Friday, 24 June 2016
Sinking a Couple of Titanic Beers
According to reports, Edward John Smith, the captain of Titanic, was overheard calling to his crew 'Be British, boys, be British' as his ship went down. What phlegm! I imagine him standing with his hands behind his back, fate accepted. That's really the only thing you can do with fate.
You can read all about Captain Smith, as I did, on the back of a bottle of strong ale from the Titanic Brewery. I normally shift away from dark beers in the summer season, drifting into golden ales. But as fate (again) would have it, two bottles presented themselves to me, and, well, tasty is tasty. I may have to rethink my cast-iron customs.
They actually served an 'iced draught Munich lager beer' on board the Titanic. It needed to be an 'export' beer that kept and travelled well. The froth of the beer would have dampened a few Edwardian moustaches on that final night of April the 15th, 1912 — five days into the Titanic's maiden voyage. Life calls the tune and all that.
Titanic Brewery was so-named through Edward's association with the five towns of The Potteries in North Staffordshire. He was born in Hanley and Titanic Brewery are based in the adjacent Potteries town of Burslem (or Boslem, as they would say in those parts).
Captain Smith is a strong, full-bodied beer 'hoppy and bitter with a sweetness and roast malt flavour and a good strong finish'. It's a good, easy and thirst-quenching drink.
The second Titanic beer I sampled was a porter. I am very keen on porter — a dark beer, like stout, developed in London that became popular with porters, hence the name. Titanic's Plum Porter has won countless awards and in the summer sun the combination of late-addition 'Goldings hops and natural plum flavouring' was delicious. If Captain Smith was the main course, so to speak, the Plum Porter made for a very satisfactory afters.
Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Evocative Bathing Shorts
I took a weekend break to Staffordshire last week to visit Trentham Gardens, restored Italianate gardens originally designed by Capability Brown, but relaid in their current arrangement by Charles Barry. A splendid place. I hope plans to restore Trentham Hall on the grounds come to fruition. And such an excellent garden centre on site — it's simply enormous. You would want for nothing for your garden. I was particularly impressed by the hedging plants. I love hedges. Brown & Green food shop on site stocks some wonderful local produce too.
First into the Gizzi Weekender Bag — still going strong — went these top-hole bathing shorts from our Spanish friends at Swim and Co. Never be without a pair of bathers when you're travelling.
My Spanish friends put me on to these shorts, having spotted them in Anglomania, Madrid. The bods in the Salamanca district swear by them when they head to the coast.
My Cypress Paisley shorts come in a very fetching green paisley print, which will combine very nicely with tanned limb, beach sand, mojito and so on. They are a very soft and comfortable swimming short, with a colour that rather brightens up my wan from winter pelt. I couldn't quite capture the vibrancy of the green in my photos — though it's a very jolly green, let me assure you. Most like the professional photo at the top.
Made in Spain, the shorts are constructed using Giza cotton thread. We all know about the benefits of Giza cotton. The shorts also come in a rather splendid tube packaging — package fans.
Having passed the weekend with flying colours, these swimming shorts are certainly in the starting line up for the summer break later in the year.
Roll on the summer bathing.
Tuesday, 21 June 2016
Why Should Anyone be Frightened by a Hat?
Quick — a break in the clouds — pass me a Panama hat.
The hats you see here were made by Christy's for Paul Smith, giving a twist with their unusual but wearable colours, breaking from the traditional light beige. As I've mentioned before, I've been winkling out some British classics from Paul Smith's collections. I'm particularly fond of the blue hat, but both provide the necessary summer spirit and dash.
The hats were woven in Ecuador and made in England. The weave isn't anywhere near the fineness of the ultimate Panama, but it appears to be quite uniform and tight.
A Panama hat requires a little sunshine to work as nature intended; allowing the wearer to go out in the midday sun impervious to the heat. If the heat really is getting to you, don't wilt. Looking hot and bothered in a Panama hat just isn't done.
The hat also provides a temporary cover should the opportunity of a nap arise after a slap-up summer picnic.
Thursday, 16 June 2016
Do Shoelaces Matter?
If you have been wondering about Bertie —our asset in Melbourne —wonder no more. He hasn't turned double. Far from it. He's been on a deep cover op intel gathering on the international trade in shoelaces.
Let's see what he's found out so far...
My dear Tweedy
There are moments, Tweedy, when one asks oneself “Do shoelaces matter?” So I thought I’d better write to you because I know you’ll provide sage advice on this most unexplored of issues.
My own research has revealed two odd things about shoelaces: one, the Chinese saying “Never tie your shoelaces in a melon field if you want to avoid suspicion” and, two, an international trade in shoelaces that starts somewhere near the Burlington Arcade and finds itself in the eyelets of shoes walking down Collins Street, Melbourne (and perhaps the pavements, footpaths and sidewalks of other cities around the world where men who care about shoes walk).
The international trade I refer to is quite particular, having recently fielded a number of enquiries about where to get round, waxed shoelaces. I've even heard of orders being placed with those heading off on an overseas junket to bring back "those laces that came with my shoes from Northants".
So I come back to the question: do shoelaces matter? And if they do, where can one find a reliable supply of laces?
Thanks very much, as ever, Bertie.
By the way, Bertie: The snow this year is better at Innsbruck.
Talk of shoelaces can make seemingly well-balanced people highly agitated. We all have strong opinions on them. First of all, there's the choice of colour. If you start adding contrasting coloured laces to shoes — like the skinheads with their Doc Marten boots — will it appear a little affected and attention-seeking? Or is it adding a stylish contrast? I think the answer will depend on the combination and the circumstances. Wearing red laces in a pair of mid-tan Tricker's brogues to the pub is not unreasonable. I quite like the idea. Wearing yellow laces in a pair of black Oxfords to your court case is most unreasonable. I don't like the idea.
The Cheaney shoes below show the potential and potency of sharp (and confident) contrasts in a co-respondent shoe, as popularized in the 1930s.
If colour is a minefield of potential sartorial blunders, then stick to the same colour as the shoe.
Have you considered the Original Laces Company of Maldon in Essex, Bertie? They make a range of shoelaces by hand, and accept specific requirements for making bespoke laces. They supply laces for Foster & Son.
They make shoelaces in 'any colour of length' from 'waxed cotton, polycotton and striped grosgrain', which are tipped with metal aglets — silver aglets on request.
Most people will suggest flat laces for dress shoes and round laces for casual shoes. A Fine Pair of Shoes stock laces in black and brown and coloured — waxed and unwaxed — as used by British shoemakers. Flat and waxed laces stay tied better, but it's all a matter of choice.
Incidentally, if your shoelaces don't have a metal aglet, I read that dipping the ends in clear nail varnish will make them a bit more robust.
And if your next mission gets a bit hairy, Bertie, don't forget a good shoelace also makes a fine makeshift garotte. Remember your training.
Wednesday, 15 June 2016
Perfume Where You Want to be Kissed
Major Despard took a real disliking to Mr. Shaitana in Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table: 'He was too well dressed — he wore his hair too long — and he smelt of scent.' This was enough to make 'the toe of [Despard's] boot fairly itch'. The beef Despard clearly has with Shaitana is that he's overdoing it, which is cause to arouse suspicion in the character of any man.
With scent, you don't want to overpower people. You want to attract, not repel. The scent should be noticeable only when someone is close to you — they say you should add perfume wherever you wish to be kissed.
The right scent has all the subtlety, restraint and balance worked out for you, as can be found with a superb fresh new cologne from Gruhme.
Gruhme cologne — a natural preparation — is described as a woody aromatic 'with top notes of juniper berry, organic black peppercorn, bergamot, lemon and lavender, a heart of patchouli and cedar, on a base of oakwood amber musks interlaced with traces of cumin, celery seed and petitgrain'.
There are two versions of the cologne: the original with a 10% concentration they recommend for the day, and the No. 14 with a 14% concentration they recommend for the evening.
I've been using the No. 14 — going for a sort of German expressionist cinema effect in the bottom photo below, as befits the black and chrome deco elegance of the bottle. The cologne is fresh and zingy and will be a wonderful scent for summer. (I shall certainly be packing a bottle for hols this summer.)
The scent lingers, but does not outstay its welcome. Mr. Shaitana certainly would not have offended the sensibilities of Major Despard had he been wearing Gruhme. In fact, I'm pretty sure they would have become best friends and Despard would have acquired a bottle himself.
Gruhme is based in Birmingham, England. Their perfumes are manufactured in the UK. The company was founded in 2013 by Rob Hallmark whose mission was to offer a fresh and individual alternative to the mass-market offerings of the 'global conglomerates and creative superpowers' that dominate the industry. Rob sees Gruhme as a return to tradition.
Tuesday, 14 June 2016
Hot Enough for June
We've had three days of continually pleasant weather, with actual breaks in the cloud and only a smattering of rain. The British summer has arrived. At least it has in the area out to the Mendips I can see from the turret at Tweed Towers — my fortress of inactivity. The weather has sweetened the idle hours spent looking out at the crows nesting in a nearby tree. They seem content to perch for hours on end, completely inanimate; and I expect they draw similar conclusions about me.
The crows are stuck with their unseasonal black feathers, but for us it's time to put away the heavy woollens and weatherproofs and display some brighter, lighter plumage — duds expressing summer suitability in fabrics like fresco and mohair.
And hopsack. Look at wide-openness of the hopsack weave on this vintage Maurice Sedwell jacket (which put in a brief appearance with Bond & Knight's Origami Wallet —still going strong). If you can get past the incredible hand work that produced it — the turned-back cuffs, the lining stitched in by hand, the hand-stitched buttonholes, the dimples of the hand-sewn canvas behind the lapel.
(Our good friend Davide Taub used to be cutter at Sedwells.)
The jacket fits as well as a jacket made for someone else can. Actually, that's underselling it somewhat — it's a great fit. I'm lucky someone else was unfortunate enough to have a peculiar body shape like mine. As is usual, I saw the jacket and could not bear the idea that a piece made with such craftsmanship would fall into the hands of someone who would not appreciate it. Even if I never wore it. Though I do. And it works well with the Santamaria shirt.
Do you know? I can't swear it, but the hopsack used on the jacket might be from the classic Sunbeam range of Harrisons. Sunbeam is a hopsack made from 80% super 100s wool and 20% silk. The cloth from the jacket certainly looks very similar in colour to Sunbeam 28655 (below). For the purposes of this post anyway.
Friday, 10 June 2016
'Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.' — Kierkegaard
As we've stated on several occasions, anything can be improved by slowing down. Eating well means not thinking about how quickly to get through a mealtime to get on to another task — it means actually taking a break to enjoy the food and the company.
The Slow Food movement started in Italy in 1986 to push back on the deleterious effects of fast food habits, on what we ate and the way we ate it, and the way we spent time eating together. The movement advocates 'sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses' and sense of place in opposition to 'globalization of agricultural products'.
The movement has spread. I enjoyed a very nice meal in Asturias, Spain, recently at the hotel and restaurant Eutimio (top picture) in the coastal town of Lastres. Eutimio is part of Slow Food Spain and specialises in dishes that use the local seafood. Eutimio is part of a Slow Food initiative called KM 0, where all ingredients are sourced less than 100km (62 miles) away. A KM O sign outside a Spanish restaurant is one indicator that you're going to eat well.
The principles and objectives of the Slow Food movement have become more mainstream in recent years. Restaurants will now proudly boast of their local sourcing of food, sometimes to a zealous degree. Many restaurants now grow and rear their own ingredients. Local to Tweed Towers we have The Ethicurean near Bristol and Roth Bar & Grill at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Bruton, both committed to Slow Food ideals. We also have the Brown and Forrest smokery near Taunton; and for local fish and seafood on the coast of neighbouring Dorset, we have Crabhouse Café in Weymouth and the Hive Beach Café in beautiful Burton Bradstock. There are so many others.
UK-based readers can use the Slow Food UK website for information on the movement's activities in 'celebrating the rich food traditions of the different nations that make up the UK'.
Incidentally, The Ethicurean produces its own English Vermouth, The Collector, which is made from twenty botanicals they grow in the walled garden of their restaurant. Vermouth is a splendid drink for opening the appetite, and in Madrid it is sold on tap by the barrel as an accompaniment to all the tapas and jamón you may wish to scoff. Every time I write the work 'jamón' I just want to eat a plate of delicious jamón Ibérico de Bellota.
We should offer an unhurried saluti to Carlo Petrini for his no-less-than heroic efforts in starting the Slow Food revolution so that restaurants and suppliers could face off the onslaught of fast food chains and fight back successfully to keep delicious (seasonal and local) options on restaurant tables.
Thursday, 9 June 2016
Ultimate Nail Clipper
You may be able to tell a gentleman by his shoes —some would say specifically the sole of his shoes when kneeling in church — but attention is invariably directed at the condition of hair and nails to get a snapshot of general grooming habits. (Unless confronted by ear plates or a septum piercing, then first thoughts may never get beyond the naffness of the facial trinkets.) On the nails front — overgrown fingernails on a man can induce horror, indicating a terrifying laxity in matters hygienic.
Keeping nails trimmed needn't be a chore when introducing the right tools. I've been more than content with using the excellent Swiss-made Rubis nail clippers to keep my nails in good order; but then along come the fellows you see above and below and, well, the old apple cart is somewhat upset.
Looking slightly terrific, the Khlip Ultimate Clipper arouses a sudden sense of inconsolable desire — or sehnsucht —in the heart. I go like that sometimes.
I'm sure I can accommodate more than one pair of clippers by keeping a pair for travel.
Billed as the 'world's first ergonomically correct nail clipper', the Khlip Ultimate Clipper puts you firmly in the driver's seat when it comes to clipping nails. The ingenious mechanism — borne of Khlip's 'obsession with design and egonomics' — means that the clipping lever has been reversed to give more control and increased leverage.
The clippers are built from surgical stainless steel with engineered blades offering a smooth cut and a cavity to stop clippings from flying all over the bathroom. The clippers are made in Japan with assembly in Vietnam.
Festooned with awards from around the world, I sense a future classic in the world of nail clippers.
Remember though, after clipping the nails it shouldn't end there. Always use a clean and sanitary nail brush to give them a nice polish over the top. Don't think people won't notice.
Wednesday, 8 June 2016
Bet on the Nile
The Italian shirt fabric makers Albini Group, which incorporates the famous Thomas Mason shirting brand — founded in Leeds, England, in 1796, with production and archives (sadly) shifting to Bergamo, Italy in 1992 — claim that the silky handle of their shirting fabric made with Giza 87 cotton 'does not in any way degrade over time'. With repeated washing, the 'softness [of the Giza cotton] increases' and the 'original brightness is absolutely maintained'.
Giza cotton is certainly the fabric du jour, with Giza cotton something or others being unleashed with gusto this summer. What is so special about Giza cotton? And what the hell is that '87' in aid of?
Giza clearly tells us that the cotton comes from Egypt. In fact, Albini has its own cotton fields along the Nile delta, with the perfect sunny and humid conditions for growing the best cotton. The classification of cotton is based on colour, strength and length, with some of the finest quality cotton being Egyptian-grown. The best cotton is exceptionally bright with an unblemished whiteness. The longer the cotton fibres the finer the thread and the higher the thread count, which gives added strength, softness and lustre.
Giza 87 belongs to the extra-long staple group of exceptional cottons with a high uniformity of 87%. The uniformity means less manipulation of the fibres so that its natural properties are retained. Albini's Giza 87 cotton is cleaned by hand in Egypt, then passed over with a camera to zoom in on any impurities that are blown out with a jet of air. The result is a raw material so 'white, bright and silky' that Albini uses it specifically to make the brilliant white shirting fabric for their Thomas Mason Goldline collection, which they introduced in 1996.
Also in their Goldline collection is shirting made from Giza 45. Now Giza 45 is simply the very best Egyptian cotton, quite possibly the capo de tutti capi of all cotton grown in the world. (Sea Island cotton gives it a run for its money.) Giza 45 is extra-long, highly uniform, super thin and super strong. Produced in small batches, Giza 45 makes some of the very best shirting material.
Any shirtmaker worth their pinking shears will have Goldline swatches from Albini to choose from. If you are looking for something ready to wear, then Hackett's Mayfair collection of shirts (top picture) are made from Thomas Mason Giza 87 cotton.
If you want something more casual for your summer wanderings, Fedeli (1934) of Monza, Italy, do a selection of classic polo shirts and long-sleeve shirts in Giza 45 cotton, such as the one below.
Tuesday, 7 June 2016
Macclesfield was once the centre of the English silk weaving industry and the world's biggest producer of finished silk. In its heyday, over seventy mills operated in the town. Why Macclesfield? The town is close to a water supply that passes through limestone, and when used in washing and dyeing it gives silk a uniquely attractive (and natural) lustre. Down and almost out — thankfully we don't quite have to look back and commemorate Macclesfield's past silken glories due to the continuing success of silk printers Adamley.
Adamley has been active in the silk printing industry since 1700. They still practice hand printing techniques, the demand for which keeps the skills alive in Macclesfield and the tradition passed on to the next generation.
I know you're more interested in the hand printing, but Adamley is also equipped with the latest digital printing systems to enable the company to compete on two complementary fronts.
The acquisition of age-old hand printing techniques requires that Adamley's artisans are given the bandwidth to develop their skills over time. Dyes are mixed by hand for printing on raw silk finished at the factory. Designs are engraved by hand on silk screens. Each colour incorporated into a design is applied with a separate screen, creating layers that demand total accuracy and deft hands in positioning. Weight and pressure play a part in hand printing too, as well as a finishing process that locks in the vibrancy of the print and prepares the finished cloth for years of enjoyment.
Printing on a small scale means that commissions can be equally limited to create truly unique and bespoke items — a commission can be to create a print run for a single tie or pocket square.
Adamley also has the luxury of being able to draw from an extensive archive built over three hundred years. The print above uses a combination of archive design and animal print to create something new and rather fetching.
At Tweed Towers we are naturally drawn to this traditional print:
E. Marinella British-Italian Ties
Such is the attraction of the printed silks produced by Adamley, E. Marinella — who started out in 1914 as a supplier of the 'English look' in Naples — insists on nothing else for their printed ties. They make a very limited number of ties from each design, typically in their signature micro patterns, such as the Vespa Print tie here.
Don Eugenio Marinella, the founder of E. Marinella, had some tips on choosing a tie. He recommended a lighter and patterned tie in the day and darker tie in the night, and ties — naturally — must always be darker than the shirt. Changing ties according to the time of day sounds awfully civilised, like changing fragrances.
Classic English Madder
Drake's generally has one or two silk ties that have been hand printed by Adamsley using the dusty English madder process and dyes, which are typically produced in a paisley pattern like the beauty they currently have in stock below. Look at how the light blue stands out — gorgeous.
Anecdotal evidence in south Somerset tells me that there's been a real resurgence in the wearing of madder ties in recent years. This is good news for fans of the (ancient) classics and also for our new chums at Adamley.
Thursday, 2 June 2016
Fashion vs. Style
Watching the 1973 David Hockney feature The Bigger Splash the other day, I was rather proud of spotting a detail that others watching the film didn't notice. A close-up showed Hockney — Or was it someone else? — ringing the doorbell of a house in Kensington. I think it was the house where the designer Ossie Clark was living. Anyway, I noticed the name on one of the nameplates said 'Manolo Blahnik'. Surely it had to be the Manolo Blahnik. I suppose it didn't have to be, but I think it was and told everyone. If ever you watch the film, and you might want to only if you enjoy Hockney's work or seeing London before it became a global commodity, look out for the nameplate.
With a penchant for bow ties, opera pumps and well-cut suits, Bath resident Manolo is one of those rare fashion designers who eschew fashion for timeless elegance. And 'twas ever thus. That's Manolo in the top picture from the 1970s in a classic Tommy Nutter of Savile Row suit.
From the photos below you might want to take inspiration from his use of colour and combination.
Into The Elegant Male he goes.
Opera Pumps for You
I thought you might want a pair of Manolo's opera pumps after you had seen them. The pump, slipper or tuxedo shoe is a staple of the Manolo Blahnik men's collection. Colours vary depending on the year.
This year the Toro model comes in classic black patent leather with grosgrain bow. Made in Italy, the shoe is lined in kid leather for supreme comfort.
What do You Call Modern Nowadays?
Wise words and a nice turned-back cuff in this short interview Manolo made for Vogue. Manolo believes that trainers ruin the beauty of feet by turning them into flippers. He also has no idea what classifies as modern nowadays. I think we can gather that from his heroic continuation of the opera pump — a reflection of a gentler more dignified age informing his aesthetic.
Wednesday, 1 June 2016
Travelling through India a few years back, I took an unscheduled diversion from Jaipur (easily the moustache capital of India) animated with high expectations at the prospect of a tiger-spotting safari through Ranthambore National Park.
The tigers remained elusive. I often look back and wonder if my dress had anything to do with it. I hadn't packed for a safari. Animals pick up on these things. Why should they make an effort if I didn't? If I'd looked the part, a nice safari jacket and some classic binoculars hanging on a leather strap around my neck — like Prince Philip above — maybe the tigers would have made more of an effort too. Note how the elephant in the photo eagerly gravitates towards Prince Philip. If he'd been wearing a singlet and flip flops, it wouldn't have come anywhere near him. And who could blame it?
If you're thinking of going on safari this year, don't make my mistake. Respect the wildlife you are gawping at by dressing appropriately. You'll reap the rewards.
This is an interesting safari shirt from a collaboration between Orlebar Brown and Gieves & Hawkes. The Ranthambore tigers would appreciate the classic safari touches of epaulettes and bellowed chest pockets. They might also be surprised and delighted to learn that the 'camouflage' design is actually based on a map of the Congo made by Dr. Livingstone, so Orlebar Brown tell me. This could look well under the eye-catching beige belted safari jacket from Chucs Bertie recommended in one of his letters from Melbourne.
The safari shirt from Budd Shirts (below) ups the pocket ante with four box-pleated pockets at chest and hip. The shirt is made in the UK — Andover to be precise — from linen supplied by Harrisons of Edinburgh.
Private White are stocking an updated version of the safari jacket (below) in a lightweight, ventilated Tropical Weave cotton that uses the patented Ecoseam water-repellent finish. I'd be tempted to wear it as a shirt and drop a neckerchief into that open collar.
The open weave of the cloth would be perfect for a safari. Any self-respecting tiger, or lion for that matter, wouldn't fail to be impressed by the attention to form and function.
Your usual Jermyn Street suppliers will have further safari shirting options for the details you require. Prince Charles shows the way to wear a safari shirt with a standard spread collar and belt (first picture below) — excellent sunglasses. In the second picture he wears a shirt with a traditional 'camp' collar. I like the idea of wearing a dress watch with a safari shirt, as in the second picture, instead of an oversized sports watch.
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