Saturday, 12 April 2014
I'm off to enjoy a few days R&R in Madrid. I'll wish you a Happy Easter, however way you choose to celebrate — be it eating chocolate eggs whilst watching The Robe with Richard Burton, or with palm-piercing and self-flagellation.
I'll be in Spain for Semana Santa, so there will be the traditional processions in most cities. They are quite a spectacle.
I've stuffed a few travel accessories in my 'hidden' breast pocket (above) for the trip. That's a vintage Liberty pocket square in the 'real' breast pocket.
Accessory # 1 - Chinchalero Cigar
The Chinchalero Reserva de Oro Epicure No.2 is a smooth day cigar, hand-rolled in Nicaragua, with a Honduran binder and Ecuadorian wrapper. The cigar was kindly sent by a reader who recommended it highly. Thank you, sir.
A very special thanks also to a London-based reader for a recent donation. The money was spent, as promised, on afternoon tea. It really perked me up, let me tell you. Perhaps there is a business in here somewhere.
Accessory # 2 - Uni Pencil
Have you tried the Kuru Toga mechanical pencil from Japan's Uni-Ball? You really must. I was lured by the technology of the pencil, which has a special mechanism that rotates the lead as you use it, keeping the point consistently sharp and lines clean. Use it with the incredibly strong Uni Ball Nano Dia 0.3 mm lead. The pencil makes for one hell of a doodling device.
Accessory # 3 - J. Herbin (1670) Pen & Ink
I bought this J. Herbin rollerball pen because it takes Herbin's wonderful inks. I like the look of it too, dash it. J. Herbin was established in 1670, and it is the oldest ink producer in the world. Herbin made ink for the likes of Victor Hugo and Louis XIV of France.
The ink cartridges come in little aluminium pots. I favour Bleu Nuit and Poussière de Lune. The pen and inks make for one hell of a scribbling device.
I'm all set for puffing, doodling and scribbling.
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
No Mystery Diet
Miss Marple lived to a ripe old age whilst retaining a mind capable of solving complex murder mysteries in genteel locations. What was her secret? We know she lived a simple spinster's life, but could it have been anything to do with her diet?
Let's assemble the facts.
Molecular gastronomy has its place, but sometimes you just want a nice poached egg. Here's a description I found of Marple taking breakfast in At Bertram's Hotel:
"A comfortable tray with a big pot-bellied teapot, creamy-looking milk, a silver hot-water jug. Two beautifully poached eggs on toast, poached the proper way, not little round hard bullets shaped in tin cups, a good-sized round of butter stamped with a thistle. Marmalade, honey and strawberry jam."Butter stamped with a thistle. And they say civilisation isn't in decline?
So Miss Marple enjoyed simple food — something she shared with James Bond, incidentally. What about when to eat? We know she enjoyed her tea-times most of all. She pretty much lived on afternoon tea, cake and sandwiches.
Tweedy's Fact: The afternoon tea is undoubtedly — ahead of our language — England's greatest contribution to civilisation.
So, facts assembled, if you want to try the the 'Miss Marple diet', it's easy to follow. You head to your local tea rooms and order a full afternoon tea, then repeat daily.
You can also try this diet at home. Here we line up a few useful items to get you started.
Teapot - Royal Winton (1888)
A teapot is essential. Made in Stoke-on-Trent, England, the 4-person pot above is by Royal Winton. It's from their Afternoon Tea range, incorporating the Florence pattern.
Royal Winton has been making fine bone china since 1888. They are famous for their chintz patterns. Take a look at the patterns they offer on their web site — so delicate and pretty; some would make nice patterns for ties, actually. The eyes get so used to tasteful Monocle reader minimalism the world over that these patterns seem almost rebellious. It's a shame the discontinued list is growing. Let's help to do something about that.
Chuck in the Chintz?
When Ikea launched its Stalinist purge of chintz from our shores in the 80s, with its Chuck out the Chintz manifesto, like sheep we obeyed. Who are they to tell us what to do? Is it time to bring a little bit of chintz back?
- Bakewell Pudding from the Old Original Pudding Shop. Traditional Bakewell pudding made, quite properly, in Bakewell, Derbyshire. You can purchase a year's supply of these 'naughty boys' to be sent one-a-month to your home.
- Victoria Sponge from Sponge the Norfolk cake makers — truly the Queen of cakes.
Monday, 7 April 2014
Ask a foreign bod where to go to get the English look and they'll say Savile Row and Jermyn Street; but when it comes down to individual shops London's Cordings is likely to be the first and only one on their lips. And not without reason. Since 1839, this shop has dressed the Great British in the greatest British country clothing: the dreadnought coat, the Newmarket boot, the tweed jacket, the corduroy trouser, the covert coat, the Macintosh, the tattersall shirt. Right-minded Anglophiles want a piece of that action.
Tweedy's Request: Cordings, if you have any archive advertisements, please send on and let me share. Our readers and I would be most grateful.
Enter Cordings today and — as well as seeing Eric Clapton and Graham Coxon trying on suits, and humming their latest songs contentedly (or Tweedy humming off-key) — you will see flashes of colour amongst the tweed.
I'm very impressed with Cordings' crisp cotton trousers in brightly elegant and unafraid colours. I was torn between the lime and the pink they have available, but went for pink in the end. They're an excellent fit and a flattering cut — not too narrow or too loose. They have a button fly and a French bearer to keep things smooth at the front. The cotton is perhaps a mid-weight, yet very sturdy to the touch. In Britain, you could wear these right the way through from spring to mid-autumn. These trousers are wardrobe classics and it's worth building up a collection.
Be quick if you want a pair. My Cordings contact says they have limited quantities of these trousers and they're being taken from the rails rather quickly.
Sunday, 6 April 2014
Come on, Oxford! Come on, Cambridge! Come on, dead heat! — it's happened once. The Boat Race is now in its 185th year. Let's hope neither boat sinks, and we get a well-matched race; and a bit of Sunday sunshine would be nice. Even for non-oarsmen, it can be quite the spectator sport.
Czech and Speake
Czech and Speake was founded by Frank Sawkins in the 1970s. His vision was to bring uncompromising quality to the bathroom, first through fixtures and fittings, then with accessories and fragrances. Frank is still at the helm, and he is still driving that vision. The company has showrooms in Jermyn Street and Pimlico Road, London.
Inspired by the quintessentially English sporting tradition of the Boat Race, Czech and Speake now supply a lavender-based fragrance called Oxford & Cambridge. The invigorating fragrance "contains a blend of English and French lavender, topped with herbaceous peppermint and rosemary essential oils with bergamot on a base of warm oak moss." It's available as an aftershave (below), or as a shaving soap, in the attractive looking aluminium dish (above).
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Ah, you know we're properly moving into Spring when the Boat Race and The Grand National appear on the calendar. This is quite the British sporting weekend, with the National on Saturday and the Boat Race on Sunday. They aren't normally on the same weekend, are they?
Crabbie's Ginger Beer becomes the new sponsor of The Grand National this year. How is that for a fit? It seems pretty good to me. I'm holding out for sponsorship of The Tweed Pig. We've had some very odd offers between you and me. Are we so hard to pin down, marketing-wise? You wouldn't believe that they'd read a single word on here.
Anyway, the bit you've been waiting for — my tip for the race. I'm plumping for a cautious each-way bet on Tidal Bay. Wishing all the riders a safe ride, and all punters the best of luck.
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
E. Tautz Trench Coat
You can never have enough raincoats living in the UK. I think we've all realised this recently. It is simply the most useful item you will have in your wardrobe. That's certainly the rationale I use for my continually buying them.
This one was impossible to resist. It's by E. Tautz (the ready-to-wear offshoot of Savile Row's Norton & Sons) and made in Scotland by Mackintosh.
This is a proper trench coat of rubber-bonded cotton, and in a classic cream colour too, with an engagingly zesty lining. It will be worn in rotation with my others, but a worthwhile addition to the collection.
The coat has some of the features you'll recognise from classic trench coats: raglan sleeves, waist belt with leather buckle, storm flap over the shoulders to the front, and cuff straps. I'm not quite sure what the loops are for under the collar, but I threaded one of my Peckham Rye scarves through it. I'm jolly pleased with it.
I'll be making one of my regular trips to Madrid soon, and this coat (along with the Fox umbrella) is coming with me. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, they tell me.
Much more on raincoats here.
Monday, 31 March 2014
The Poor can Only Afford the Best
The poor can only afford the best. Think about what that means. This astute aphorism has been adopted by our American chums at The 1906 Gents, whose mission statement is to "create heirloom-quality products that provide service and enjoyment for generations to come".
They make products with staying power, gentlemen. If there's one thing we should look for in anything we wish to live with, it is its intrinsic capability to last — form, function and materials. This is in diametric opposition to the fashion for the disposable and the media trend-driven that has permeated the culture of the 'Five Eyes' nations in modern times. A mindset that the poor could ill-afford to indulge in an earlier age.
About 1906 Gents
The 1906 Gents get their name from the United States Antiquities Act of 1906, which was passed to preserve natural and national landmarks. They are based in Springfield, Missouri and craft household products by hand.
Badger Hair Shaving Brushes
The 1906 Gents offer a range of badger shaving brushes. The Eliot has my attention, which uses silvertip hair (the softest and most water-retentive of the badger hair categories) and hand-turned handles made from exotic woods. You can select the wood and the shape of the handle. Being entirely handmade, the final product will be uniquely yours.
Saturday, 29 March 2014
Goodbye Horses - Hayden Thorpe and Jon Hopkins
Goodbye Horses [Amazon] is a contemporary art song recorded by Hayden Thorpe and producer Jon Hopkins in 2013. Hayden is the lead singer of the Wild Beasts, and bears a passing likeness to our famous Guernsey sweater larcenist in the photo above.
As regular readers will know, I'm a fan of the counter-tenor voice. Hayden sings in a pleasingly high and English-sounding register. Intentional — he has complained that too many of his British contemporaries affect an American-sounding vocal. I blame Mick Jagger.
We'll stick this song in the Music to Button a Cardigan By collection, but perhaps — with its chillingly confessional atmosphere — it would fit better in a Hitchcock-like Music to be Murdered By compilation. It's a song you might want to hear if you've just murdered someone, and now — as you're scrubbing the blood stains out of your pastel blue alpaca cardigan before the scene of crime officer arrives (good luck with that) — you're in two minds about what you've done.
The song was originally recorded by US singer Q Lazzarus.
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Big Sock Hunting
In the daily dozen resolution I made for you at the start of the year I mentioned an obscure British sock maker called J. Alex Swift. I'm pleased to say that I managed to get some of their socks in my cross hairs and bagged them. (How's your daily dozen going, by the way?)
You can see some green Swift woollen ones above, with my dependable suede brogues. Don't let anyone tell you that suede shoes wear out quickly. The ones you see are teenagers and have had at least four 'sole transplants' in that time. They're still running well for a weekend gad about.
The other Swift socks you see below are of a Donegal wool, which I'm very keen on. They look terrific with my Cheaney country shoes with grained leather. They're in the wash, otherwise I'd have taken another photo to show you. More Donegal socks for next winter, please, sock people.
About J. Alex Swift
John Alexander Swift established his sock making business in the Leicestershire village of Hathern in 1895. The company remains family-owned — with 3rd and 4th-generation Swifts at the helm — and it is still based in Hathern making English socks as an independent company. Music to Tweedy's ears.
They specialise in the manufacture of mohair and alpaca socks, with hand linking. Do seek them out.
Monday, 24 March 2014
David Minns - Bristol's Finest Tailor
We'll give London a wide birth this week. The pummelling to its reputation it is receiving as a 'pirate' city awash with ill-gotten foreign loot could reflect badly on all of us. Although, if any of that loot were to find itself stuffed into a paper bag and posted to Tweed Towers — no names, no questions — of course, ahem, we'll do our very best to help rebuild the good name of the city.
In the meantime, we head west to the scandal-free English maritime city of Bristol, where we find tailors and atelier Brown in Town.
David Minns (above) is the tailor behind the operation. You will find him, by appointment, at the converted Cigar Humidor at Bristol's Hotel du Vin; and he's now also offering tailoring services from the swinging Hoxton Hotel in London. If you're based in the West Country, seek out David to attend to your sartorial needs.
Thanks to fellow Fox Umbrellas enthusiast David for his contribution to our pin-up series.
About the Photo
"Brown in Town are Bespoke tailors and atelier; a comprehensive gents outfitters for both town and country, weekday and weekend, providing tweeds to tails, suits to separates also the essential gentleman's accoutrements; handkerchiefs, ties, pocket squares and umbrellas from Fox Umbrellas.
"And, as Bristol's local tailor, I take it upon myself to shine the sartorial torch wherever I go, and I never leave home without my trusted Fox Umbrella - whom I chanced upon during my tenure as an ex-pat living in South East Asia, where rain really is rain, and was perturbed by the slew of umbrella detritus in the streets each monsoon.
"During a visit home to blighty, I procured my first Fox Umbrella, and am now proud to be a stockist of this trusty 'Steed', if you'll pardon the pun!
"In this image I'm sporting a 3pc Vitale Barberis Italian flannel suit, complete with GT9 whangee handled Fox umbrella."
Saturday, 22 March 2014
Pointed Lapels for Pépé
It's been something of a pointed lapel week at The Tweed Pig. I was watching the French gangster film Pépé le Moko [Amazon] and the American remake Algiers [Amazon] back-to-back this week, as is my wont, and it struck me that the lead characters both wore single-breasted jackets with pointed lapels. This was not the case with the supporting characters. Social historians may be able to glean something from this. Was this style saying something about the character? Was it the gangster lapel of the time?
I'd recommend both films. Jean Gabin is a slightly grubbier and more authentic Pépé that Charles Boyer — who was terrific in Gaslight — but Algiers has the delightful Heddy Lamarr.
What are the Films About?
The original French film is an adaptation of the 1931 novel Pépé le Moko by Henri La Barthe. He also contributed to the screenplay. The American version tries to replicate the vision of the original film as far as possible.
Pépé is a thief who has fled France and created a gangster fiefdom for himself in the Casbah of Algiers. A beautiful Parisienne called Gaby arrives in town and, by chance, they meet. He falls in love with her and what she represents — the promise of a French life beyond the Casbah. His exiled heart still belongs to France. The authorities have vowed to arrest Pépé the moment he leaves the Casbah. Is he willing to take the risk?
I think it's due a remake, actually.
Pepe le Moko 1937 - Jeane Gabin
Algiers 1938 - Charles Boyer
Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Corneliani began in 1930s Mantua, Italy, when Alfredo Corneliani set up a business making coats. The business was parked during the Second World War, but was re-started by his sons in 1958, when Corneliani S.p.A was founded. It remains an Italian-owned family business that manufactures in Italy. We're not just about British classics at The Tweed Pig, we are about heritage and authenticity anywhere. Mainly British classics though, truth be told.
The Corneliani house style is traditionally structured, although their more casual lines offer floppier jackets if that's what you're looking for. They also do made-to-measure, which incorporates 150 steps and 27 hand-crafted stages, stats lovers.
Single-Breasted Cashmere Jacket with Pointed Lapel
I couldn't resist this Corneliani jacket in cashmere birdseye cloth. Made in Italy. I may take the sleeves up a bit, but otherwise a pretty good fit. The cloth was the selling point though; it's very soft and of a pleasing thickness. We've been talking about pointed lapels on single-breasted jackets recently. These are of the 'go big or go home' variety.
The cloth reduces the formality of the style though; enough to be able to use it as a daytime jacket. There is something of the maverick cop from a 1970s series about it. A cop that doesn't go by the book, but still gets results. He'll probably have his badge taken away, but he'll continue with his investigation to expose corruption at the very top.
Monday, 17 March 2014
Jackets with Pointed Lapels
We are in transition. Tiny notched lapels on single-breasted jackets are being jostled aside by muscularly large pointed (peaked in the US) lapels on single-breasted jackets.
Popular in the early twentieth-century, and on dinner suits, the pointed lapel and single-breasted combination has been the subject of bitter debate in recent times (from those who have the time to bitterly debate such things). The anti brigade are troubled by the seeming lack of utility and drift from their original function: pointed lapels can only be folded in and buttoned properly on a double-breasted jacket they maintain. There's some truth in this evolutionary thinking, but the utility debate is little specious. If clothes were entirely driven by utility, we'd all be wearing boiler suits.
That said, one style doesn't have to dominate; it's always good to see more choice. If it suits the wearer, it suits the starer.
What do pointed lapels bring to the single-breasted jacket? I think Tom Ford, or somebody similar, reasoned that they can give a more grown-up and masculine silhouette; and perhaps they look a bit less 'high street'. What are your thoughts?
Evidence from Paul Stuart
Here we present evidence on this pointed lapel shift from our Anglo-American chums at Paul Stuart. They have some very smart offerings from their new Phineas Cole range right now.
With clothes like this available off-the-peg, we may look back at this time as some sort of golden age in men's clothing, eh what? Even if that doesn't quite equate to the reality of what we see on the street sometimes. Why is that pseudo-Japanese brand Super Dry so ubiquitous?
You really need to see the whole Phineas Cole catalogue. It's very inspiring. The jackets look so good with waistcoats.
If you know where to look (The Tweed Pig) and where to shop (the brands we mention) there is really no reason to dress head-to-toe in sweat-shirting day in, day out.
Saturday, 15 March 2014
Victorian Gentlemen's Chair
Looking for a chair to watch the Six Nations Rugby from? What about something like the Victorian Gentlemen's Chair above from Lambert & Stamp?
Lambert & Stamp is a Cornish-based company that is best-known for restoring antique armchairs and upholstering them in Home Nations flags and classic book covers. They also apply their design work to new pieces.
The Union Flag is a very popular choice in design the world over. It's a bloody good-looking flag, but is that all? It maintains a youthful appeal — as a symbol of rebelliousness and individuality — as much as it conveys identity and tradition. Perhaps that has something to do with it?
Lambert & Stamp do commissions too. I'm not sure it's possible, but maybe other flags could be used on their chairs. I've been looking at what's out there, flag-wise, and there are some interesting designs. Did you know the flag of Mozambique has an image of an AK-47?
Wednesday, 12 March 2014
The Investment Potential of a Dressing Gown
Heating bills being as they are, a sensible investment would always be a woollen dressing gown. Good ones are hard to find, but here are a couple from Derek Rose that would repay the initial investment many times over in terms of gross domestic comfort.
Sherlock Holmes' Dressing Gown
The world of The Tweed Pig has collided a few times with Benedict Cumberbatch. Purely coincidentally — or is it? — here he is again. This time he's back as Sherlock Holmes (above) as he's wearing a dressing gown from Derek Rose we'd like to recommend. If his mug helps bring in the traffic, I'm not complaining. He is one of our favourite actors.
The Kensington 1 camel dressing gown is made from a blend of wool (90%) and cashmere. It has piped seams and a tasselled belt that you can swirl around when in a 'brown study'.
Grey Herringbone Dressing Gown
This is another Derek Rose dressing gown, but I don't think it's currently in production. Either that or it was made exclusively for Woods of Shropshire. The cloth used for this is smashing: a grey herringbone wool — timeless. As with gown above, it has a shawl collar and patch pockets.
Monday, 10 March 2014
Dixey Eyewear of London
C.W. Dixey & Son was established in 1777 — that's right 1777, the oldest eyewear company you'll find — by William Fraser. It started out as company that produced optical and mathematical instruments, but is probably best known for supplying specs to the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming.
You too can look like Winston Churchill with the round tortoiseshell Chartwell 01 frames (below) and the black half-eye Chartwell 02 frames (lower). Churchill himself 'designed' the white spots on the tips of the temples (arms). They're made in France.
I'm intrigued by the look of the Fleming spectacles below, and those bend-free temples. Is that a Dixey style? He looks a bit knackered in that photo.
Saturday, 8 March 2014
What Was Before is Left Behind
If a lesser-known British clothing brand struggles, it is invariably picked up by a Hong Kong-based rag merchant or an Italian holding company. It then has its eccentric Britishness squeezed out and its products made more saleable to a global market. All but the (trophy) logo is binned and the marketing deception begins. At this point, readers, the battle is lost; we regret the brand's passing and dig deeper for a hidden gem that can fill the gap.
Thankfully, there is no lack of genuine British sweater-makers to fill the sweater gap. We may sometimes have to seek out smaller-scale operations, but that's where the real hidden gems can be found. Swaledale Woollens is a sweater-making operation on a micro scale.
Swaledale Woollens — in the Yorkshire Dales, England — started life as a village cooperative in the 1970s. A shop was opened in the village of Muker. Locals hand-knitted in their homes to supply the shop with knitwear to sell; and this excellent enterprise continues today.
The wool used to make the knitwear is from the local Swaledale sheep, but also the neighbouring Wensleydale sheep (of cheese fame). The wool is spun in Scotland.
This is artisanal knitwear with excellent provenance. The Swaledale sweater above — the house style —is hand-framed and made from the local Swaledale wool.
Why not visit the shop if you're that way and give the locals (people and sheep) your support?
Tradcore Not Normcore
Too may words are being written about 'normcore', which seems to mean dressing like you couldn't care less about how you're dressed. If it's meant as a reaction to the fast-fashion-industrial complex, then a better bet might be to seek out the timelessness of the products we present on the pages of The Tweed Pig.
We'll call this philosophy 'tradcore'. Swaldale is a classic tradcore company: small, local manufacture; good provenance; timeless products; no deception. And featured by The Tweed Pig.