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.
Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Fox - Keeping you Dry Since 1868
I finally got around to replacing my old Fox umbrella — with a new Fox umbrella. You can now buy directly from Fox and have a bit of a say on the colour of canopy, the handle and fitting you want.
Fox's colour chart has lots of nice plain colours and a few tartan ones too. American's are big fans of the Black Watch tartan; that one's available, for example.
I didn't want a black umbrella this time. I whittled down the colour choices to bordo (a wine/maroon colour), navy, dark green or dark grey. I went for the navy in the end.
Made in the UK, in Croydon, Surrey, the umbrella is a GT9, umbrella boffins — a Gents Tube (for lightness), with whanghee handle, gilt tip cup and matching navy case.
It's a beautiful thing to wield. Here I am practising a few defensive Sherlock Holmes-style bartitsu moves. Your umbrella should be like your right-hand man, always there when you need it.
With the choices available from Fox, I feel a collection of right-hand men coming on.
More Brolly Action
Monday, 3 March 2014
Built for the British Climate
For the rain it raineth every day. Or so it seems beneath the perma-cloud of Britain. The climate might inspire a certain lugubriousness, but you don't need to move to Hull and start writing introspective poetry, mulling a life of weather-related missed opportunities. All you need to do is to assemble the right kit to cope with the life aquatic — kit that can take a drenching — and then you can strut around like you're living in Luxor (very dry place) — oblivious to the wet.
Clouds can unload as much water as they want on the Barbican Shoulder Bag from Brooks England. It won't mind a bit. My Pashley Roadster Sovereign tipped me off about this bag. It's always on the look out for accessories. The bag is made in England from the same leather as the Brooks saddle my bike proudly sports, which is equal to pretty bloody tough. If it's blowing a gale, you can adjust the shoulder strap into a Sam Browne belt, as shown by the model below.
Friday, 28 February 2014
La Grande Bellezza
I'm going to tip The Great Beauty for an Oscar this year. It's up for Best Foreign Language Film and truly deserves it. I can't say I've seen the other films in the same category, but I know this film will take some beating. Certainly, if the betting odds are anything to go by: the film is 'odds on', and the best odds I've seen are 2/7.
And I watched this film twice over a single weekend, which has to say something.
The film was directed by Paolo Sorrentino with a painterly eye. The title of the film could be used to describe the cinematography; the film, using Rome as a backdrop, is shot so beautifully. The Eternal City has never looked so enticing, so sumptuous, and, well, eternal. This isn't the Rome of Acattone in Pasolini's film of the same name; another Tweed Pig favourite.
The protagonist of The Great Beauty, a journalist called Jep Gambardella — played by Toni Servillo — has just turned 65. The film starts with his 65th birthday party, a significant milestone in his life. We then witness the life Jep has established for himself in the city; the night-life of parties and seductions that has become an almost mechanical routine. We feel the emptiness and decadence of it all; the self-denial and repression beneath the gloss and the glitz.
Jep steps back and begins to examine the life he has led with creeping disillusionment. Does he feel fulfilled? Are the lives of the people he observes around him fulfilling? He can see beauty on the surface, but can he see meaning? Has he squandered the opportunity for real meaning in his own life?
The film is driven by dialogue that crackles with wit and venom. Precipitated by Jep's reassessment of his own life, he highlights the absurdity of the lives of his friends.
Interestingly, in the moments when Jep is enjoying simple pleasures away from his usual circle — observing children playing, eating soup with his editor, wandering the streets of Rome — the patrician mask falls and we feel he gets closer to the true meaning of beauty.
The film has a soundtrack of two halves. The dance music for the party scenes is largely forgettable, but the juxtaposing spiritual music of Arvo Pärt, Sir John Tavener, Vladimir Martynov and Henryk Górecki is used to dramatic, elegiac effect. Stay watching for its use in the long tracking shots of Rome in the end credits.
Cesare Attolini of Naples
A special Oscar-laden mention for the tailors behind Jep's relaxed yet elegant wardrobe. Cesare Attolini of Naples was involved in the creation of this stunningly bright look. Okay, I watched the film twice to look at the clothes.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014
The tailors Norton & Sons, of London's Savile Row, continue their fruitful collaboration with South Shields-based Barbour. A collaboration that makes perfect sense when you consider how Savile Row and Barbour's famous waxed coats embody classic British style.
With creative input from Norton's Patrick Grant, the Beacon Heritage range has a nautical theme for spring and summer; the fabrics and colours of the clothes inspired by the bold fishermen of the Atlantic and the rugged British coastline.
The Slicker Too Jacket
They've used one of your favourite models in the launch (above). The strikingly red-haired chap has been seen on these pages a few times. Who amongst us wouldn't want that colour of hair? I wonder if he'd be interested in being a Pin-up on our pages in an off-duty capacity? It would be a bit of a busman's holiday, I know.
I digress. He's wearing the Slicker Too Jacket, which you can also see below. The pared-down jacket is constructed of blue wax cotton, with green contrasts in the lining and under the collar. Good for a coastal stroll on either side of the Atlantic; good for fishing too, for that matter.
Monday, 24 February 2014
The Nursey Classic Sheepskin Coat
If the British people, as Churchill suggested, prefer to hear how bad things really are, then I won't beat about the bush. After five generations, Nursey (1846) — the family-run Suffolk sheepskin business, based in Bungay — faces closure next month unless a buyer is found. The famous Nursey sheepskin coat will be no more.
Are we taking this lying down? — no, we are not. A Churchillian response is required. I'm writing about the plight of Nursey here in the hope that someone with actual clout can do something about it. Is that Churchillian enough?
Here we see the Classic Sheepskin Coat above and below; it has four-button fastening, with front pockets and side vents. It's made in Bungay to last a lifetime. We can't let this name, and these coats, disappear and become yet another deceased but collectable British label on the vintage circuit — can we?
Let's not forget that the sheepskin coat was once a staple of British street style; it was very much a favourite amongst mods in the 60s and suedeheads in the 70s. And they would want for none finer than a Nursey. Nor should we.
Saturday, 22 February 2014
Cleeve of London
If you weren't aware, Drake's London has acquired Cleeve of London, maker of English shirts. This is tremendous news, not least because, historically, these small-scale hidden gems of British manufacturers have typically been absorbed into the portfolios of Italian or Japanese firms, who have had more of an appreciation of what they represent.
Fruits of the Acquisition
Drake's will certainly understand how this acquisition strengthens the ethos of their brand and the differentiation — in terms of quality and authenticity — that a made in England by Cleeve label gives to their shirt offerings.
The fist run of Cleeve of London Exclusively for Drake's shirts is now available. Below we have a red and white semi-fitted button-down shirt in English cotton.
A shirt made in England from English cotton by an English-owned company; there's an intangible yet satisfying harmony in this product.
Wednesday, 19 February 2014
Be a Tiger
S.E.H Kelly will always come up with the goods for no-nonsense, robustly British attire. A while back, an American reader inquired about weighty, tough-man British sweaters. And when we locate one, we disseminate; simple, sociable networking.
Take a look at this beast of a lambswool sweater from Kelly. Constructed in tuck-stitch, it's weighing in at an almost daunting ten-ply. Huge. Fantastic. In a sweater food chain it would be described as an 'apex predator' — the sweater equivalent of a tiger. By extension, if you wear it, you'll be a tiger too.
Details-wise, the sweater has a couple of stealthy little pockets, with English-made horn buttons, to tuck the hands in.
The sweater, or jumper if you like, is made on a hand-loom in the UK.
Monday, 17 February 2014
Merchant Fox - By the Command of the King and Parliament of England
If you're looking for something to wipe off all those kisses you received on Saint Valentine's Day, then what about the silk pocket square above? Actually, don't — it's not for that sort of thing. And what are they still doing on your face? It was three days ago.
The pocket square is from our very dear friends at The Merchant Fox. The design is a recreation of an artwork from their archives. If your Latin is ropey, the inscription says: By the Command of the King and Parliament of England, which has an association with the British East India Company; it's their motto, as I understand it.
What I find completely commendable about The Merchant Fox is that they have a great heritage (In Fox Brothers) that is leveraged in their support for British craftsmanship and manufacturing. This is no ersatz 'Britishness'. It's not a hollow brand — foreign-owned, and selling products made in a low-cost manufacturing base — with nothing but a logo designed to impress, and deceive, the Asian market.
Take a look at The Merchant Fox site and you'll see a Provenance tab for their products. It's all on display. What we learn about the pocket square is that it is printed by hand in Cheshire by an old-established firm. Good-oh.
Finished in France
By gad, sah! The Merchant Fox say they can only find Frenchmen up to the task of performing the hand-rolling of the edges of the pocket square. Whither the hand-rollers of this sceptred isle, this other Eden? I feel a new skill being sponsored by QEST. If you fancy reviving this — apparently dead — art, you may have little competition and a lot of demand.
Saturday, 15 February 2014
An interesting promotional video from Guinness on La Sape (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes) of Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. Très gallant et inspirational dandyism. They seem to have taken Baudelaire's entreaty to heart: "The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption; he must live and sleep before a mirror." Good show.
Compare with this relatively wealthy nation of ours, where it's not hard to see people who've been to the best schools dress intentionally like they have to forage in bins for their food.
Friday, 14 February 2014
Endless Pleasure, Endless Love
It's Saint Valentine's Day. Wading through all the anonymous cards and missives that have poured through your letterbox, and aim directly for your heart, you need to hear some music that can truly express the feeling of love in the air.
It's no use looking at the top 40. I think we need the top 1740s.
Rosemary Joshua, as Semele in Handel's opera of 1743, might just do it with Endless Pleasure, Endless Love [Amazon] out on Chandos.
St Valentine's Day Fancies
Let me adopt my best continental-style Renzo Cesana voice for Saint Valentine's day. Today, we shall live on kisses and champagne, and allow ourselves to be almost French-like in emotional openness — it's the champagne talking.
Let's get back to the traditional stiff upper-lip and reserve tomorrow though, please.
I think we should have some Roses de Reims biscuits handy too. We're bound to get a bit peckish later. The biscuits are made by Fossier (1756) of Reims, France.
Perfect for dipping in champagne since 1691.
Thursday, 13 February 2014
Eros - Love Your Beard
Following our recent highly successful trials of First Olympian beard oils, I've taken delivery of a new consignment of Eros. It's a big bottle this time.
I'm going to ladle it on and see if I can influence the outcome on St. Valentine's Day. I'm fully expecting to have red roses hurled at me by strangers in the street; and it's likely there will be an impromptu marriage proposal here and there. Science backs up this hypothesis.
Historical note: It appears that St. Valentine sported a beard of some significance if the Byzantine likeness above is anything to go buy. A beard icon, indeed.
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Tweed Things from Holland Esquire
A couple of tweed items from Holland Esquire, chaps.
Below you see the Dogtooth Tweed Jacket, which is followed by the Tweed Back Chunky Cardigan
The jacket is available in a limited edition of 20. Slim-fitting, it is made from Abraham Moon tweed with black suede arm patches. The resin buttons have hand-drawn illustrations of British dog breeds.
The dog above is called Jack “The Champion Ratter” — from owner Nick Holland's collection of weird and wonderful objects, and now stuffed for posterity. It is the inspiration for the jacket, and perhaps an inspiration to us all.
Here we have a combination of two of our favourite things: cardigan and tweed. The Tweed Back Chunky Cardigan has a back panel of tweed sewn in. Ingenious.
About Holland Esquire
Nottingham-based Holland Esquire was started by tailor Nick Holland in 2001, who designs each collection. Hand-stitched customisations and bright contrasting linings are features of their jackets, which are made in limited production runs.
Most of the fabrics used by Holland Esquire are from British mills and the designs are exclusive to them. I'm not sure where the clothes are made though, so it's label-checking time.
Monday, 10 February 2014
Eithen Sweet - Tailor
We've been trying to land Eithen Sweet as a pin-up ever since we saw him on Britain's Best Young Tailor a couple of years ago. It's been a bloody long time. He's busy. We're lazy. But now we have a splendid couple of photos and Eithen's fine words. Things work out in the end. What's the rush?
Eithen is currently bespoke cutter at Thom Sweeney. His passion for tailoring puts him at the vanguard of a new wave of custodians of timeless British style.
Thanks to Eithen for his contribution, and for adding a stylish lustre to our pages.
About the Photo
"It's all about clothing. It's really quite simple, I'm a tailor, 21, from the countryside, and like all tailors I'm obsessed by the idea of making the perfect garment.
"It began at 16, ripping apart jackets from charity shops and failing miserably at putting them back together. I needed to learn. At 17 I found myself on the row [Savile Row], standing outside Maurice Sedwell and too intimidated to ring the bell... I eventually did ring the bell and that was my lucky day. This is where it all began.
"I packed up and headed for the city. Fours years on, with much midnight oil burnt and plenty of misplaced needles, I'm a bespoke cutter in the world of Thom Sweeney
"Tailoring takes time, everything about it. There is always something to do and always something to learn. Which leads me on to my other love, it's still clothing it's just older: vintage clothes. For the first few years my Sunday job was working in Hornets of Kensington, my second home in fact. Any menswear enthusiasts would know this haunt. I met many a familiar face in there, and came across some authentic tailoring rarities, It's not often you can dive inside a bespoke tail coat from 1910. It's surprising what you can learn from an old coat. For me, this was priceless education.
"These past few years have particularly influenced my style. However much it changes or evolves, the more you learn about what you like there will always be an underlying continuity. Either way it always involves a suit and, fortunately, no longer a cigarette. The image above was taken at London Fashion Week in February 2011. The green glen two-piece suit is older than me twice over and had far more life experience from the get go. I found it one Sunday in Spitalfields market. I had just moved to London and was totally broke, but really wanted this suit. It had character, the cloth was amazing and the cut so intriguing. So, kindly, my Dad got it for me; but on the orders I alter it to make it fit me. Of course, I agreed. He was initially correct. It was huge, but I did my best to change that. Looking back now though, it could really have done with a better press... You learn.
"The suit means a lot to me, and that's also one of my favourite ties: a slim unbranded harlequin print. I used a small safety pin to try and get the same look as a collar bar. Now, not only was this suit a surprise hit at fashion week, but it was the first suit in my now growing collection.
"This one has a story, as do all the others, whether old and slightly moth bitten, or newly finished, or yet to made."
Here's slightly mysterious photo of Eithen at Thom Sweeney:
Saturday, 8 February 2014
A Tour of London Past
Thanks to the reader who got in touch about an old post on the short musical film, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize. Did I know that it was available on a DVD box set called The London Collection? No, I didn't.
The London Collection [Amazon], released by StudioCanal UK, is a five-DVD set of films with a London backdrop. As well as Bicyclettes, there's the terrific The Small World of Sammy Lee starring Anthony Newley, which is set in sleazy Soho; and the earliest of the bunch, a lesser-known Ealing film called Pool of London.
Take a tour of 1950s and 1960s London with The London Collection:
Pool of London (1951)
The Yellow Balloon (1953)
The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963)
Sparrows Can't Sing (1963)
The London Nobody Knows (1967)
Les Bicyclettes De Belsize (1969)
The London Nobody Knows
Here's a clip from The London Nobody Knows. My new favourite from the collection. It's a fascinating documentary showing life in London's least salubrious corners. Some of the scenes seem to vary little from the street life of Victorian London described in London Characters and Crooks.
The documentary is presented by James Mason, oddly. His mellifluous voice contrasts sharply with the decaying backdrops. It's a sort of juxtaposition piece against the more romantic view of London given in the TV programme, Elizabeth Taylor in London, which was broadcast a few years earlier.
Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Trunk Records - Music Rescuers
Trunk Records is a British independent record label run by Jonny Trunk (Jonathan Benton-Hughes). It specialises in resurrecting and releasing music that was in danger of falling into silent, undeserving obscurity.
The Trunk catalogue has excellent re-issues of jazz, soundtrack and folk recordings, amongst other genres, which Jonny has hunted down and rescued for posterity. Some of the music has never had a proper release before.
Informed and enthusiastic about his finds, Jonny writes engagingly of the artists and the music. It's clear he really wants us to hear and enjoy these hidden gems.
Couple of Hidden Gems
Music from Trunk that we must be grateful hasn't disappeared completely from the cultural sphere:
Pete Burman's Jazz Tête à Tête (above) is a splendid album of British jazz from the early 60s. Jonny believes it to be extremely rare and is not aware of anyone else who has ever been able to find it, let alone make it available to us.
Ennio Morricone: Early Works and Collaborations (below) is a charming album of Morricone's first film music and comes highly recommended by The Tweed Pig.
Original Peter - Record Hunting Bag
Jonny Trunk and fellow record collector Ed Grifiths have collaborated with our friends at Brady Bags to create a range of bags for holding records.
Original Peter was born of Jonny and Ed's frustration at not being able to 'find a proper, grown up, sartorially splendid, long lasting record bag. The sort of bag that would match a good, sturdy pair of English shoes.'
They found their match. Original Peter sells three versions of the Record Hunting Bag, with 7-inch and 12-inch sizes. All the bags are made in England of water-resistant canvas trimmed in English bridle leather. The bags have solid brass fittings and cotton webbing shoulder straps.