it appears the expedition team had a fondness for fruit in brandy. As we never tire of pointing out, practically anything is improved when combined with a dash of alcohol.

I'm loath to consider a new expedition after the ill-fated Everest expedition (that never was). But if you were to put a shopping list together for your own expedition, obviously, you'll be opening an account with our dear friends at Fortnum's; but be sure to take a tip from Shackleton's crew and add a few jars of fruit in alcohol to ease the passage.

Vergers de Gascogne
Vergers de Gascogne have been bottling all manner of fruits with a dash of alcohol since 1935. I can recommend the Mini Apples in Calvados, Green Figs in Armagnac and Mini Pears in Brandy. Vergers describe the process as 'refreshing' the fruit with a glass of alcohol, and their combinations really bring out the flavours. They recommend the fruits are served as an aperitif, but they can also serve as decoration for cocktails or be matched with cheese and puddings.

How can you resist those little apples in a jar?

Our estimable new friends at Confit Direct supply Vergers' fruits in the UK as well as countless other mouth-watering French delicacies.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Tyrwhitt Border Tweed Jacket

Real Toucher
I haven't been into a Charles Tyrwhitt shop for quite some time.  I'm not sure why. They have some truly decent things. And it remains one of the few high street shops that continues to sell truly classic gents clothes. They haven't panicked and made their entire range too tight, too short, too deconstructed, too shiny and too skinny. The clothes are, to a man, smart and traditional. And a belated hat tip to the superfine 180s cotton range of shirts they used to stock. A great thing to be able to find on the high street.

And if the Bath branch is anything to go by, the smartly-dressed Tyrwhitt staff are reminded of the importance of good service, delivered in whispered, reassuring tones. This is how to gain custom.

I was encouraged to see that the selection of ties, for which CT is renowned, continues to impress. I was equally impressed with the Border Tweed Jacket you see here. Sometimes hidden gems can be right under your nose.

The jacket looks better in the flesh, as it were. The photos don't convey its softness — it's a real 'toucher' — through the composition of wool, cotton and cashmere in the fabric. By my estimation, the softness and lightness means you can wear this jacket right up to July. With a pair of cream slacks, you're laughing.

The jacket has a rose pink lining, real horn buttons and working cuffs. The fabric is made in the Scottish Borders by Kynoch. I'll be keeping my eyes on Kynock. They have some impressive textured tweeds that incorporate silk, cashmere, linen or cotton to interesting effect.

The slim-fit version of the jacket fits me like a dream, though there is a classic fit option for our wider friends. You may wish to consider it. You don't want to end up with the wrong type of regret.

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