Friday, 12 February 2016

Tweed Magazin mit Der Tweed Pig

Page 113 of Tweed Magazin
The February edition of Tweed Magazin popped through the letterbox last week. I'm yet to find a better way of avoiding working than flicking trough the pages of Der Tweed. This month's edition features an excellent selection of reviews, articles and recommendations for the tweed-inclined. I flicked through a trouser special, a lengthy article on the timeless appeal of Steve McQueen's style, a useful guide to Zurich, advice on sampling rum, plus a rather excellent feature on traditional watchmakers.

Plenty of material to aid procrastination. But there came a tea-spilling moment when I reached page 113. I adjusted my reading glasses. Was this right? Yes  — The Tweed Pig was being featured in Tweed Magazin.

Naturally, I removed my corduroy trousers, my Alden All Weather Walker shoes — more on them later —  and my Burlington knee-length Argyle socks (licensed to Falke in Europe) to create a photo assemblage that properly captured the moment.

What does Tweed Magazin have to say about The Tweed Pig on that very special page 113? Well it says that The Tweed Pig places its slightly eccentric focus on rarities rather than fashion trends. And will appeal to like-minded Anglophiles. That is entirely our aim.

Tasting Note: I paired Tweed Magazin with a white chocolate made with crushed cardamom pods by Nomnom Chocolate of Carmarthenshire, the aromatic spiciness of the cardamom and the creaminess of the chocolate complementing the male-focussed lifestyle articles perfectly.

More on Nomnom Chocolate shortly.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Button Queen

Are They or Aren't They?
You know how it is, you keep looking at the buttons on a jacket and thinking, 'Are they or aren't they?' I was never quite convinced that the buttons on my vintage glen check cashmere jacket were real horn. The doubt that they weren't was building and affecting my enjoyment of wearing it. I wasn't losing sleep exactly, but the jacket wasn't coming out of the wardrobe. I'm not against good acetate numbers, but this jacket demanded horn and I wasn't entirely satisfied it had horn.

What to do? It's not as easy as one might expect to know what material was used to make a button. If the swirls and colour variations on the buttons are uniform, then that tends to indicate that they are not horn. But acetate buttons can be manufactured to have uneven colours, and be lathed by hand like the best horn buttons. They also feel similar to the touch , though you might feel a graininess on horn buttons, and make a similar sound when tapping. Biting a button won't reveal much (unlike mother of pearl on shirt buttons, which feels harder and colder when nibbling than plastic). You might spot a seam on plastic buttons, but then again you might need a microscope to do this. Burning will reveal something: horn will smell and plastic will melt, but then you may ruin a perfectly decent button.

As there was no sure-fire way of knowing with the buttons I had, it was decided. I would buy horn buttons from a reputable button merchant and replace them. For the grey jacket, I chose polished four-hole hand-crafted suiting buttons in dark horn from The Button Queen of Marylebone, London.

You can also find good buttons at haberdashers MacCulloch & Wallis (1902).

I am very satisfied with the buttons. If I have a complaint, it is that the person who replaced the buttons on the jacket didn't quite shank them as I would have liked. They are slightly too tight to the jacket. Here we go again...

Monday, 8 February 2016

Year of the Monkey Tea from Mariage Frères

Beautiful Tea for Beautiful People
We tend to think of the French as inveterate swillers of coffee, dunking their croissants into thick, gravy-like breakfast coffee as they offer their first Gallic shrug for the day. It may surprise you to learn that they have a proud tea tradition with a long heritage that began in the 17th century.

For example, Mariage Frères — British outpost in Selfridges, London — a French tea company founded in 1854. Like we British, Mariage Frères has long recognised that tea offers a more sophisticated taste experience over coffee, with more variety, subtlety and richness in flavour. Mariage Frères has over six hundred blends to choose from, which coffee is going to struggle to match.

With typical French panache, the packaging of Mariage Frères lives up to the fineness of their tea blends. They've produced the blend (above) for the Year of the Monkey (or singe), which starts today. The blend is a white tea, with citrus notes of mandarin, clementine and orange, safflower and goji berries. Yum yum, it's a veritable salad sitting on the spoon there.

Note that the lacquered tin is silk-screened by hand.

At this stage I should make a monkey-related joke, like you should go bananas for this tea, but I will just leave you with this charming little film from great friends of The Tweed Pig, British Pathé (as ever) showing a chimps' tea party at London Zoo in the 1950s. Simpler times and excellent table manners from the dear old apes in the beer garden.

It's your year, chaps.

Fearless Collars from Edward Sexton

A Collar that Speaks Its Mind
Edward Sexton has given a lot of consideration to achieving as flattering an effect from their current line of ready-to-wear dress shirts as is possible. The collars are tall so that they sit elegantly around the neck well under a jacket. As any mod will tell you, deep collars are best. The points of the collars are deep too, recalling the shirting salad days of the thirties. These are bold shirt collars — don't be shy with your collars, gents. And the collars are built to give the tie pride of place with tabs and pins to help lift and separate, pushing the tie into magisterial prominence. These collars are designed to say, 'There is nothing casual about me. If you want casual I'm sure there's a shop in the high street that sells flip-flops and hoodies. Now clear off.' I like a collar that speaks its mind.

The seams of the shirt are single-stitched and have set-in sleeves that fit entirely smoothly against the body without puckers. As any tailor will tell you, a faultless finish on a set-in sleeve requires the process to be slowed down — it can't be rushed.

In blue and white combinations, my favourites are the Sky Blue Tab Collar (above) and the Mid-Blue Bengal Stripe Pin Collar (below). Imagine them with Thurston braces. For my grey suit, I would be happy to see either of these in red.

What are you waiting for? Go get 'em.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Photographer - Cecil Beaton

We've only mentioned society portraitist Cecil Beaton in passing so far. Cecil was born in 1904 and after a patchy education at Harrow and Cambridge expanded an interest in photography into a decades-long profession. He became well known for his portraits of the 'Bright Young Things' — like Stephen Tennant — in the 20s and 30s. He also worked for Vogue and Vanity Fair as a staff contributor. In 1931 he met fellow photographers George Hoyningen-Huene and Horst P. Horst, exchanging ideas that would set a sophisticated aesthetic for fashion photography that reverberates today.

As with Edward Steichen, our Photographer series introduces the photographer and a sample of their portraits from a male perspective. It does seem that every photographer worth their salt in the first half of the twentieth century took a portrait of Winston Churchill.

(Yes, that's Cecil Beaton walking along the street with Greta Garbo below.)


Stephen Tennant

Sir Winston Churchill

Gary Cooper

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Ugly Truth About Storing Pills

I'm sure you are the sort of person who needs an organ to fail before you will consider seeing a GP, and only then with profuse apologies for wasting their invaluable time. You understand that a dose of aspirin and a splash of whisky in your tea will see you through most ailments.

Rather than keeping those reliable little pills in a beaten-up old box and a blister pack, you might want to keep an eye on the better auction houses for a nice pill box to place about your person or keep on your bathroom shelf next to your lovely copper bath.

Who'd have thought pill-popping could be so refined?

Mussel Gold and Enamel Pill Box
Above you see a nice vintage mussel-shaped pill box from Tiffany in enamel and gold. I forget who auctioned one of these recently, but they're not hard to spot in a crowd.

Engine-Turned Georgian Pill Box
Here's a Georgian (1812) London-made pill box in engine-turned 18ct gold auctioned by Christie's (1766).

Gold and Opal Pill Box
Finally, a 1950 gold and opal pill box made by Cartier in 1953 auctioned by Sotheby's (1744).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Polo Neck and Blazer Mindset

Polo Neck Perfect for Chess
We see a classic and elegant combination of navy blazer and burgundy polo neck (US: turtleneck) from Dunhill above. Note that the polo neck is perfect for chess — keeping the neck warm and preventing it from stiffening from stooping over the board over a long period; it also means that there are no tie-dangling issues getting in the way of play (though a bow tie could also prevent this).

Polo neck sweaters have a long history in northern climes, because of the practicality of the funnel neck for keeping the wearer warm. Polo necks are most closely associated with the beatnik (black) and the submariner (white) in terms of archetypal wearers. (You can still get hold of a genuine British submariner polo neck.)

Colour Combinations
But you don't have to attend the Newport Jazz Festival or descend to 'crush depth' in an Astute-class submarine to enjoy the tie-free elegance of a polo neck. And you can add a bit more variety. Assuming we are wearing beige cavalry twill or grey flannel trousers with our blazer, burgundy is an excellent choice.

A cream roll neck may also be a good option as demonstrated by Roger Moore here.

Might I also suggest, navy blazer wearers, that a third classic choice would be yellow. This one depends on your own colouring. I have to wait until I get a bit of colour on my cheeks in Spring to consider this option, but the yellow polo neck and navy blazer combination is a golf and country club stalwart. The one below is a 2-ply made in Scotland number from dear friends Paul Stuart.

Whatever the colour of polo neck you choose, the wearing of a navy blazer and a polo neck will almost certainly put you in a certain mindset. For instance, you will want to listen to jazz on vinyl from the Three Blind Mice label, particularly Misty by the  Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio. You will also crave a a Bone Dry Martini made with a chicken bone dissolved in phosphoric acid at the White Lyon in Hoxton, London. That's the power of the polo neck.

On the Abolition of All Political Parties

Patron Saint of Outsiders
It's not all about ties, trousers' creases and razors at Tweed Towers — mostly, but not all. Sometimes —not often — we put down our Wodehouse and peek out from our comfort zone.

Today is the birthday of Simone Weil, philosopher and mystic, who wrote the timeless classics The Need for Roots and On the Abolition of All Political Parties. Sadly, her essays are largely forgotten, but might appeal to those readers who see an increasing 'disregard for truth in favour of opinion' in the public sphere.

Poor Simone had a short life. Born in France in 1909, she was an activist, thinker and writer from a very, very early age. She moved to England in 1942 hoping to join the French Resistance in the Second World War, but died aged 34 from heart failure and is buried in Ashford, Kent.

Weil was described by André Gide as the 'patron saint of outsiders' and Albert Camus as 'the only great spirit of our times', which is picked up by Melvyn Bragg in an entertaining radio discussion on her life and times below from the excellent In Our Time series on Radio 4.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Male Dandy

Used by Gentlemen
I first stumbled upon Varon Dandy (Male Dandy) when listening to song recordings by 1930s Spanish actress and singer Carmelita Aubert. She warbles about his masculine allure in El Hombre Ideal. I needed to know more about this flawless yet elusive man.

From the lyrics of the songs it was clear that Varon Dandy is in fact the name of a cologne, and dear Carmelita is giving the brand a jolly good plug.

My initial bout of scattergun sleuthing joined most of the dots — or so I thought. Varon Dandy cologne was launched most likely in 1912 — although 1927 has been bandied about — by the Catalonian perfumer Joan Parera. Parera's company ceased operating independently in 1990 though the cologne still exists to this day as Varon Dandy by Parera. The sprightly dandy is getting on a bit. The brand now comes under the umbrella of Coty Spain (part of the British multinational Reckitt Benckiser) and is ever popular in Latin America.

Case solved? Not quite. It would be neat if we could leave the story here, with tidy dates and a nice linear history, but...

I then discovered information that would shake the very foundations of this investigation and leave it wide open to speculation and intrigue. Anonymous sources have informed me that Varon Dandy is also associated with a Luis Garcés Mantiña, a Spanish nobleman born in 1920 who died in 2011. His version was reportedly released in 1948 at the height of the Spanish Civil War. Mantiña was sympathetic to Franco and as a barber developed a style of hair parting that identified Francoists during the war. (Does anyone know more about Mantiña or this hair parting? Sounds fascinating.)

How could this be? Has my schoolboy Spanish let me down? I'm rather tempted to ignore this new evidence as it throws everything skew-whiff. I suppose we could keep the case open in case new witnesses come forward.

Varon Dandy Today
In Spain today, you will see one-litre pour-over-your-head bottles of Varon Dandy as well as more concentrated 100 ml bottles of this old-school scent. Newer versions, such as Varon Dandy Platinum, have been launched in recent years, but we stick with the classic. I slipped a smaller bottle (top photo) into my jacket pocket on my last visit.

The original aim was for a manly blend of soap, lavender, woods and spices all those years ago. Varon Dandy still has that spicy scent. Splashed onto cheeks, it summons up pleasant images of an old-fashioned barbershop with a scissor man in a white tunic and bow tie brushing talc on your neck and asking you if you require something for the weekend.

Friday, 29 January 2016

All-in Fighting for Gentlemen

Get Tough
Things are getting rough out there. I held a door for someone today and no 'thank you' or acknowledgement of any kind — they just breezed right through. Later, whilst dining in a restaurant, a group of two couples at a nearby table spoke at an unnecessary high volume and using language that was so colourfully Anglo-Saxon that I had to ask them to pipe down. They were putting a damper on the enjoyment of my porterhouse steak, which was going down in lumps. They did apologise, but from these harrowing incidents we can only assume that civil society is collapsing rapidly and we must take measures to defend our corner forcefully. We need to fight the good fight.

If you consider yourself compromised in the fisticuffs department, help is at hand. All-in Fighting by W. E. Fairbairn is a step up from the Sherlock Holmes School of Self-Defence in that it takes more of a punch first, ask questions later approach.

William Ewart Fairbairn was a British soldier and police officer, which is exactly the right kind of background to develop a fighting system called Defendu with friend and colleague Eric Anthony Sykes.

With Sykes, he also developed the famous Fairbairn-Sykes British Commando fighting knife used in hand-to-hand combat. Fairbairn also developed the lesser-known Smatchet knife, a close-quarter weapon used by British and American special forces.

The splendidly-named Defendu system is a mixture of jujitsu and boxing. Initially, it was developed to train the Shanghai Municipal Police, of which Fairbairn and Sykes were members — Fairbairn policed the red light districts and reportedly got into countless fights. He was recruited by the British Secret Service in the Second World War and trained allied forces in win-at-all-costs gutter fighting and conquering 'our ingrained repugnance to killing at close quarters'. Quite. But let us not forget that the very existence of Britain was at stake when this book was published in 1942. Desperate times call for desperate measures, cometh the hour cometh the man, and so on.

With sections on blows, releases and holds — and miscellaneous advice including defending yourself with a chair and smacking an opponent's ears to debilitate them — you should be more than equipped to respond out-of-proportionately to outbreaks of impoliteness.

The book is reprinted and available from Naval and Military Press.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Sistine Chapel of Dressing Gowns - Daniel Hanson

Seductive Dressing Gown
Do people who specialise do the best job? Yes, they do, because the rigour and attention to detail that they need to apply to perfect a single undertaking does not allow time for anything else. It may be a figure of speech, but it is also a quantifiable fact: spread yourself too thinly and you become a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. I clearly remember my half-arsed attempt at furniture restoration. What was I thinking?

There is no danger of this happening to Daniel Hanson (below) who has been designing and producing dressing gowns and robes in Nottingham, England, since 1989. His single-minded dedication to the gown-making creed has elevated the tailoring of house coats to a unique level of artistry and elegance. What he produces are museum-quality pieces. The styles are influenced by his collection of vintage gowns and his background as the son of an Anglican Bishop, where he was exposed to the rituals of dressing in the copes, cassocks and chasubles that are essential to the tradition.

If his gowns weren't so seductive to wear, you would want to frame them and hang them on your wall. Take a look at the gown above. It's a Hanson shawl collar leaf-print silk gown with a piped trim. Note the subtle welt pocket at the chest. Strikingly beautiful. Of course you wouldn't want to take it off; of course you can't wear it to the office much as you would want to.

Described as the 'Sistine Chapel of dressing gowns', Daniel's robes are constructed from a cosmopolitan stockpile of the very best materials — British cashmere, Irish linen, Italian silk, Swiss cotton and German velvet. The fabrics are cut and combined with unique flair to bring out their qualities in terms of drape, colour, pattern and finish.

Stockists are listed on the Daniel Hanson website. If the stockists are inaccessible, don't worry, a bespoke gown service will soon be available from the site.

Photo of Daniel Hanson by Ashley Bird Photography, East Midlands.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A Happy Up Helly Aa

Death to the Old Year
We enjoyed tucking into haggis on Burns night yesterday and tonight we burn ships. Best wishes to all those attending the Up Helly Aa (and here) today. Geographical inertia, as ever, prevents me from travelling up to witness the spectacle first hand, much as I'd like to. Of the many annual customs around the British Isles, this is surely one of the most dramatic. The Up Helly Aa — meaning roughly end of year celebration in old Norse — is a winter fire festival (and party) held in the Shetlands to mark the end of the Yule period. A series of torch-lit processions are made. The main one wends through Lerwick, which culminates in the burning of a Viking longship to signify the death of the old year and rebirth of the new year.

The longship is circled by guizers or mummers (people dressed as characters from Norse mythology) who then hurl their torches into the ship to set it ablaze. The guizers perform folk plays at locations and halls through the night.

'Every guizer has a duty to dance with at least one of the ladies in the hall, before taking yet another dram, soaked up with vast quantities of mutton soup and bannocks.'

No wonder they call it the Northern Mardi Gras. Skál!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Cufflinks from an English Hand

Artistry and Authenticity
It's been a long time since we last featured An English Hand. Since that time their Harris tweed wash bags have become something of a legend.

Slowly but surely they add to their range, not wanting to compromise their ethos of working 'with craftsmen, artisans and dedicated manufacturers' to bring products 'designed and made by hand entirely in the British Isles'. You get what you are promised.

What's new? AEH has been working with talented jeweller Ruth Wood to produce hand-cast cufflinks in silver and gold. The cufflinks are designed with natural shapes and textured and polished surfaces, the front imprinted with facet lines from a gemstone, giving a pleasingly hand-crafted and elemental effect. Your tired old double-cuff shirts will get a new lease of life with these beauties.

The ones you see here are solid silver plated with 22.5ct gold but are also available in solid 18ct gold on request.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Daily Dozen - A Re-Resolution

Boys Keep Swinging
How did the daily dozen routine work out for you last year? What do you mean it sort of fizzled in February? That paunch around your middle isn't going to magically disappear. I think we need to get on top of this, so I want you to extend the programme and add in some Indian club routines.

Indian clubs became a popular tool for exercising in Victorian Britain. British soldiers stationed in India adopted them into their training routines, possibly inspired by similar clubs of middle-eastern origin in user over there called 'meels'.

Indian clubs were quite the rage. The chaps in the photo below are the St. Paul's Young Mens Society Indian Club Swinging Team from Ipswich, Australia, circa 1890. (Note the male leggings.) The British-style club in the tear-drop shape became the most popular type of Indian club and it's about time it made a comeback.

Exercising with Indian club exercises can benefit your physique, posture and movement; and the graceful circular routines you can incorporate into your daily dozen can be effective in exercising the whole body — though practice makes graceful.

Put some talc on your palms and start swinging, gents.

Bespoke Indian Clubs
If you are not sure of the size and weight of Indian club you need, speak to BodyMindFit. They make Indian clubs in the UK and have standard sizes with weights from 2lbs to 7lbs; but if you are looking for something out of the range they can help with that too.

The clubs are turned in wood — the larger clubs hand-turned — with a lead core. They are built to shape you for a lifetime.

How to be a Swinger?
If you are unsure how to start swinging, then you will find useful guidance in The Indian Club Exercise: With Explanatory Figures and Positions (1866) by Sim D. Kehoe [Amazon], reprinted by Kennelly Press.

Music to Swing By
According to legend, the music on the three-volume Kosmicher Läufer (Cosmic Runner) records was originally created by a 'Martin Zeichnete' as secret training music for East German Olympic athletes between the early 70s to early 80s. An archive of tape recordings of this music was —ahem — found and picked up by Drew McFadyen of Edinburgh's Unknown Capability Recordings, who has been steadily releasing them.

The sound is studiously Krautrock, but I think it is fairly understood that this music is actually presented as a homage and spankingly new.

Why shatter the illusion when the music is so lovingly crafted? With your clubs in your hands and music this damned peppy you feel like you could represent East Germany yourself.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Draped in Houndstooth

Toast is Toast
It was with regret that I learned that Toast is suspending its men's collection until further notice. From women's clothes and home and furniture, Toast branched out into men's clothes four years ago; and this has continued since the brand was acquired by French Connection a couple of years ago from the couple who started Toast in 1997, former archeologists Jamie and Jessica Seaton.

Toast helped to bring the heritage names behind classic men's clothes to the high street. If you wanted a bench-made Northamptonshire shoe in white nubuck or a three-piece suit in Harris tweed in the style of Gabriel Oak they wouldn't disappoint.

As a memento mori — in case this is the end of the road — I picked up this Toast own-label raglan-sleeved overcoat. The coat is made in England in a large houndstooth tweed from great friends Abraham Moon. The coat is bloody warm with my fur scarf; and has excellent deep pockets for carrying bags of peppermints, hip flasks and a copy of High Windows.

And the coat is a good winter length to boot. Why are so many clothes too short for purpose at the moment. Who decided that?

If you are near a Toast, they may still have something on the men's rail, but when it's gone it really is gone.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Living in the Bath

Bath Time Any Time
I find it hard to believe that some people remove baths from their bathrooms, finding them too inefficient for their 100-mph lycra-clad, Canary Wharf, not-stopping-to-smell-the-roses lifestyles. Well you and I like to find time for a good soak, don't we? Not together, of course, although I hear that kind of thing is popular on the continent. (Be wary if ever you find yourself in a German sauna, as I think I've mentioned before – traumatic stuff.)

Catchpole & Rye of Kent, England, make baths for gentlemen who enjoy a good soak. Who could resist diving headfirst into a hot broth of scented bubbles contained by their Copper Bateau bath with nickel interior above.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful piece of bathing equipment? C & R hook me with the accompanying blurb: 'Reminiscent of a time past when one bathed in front of fires, the bath had to be light so that it could be easily carried from room to room. Made entirely from high gauge copper, it is hand beaten, polished and then sealed, giving each bath a unique hand finished look.'

Catchpole & Rye are committed to manufacturing in the UK, with the majority of their products being made in-house at their foundry in Kent, where their famous cast-iron baths are produced. The company undertakes bespoke commissions and can include a logo or emblem on the sanitary ware it casts at the foundry.

I don't think we need to look further on the bath-front. But what should we use in the Bath? I respectfully suggest you keep the following products on your shelf — using a verdigris theme and all made in England — to make you look fresh from the cleaners every day.

Floris Rose Geranium Bath Essence
Described as a clean-cut classic, the Rose Geranium scent was introduced by Floris in 1890, which compliments the heritage of the bath perfectly — Bateau-style baths starting production over 120 years ago. Add a few drops to running water and let it waft.

Neal's Yard Lavender Bath Salts
Bath salts take bathing to another level of relaxation using their briny properties to do things to the muscles of the body that only a trained Thai masseuse could compete with.

Neal's Yard Lavender Bath Salts offer best-in-class French sea salts infused with Lavender oil. Think of this pot as your portable Thai masseuse. As with talcum powder, bath salts are a classic that should never have left your bathroom cabinet.

The Book of the Bath by Françoise De Bonneville
Out by Rizzoli Publications, New York, De Bonneville's book courses the history of bathing around the world, and the rituals, rites and traditions that have have developed around the event — including reading in the bath.

Kent FD3 Bath Brush
What more can be said about the FD3 from dear friends and ancient brushmakers Kent Brushes (1777)? Made with pure white bristle, and with detachable head, no part of your anatomy is out-of-bounds for an invigorating scrub and a tip-top buff.

Vintage Model Yacht
No bathing experience should be without a model boat. Re-enact famous naval battles or just brush up your sailing skills as you navigate around your knees and through the bubbles.

If you want to get more serious about your model yacht, then you may wish to consider joining the Vintage Model Yacht Group.

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