Sunday, 21 December 2014

An Idle 2015 - The Idler




















Take Your Time in 2015

All the trouble in the world is caused by people who want to change things too quickly — more haste, less speed, as the saying goes. Our collective resolution for 2015 will be to take our time, okay?

Let's all write this in the January 1 square of our spiffing new Idler Calendars for 2015:

"Take your time. Read The Tweed Pig. Ditto rest of year."

Cool People Love Real Books

I have to share this anecdote relayed by Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler from his recent Idler newsletter — as it confirms my own bias. He was explaining the continuous popularity of printed Idler books when we are being told the printed word is dead and we should switch to ebooks. I seem to remember a similar thing happened with recorded music. We were told to ditch our vinyl records, despite the fact it was the best format to hear music (particularly on one of these). Thanks goodness some people refuse to go with the flow.

The anecdote:

The death of the book was an idea enthusiastically promoted, weirdly, by the chairman of... Penguin Books. Here he is talking at a conference in 2010 (note the undignified use of the phrase "this cool stuff" and the way he calls books "content"):

"We will be embedding audio, video and streaming in everything we do. The 'epub' format, which is the standard for ebooks at the present, is designed to support traditional narrative text, but not this cool stuff that we're now talking about. So for the time being at least, we'll be creating a lot of our content as applications, for sale on app stores and HTML, rather than in ebooks. The definition of the book itself is up for grabs."

What an unutterable load of hogwash that turned out to be. Everyone knows that the cool people love real books and don't want a load of embedded video in their copy of Pride and Prejudice. And the chairman of Penguin Books should stick to selling books, and not trying to reinvent himself as some sort of Silicon Valley dot com guy. Next thing we know, he'll be removing his tie and wearing training shoes to meetings.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Philosophy of Beards


Peak Beard

They say we hit 'peak beard' last year, but anecdotal evidence tells me that men who sport a growth are not going to give it up on the mere say-so of fashion writers.

If you wear a beard, and it suits you, you hang on to it. Some men just look better with beards. It will look even better as you get older. Look after it though. First Olympian can help with this.

And talk to your beard. They're like plants, science tells us. They grow better if they're happy, and they're happier if you talk to them. I'm sure they'd like to learn more about The Philosophy of Beards [Amazon].

The Gowing Defence

The Philosophy of Beards is by eccentric Victorian writer Thomas S. Gowing, and re-published by the British Library. Gowing uses his book to present a manifesto, nay polemic (it was adapted from a lecture), for the wearing of a beard as a projection of manly virtues. Even then the beard was under attack from the impulses of fashion: 'O Fashion! What strange vagaries playest thou with the sons and daughters of men! What is there so lovely, that thou canst not, with a word, transform into an object of disgust and abhorrence?' We know what he would think about 'peak beard'.

Take it away Mr. Gowing:

'Though there are individual exceptions, the absence of Beard is usually a sign of physical and moral weakness.'

'Take two drawings of the head of a lion, one with and the other without the mane. You will see how much of the majesty of the king of the woods, as well as that of the lord of the earth, dwells in this free-flowing appendage.'

'With every attempt at freedom on the Continent the beard re-appears. Greek freedom and Greek Beards expired together.'

Beard-lovers will also be pleased to know that the book contains illustrations of great beards from history.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Castle Forbes Cologne


Castle Forbes

I struggle to write anything for perfume. The old mind jumps into a sack and refuses to come out and help. Nonetheless, this Gentleman's Cologne [Amazon] from Castle Forbes satisfies some vague notions that I use to narrow the field. The packaging is unfancy, so will fit well with the classic line-up on my select bathroom shelf. It's not endorsed by a footballer. It has provenance. And it smells well, with traditionally manly wafts of citrus and woodiness. It's also made in the UK. One to squirt when you're wearing worsted and off for a late-afternoon game of snooker at your club.

Castle Forbes is a country house in Aberdeenshire. It has been the home of the Forbes family for many generations. The current incumbent being the 23rd Lord Forbes.

The estate offers accommodation with fishing and golf, and in the 90s the former dairy was converted into a small-scale perfumery. The perfumery has developed a collection of gentlemen's perfumes and grooming products, including a well-regarded shaving cream, which I need to try.

Castle Forbes Gentleman's Cologne

Top note: Bergamot, Lemon & Lime.
Middle note: Lavender & Sage
Base note: Sandalwood, Cedar & Musk

Monday, 15 December 2014

R M Williams - Indestructible Trousers




































Frantic Australians

I was recently bombarded with frantic correspondence from Australian readers. I mentioned that I used to own a pair of trousers that were made in Australia, and I thought they were originally used by sheep-shearers.

Common consensus has it that they would have been the 15oz Moleskin Stockman Trousers by R. M. Williams (below). If they are the ones — and I think they are — by gad, sah, these beauts are indestructible, designed as they are to withstand the jab of barbed wire and the bites of indignant sheep. I lived in a pair of these when hitch-hiking around Europe one summer, and they never flinched.
































The Stockman trousers are available in the UK from Dene Wear.

R. M. Williams - Outback Outfitters




The trousers are part of Williams' wonderful Australian heritage. R. M. Williams was founded in 1932 by legendary bushman Reginald Murray Williams, who designed and crafted clothes for the Australian outback.

The Longhorn brand has since become an intrinsic part of the cultural identity of Australia.

Tweedy's Note: I'd welcome more intelligence from Australia, please. In fact, let's have more from any of the Five Eyes nations. You can be our man in Sydney, Washington, Southwold...

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Linley Cheese Knife



Of Mice and Men and Cheese

The darling Mouse Cheese Knife from Linley (above) would make a suitable cheese-lover's gift this Christmas. The knife has a stainless steel blade, with a rosewood and walnut handle.

The mouse will need something pretty decent to spike on its ears. Might I recommend a truckle of Mrs Bells Blue from Shepherds Purse, the Yorkshire cheesemakers, for your cheeseboard? Mrs Bells Blue is an award-winning British blue cheese made with ewe's milk, and looking positively ravishing in the alluring photo below.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Merchant Fox Slippers


King of the Slippers 

They say always judge a man by his house footwear. A savage might be observed parading in sport socks, they counsel; a man who has given up on life in novelty animal paw slippers. The Japanese as ever show the civilised way. As well as the wearing of house slippers being akin to a bye-law in Japan, the custom sometimes extends to include a sub-set of slippers designated for the bathroom only. Now that's civilised.

Exhibit a healthy self-esteem and respect for your guests this Christmas with the wearing of these magnificent Fox Exmoor Check Albert Slippers from The Merchant Fox. By golly — these wondrous things are constructed of Fox Flannel in an Exmoor check, with a classic quilted satin lining and hand-lasted leather sole — the very pinnacle of house footwear, and this quintessence of an English slipper is made categorically in the UK.

In fact, why not have a range of these slippers available in different sizes for your guests too? A move like that could just well tip civilisation back in the right direction.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Chocolate Cigars



Do You Mind if I Don't Smoke?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but sometimes it isn't. What do I mean? I mean what you see above and below are actually cigars that you eat rather than smoke. I suppose you could eat a normal cigar, but it would be utterly rank. Best stick to these confections, which would make a thoughtful Christmas stocking filler for that sweet-toothed cigar-loving person in your life.

Above we have 3 Robustos from Xocolat of Austria. A mix of their fine chocolate cigar range with walnut, whisky and rum flavours.

Next we have Praline Cigar, a nougat cigar from Venchi (1878) of Italy:


Finally, we have this chocolate Dulce Puro from Simon Coll of Spain:



So much choice. What we need now is an edible humidor to keep them in.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Sir Plus Housecoat


































The Polo Housecoat

The snow is falling outside and mounting on the window ledge of your living room window. The sky is milk white and fecund with flakes. There will be no visitors tonight.

Vince Guaraldi's The Christmas Song [Amazon] is playing as you sit by the fireside, whisky in hand. You pull the collar of your The Polo housecoat around your neck. What a thoughtful Christmas gift it had been back in 2014. This winter you can't bear to be detached from it, the same as every winter. You are reminded of the person who bought it for you each time you wrap yourself inside it.

The Polo housecoat (so much more than a dressing gown) is made in the UK by Sir Plus. The coat is in a herringbone cashmere blend with Jacquard cotton lapels.

If you are unfamiliar with the modus operandi of our good friends at Sir Plus: read here.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Carl Auböck Paperweight





















Foot Paperweight

The countdown to Christmas has begun. In order to facilitate more traffic to our humble organ, I'm going to fire off a number of ideas for Christmas stocking fillers this week. Do let me know if you have any other ideas for manly gifts we would all enjoy.

First up is this splendid paperweight, a modernist wonder from the archives of Bauhaus alumni Carl Auböck of Vienna. The family-run Auböck workshop is still located in Bernardgasse 23, Vienna.

Put your foot down on all that unruly correspondence. And if an aunt is being particularly irritating over Christmas, it could serve as a very effective bludgeon in the manner of Tom Ripley's efficient dispatching of Freddie Miles. Actually, it might be a wee bit small for that — best use some lead piping.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Kent Clothes Brush






















Brush Everything

I saw a moth near my wardrobe the other morning. Thankfully it wasn't one of the horrifying variety of moths that can so easily lay waste to entire wardrobes of clothes. Look them up and know their faces well. Terrifying things.

A scare, but also a prompt to continue with the precautionary practice of airing and brushing suits, jackets and coats — and everything — regularly. This restores the cloth to its full vigour by dislodging lint and dust, and anything else, without putting it through the trauma of a full chemical clean after every wearing.

I'm a Kent man when it comes to brushes. For clothes brushes, that means the Kent CG1 Compact Clothes Brush. Made in England, the brush is of pure bristle with a lightweight cherry wood handle. Never leave home without one.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Dufflissimo with Art and Jack

























Dufflissimo

Dufflissimo — a term freshly-coined for the art of looking good in a duffle coat. The only coat where it is acceptable to have a hood. Alan Bennett can do it. Paddington Bear can do it. R. S. Thomas can certainly do it; tough military types and adventurers from history always do (see below). But Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel?

Well see for yourselves. Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel starred together — and wore duffle coats together — in the quite good Carnal Knowledge [Amazon], directed by recently-departed Mike Nichols and released in 1971. Have you seen this film? It examines the contrasting (male) attitudes to relationships of two friends, Jonathan and Sandy — played by Art and Jack — from their college years to middle age.

I think it's Jack Nicholson's best role, before he got all hair-stuck-in-the-air 'crazy Jack'. He displays an element of craziness here, admittedly — a portent — but he also brings a complexity, even warmth, to his character — a strikingly unpleasant Priapus destined for a flaccid end.

We seek dialogue-driven films at Tweed Towers, and the dialogue from Jules Feiffer's script is witty and honest; and a bit fruity, exploring as it does themes of a sexual nature in cheek-blushing detail. Hold on to your tea cup, you're in for a bumpy ride.




















You Want One






















Could you look good in a duffle coat? Of course you could — just project dufflissimo.

If you don't have one, then this one from Nigel Cabourn is quite simply the ultimate; but everyone should have a Gloverall duffle. Gloverall simply set the benchmark in duffle coats.

Here we see Gloverall's Classic Duffle Coat. Made in England, it has buffalo horn toggles and leather straps. Perfect for throwing snowballs at the prof in the university quad this winter.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Happy St Andrew's Day with Locharron of Scotland


I think this is the first time I've remembered St Andrews's Day.

Happy St Andrews Day to all our Scottish readers.

My noggin was jogged when looking at the Weathered Tartan tie (above) by Locharron of Scotland. The tie is made in Scotland from Locharron's lightweight Reiver worsted wool. I think it will go very nicely with that blue chambray shirt I have, don't you?

Keep Squeezing Those Pipes

"A gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn't." Utter rot. Is there a more stirring sound than a bagpipe being given the full squeeze by someone who knows how to? A blast of Cock O' The North and my legs are literally marching by themselves.

And what better day to listen to some outstanding pipe work from the Massed Pipes and Drums?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Submariner - North Sea Clothing


Submariner Beard

The submariner has to be built of stern stuff. Cooped up for days under water, he faces the grimmest of perils, with no access to daylight, or fresh drinking water, or razors.

There was a time when all ranks in the British Army were not allowed to shave above the top lip, making moustaches compulsory. Moustaches are now optional (and civilisation descends). Beards are only allowed for some ranks and roles. In the Royal Navy, however, full-set beards are allowed (full-set meaning the beard needs an accompanying moustache). This is a blessing when you are a submariner and you run out of razors many fathoms beneath the ocean.

Submariner Sweaters


He can sport a beard, but what might our intrepid submariner wear?

Most U.S. films featuring submarines tend to be based in the Pacific. There will be scenes where the crew sits out a threat bleeping ominously on the sonar, engines shut off, the patches of sweat expanding on their khakis and vests.

But many famous British submarine operations took place in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea — sweater territory. Submariners needed to be insulated in these cold waters with the thick knitwear and duffle coats that were standard issue. You'll see this in films like Above Us the Waves [Amazon] and We Dive at Dawn [Amazon].

Of particular note were the white or natural-coloured woollen polo necks submariners wore — the classic submariner sweater.




North Sea Clothing

The ecru Submariner Jumper (top and below) by North Sea Clothing, London, is based on the sweaters originally manufactured for the Ministry of Defence.

Made in England, the sweater is a chunky, heavy knit designed for maximum warmth; but also able to resist water, aided by the thickness of the knit and the lanolin in the wool.

These mighty sweaters are also available from the Imperial War Museum to verify their authenticity.

I suggest you add one to your timeless wardrobe. Perhaps you should grow a beard this winter too? I think it will make you look distinguished.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Bath Time - A Weekend in Bath Spa


'Weekend' in Bath

If you're thinking of a spending a weekend away, and you're strangely thinking of staying in Britain — despite the weather, the queues, and the general dysfunction — why not give London a miss and head to the city of Bath? If Bath is no longer all tea rooms and twin sets any more, parts of it are still almost civilised if you squint.

Timing will be everything. Don't try and visit Bath between May and October. You'll be trampled by camera-toting tourists fairly badly. Forget Saturdays too. That's when everyone from the surrounding area arrives to shop, and day-trippers from London pile out of coaches and trains. Hopeless. Let's make your weekend Sunday and Monday.

The stone used to build the Georgian centre of the city positively glows in sunshine, so you must visit when it's sunny too. Visiting on a sunny day in January is generally optimal. For added Georgian flavour, try and coincide with one of the regular Jane Austen festivals in the city.

Sunday as Saturday in Bath


You've got the timing right and you're now in sunny Bath on a Sunday. Let's take a little tour. It won't take long if you don't keep stopping to look in the shops.

Head up the main street until you get to Gieves and Hawkes in New Bond Street. You can ignore anything lower today. From here take a stroll to the top of Milsom Street. When you get to the top, turn right and look for a small lane called Bartlett Street on the other side of the road where you will see the Antiques Centre. Now the city gets a bit quieter. This will take you up towards the Assembly Rooms where the Fashion Museum is housed. Go all the way to the top and take tea in Bea's Vintage Tea Rooms. This is an order.

From Bea's head towards The Circus and then onto the Royal Crescent via Brock Street — all signposted from here. I'll leave you to yourselves now. I would make the further suggestion to either head down to enjoy Victoria Park; or head up from Marlborough Buildings, at the far end of the Crescent, to walk through the middle of the pitch-and-putt golf course and enjoy the view of Bath from the heights of Lansdown. You can enjoy the Marlborough Tavern and continue on to the Hare and Hounds from Lansdown if you are a stout walker.

See you tomorrow.

The Abbey and Pump Rooms

As you're here on a Monday, the area around the Abbey and the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms won't be so busy. Do visit them both. You Anglo-Saxons will be interested to note that King Edgar was crowned King of all England in Bath Abbey in 973.

Afternoon tea can be pleasant in the Pump Rooms, and is sometimes accompanied by a recital. Again, I'll leave you to explore for the rest of the day. Don't bother with Southgate and the area around the train station — a shockingly bland and echoing valley of chain shops.

After the Abbey, you could wander down Pulteney Street and look in at the Holbourne Museum. Yes, do that.

Shops


Bath does have a hat shop — The British Hatter — and a cigar shop — Frederick Tranter — so it ticks two boxes on Tweedy's civilised city index.

What else can I say on shops in Bath? Little in terms of menswear, I'm afraid. I'll list a few places, but I'm peckish as I type this list, so that might be influencing its direction...

(Whisper) There are some nice restaurants in Bath, but I don't review restaurants. All I can say is that I've always eaten well at hidden-away The Bath Priory Hotel, and the Porter is very nice. Madrid is excellent for Spanish food.





Pubs



There are some reasonably good pubs in Bath. Some old and established, plus a couple of relative newcomers that replicate all that we like in decent hostelries.

Here's a list from a while back.

As I mentioned, The Hare and Hounds is an outlier that's worth a walk.

Bath Ales run some of these.



Saturday, 22 November 2014

Deakin & Francis since 1786


















Deakin & Francis - English Cufflinker of Note

Deakin & Francis offer an absolutely spiffing collection of cufflinks. If you can't find any that you'd like to see peeking out of your jacket sleeve, well I'll be a monkey's uncle.

The company is family-owned and based in Birmingham, England, where all of their fine jewellery is made.

James and Henry Deakin are currently at the helm, with an eighth-generation hopefully in the wings — such continuity, such tradition. (Who was Francis?)

Deakin & Francis is an English heritage company with literally centuries of experience in all aspects of jewellery design, creation and manufacture. Their workforce specialises in a particular aspect of the craft, be that shaping, enamelling or engraving.

Don't listen to my advice — have a look at their collection for yourself — but I rather like the Bacchanalian suggestion of the gold and amethyst Grape cufflinks above.

The gold Fishing Fly cufflinks below show off some exquisite enamelling. Perfect for sitting under a tweed jacket on a country jaunt. Note the fish-shaped clasps.
















Of course, any of these would make a lovely gift for a certain tweed-clad pig you know.

One for Bond Lovers













Following a collaboration with Anthony Sinclair (of the conduit cut James Bond suit), Bond lovers might be interested to see the Deakin & Francis range inspired by Geoffrey Holder, who played the henchman Baron Samedi in the 1973 film version of Live and Let Die, the first Bond film to star Roger Moore.

The gold ones above have a moving jaw that reveals diamond eyes when opened. Dramatic stuff.

The Live and Let Die range is available exclusively from Anthony Sinclair.



Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton


































Fighter and Lover

Denys Finch Hatton lived through that extraordinary period of change at the start of the 20th century. He was an English aristocrat and top-rate charmer; his charm compensating for a general lack of ambition. You know the type: 'Old Etonian drifter'. You may be familiar with his name through the film Out of Africa where he is played wholly inaccurately by Robert Redford.

Denys was a big-game hunter (later photographer), adventurer and settler in Kenya who was awarded the Military Cross in the First World War. He was part of the Happy Valley Set in Kenya in the 1920s, where he is most famous for his affair with Baroness Karen Blixen. His (equal) love of the landscape in East Africa led him in later life to be a determined conservationist.

Sarah Wheeler's biography of Denys, Too Close To The Sun: The Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton [Amazon], is an enjoyable read that uses themes from his life as an attractive hook on which to vividly describe English colonial society in that era.

Of Denys Finch Hatton, it was said: 'No one who ever met him whether man or woman, old or young, white or black, failed to come under his spell.' 

Drink to Denys Finch Hatton

There is a pub in Ewerby, Linconshire, that was previously used as hunting lodge by DFH. It's naturally called The Finch Hatton Arms. I think he would enjoy that recognition. Who amongst us wouldn't like a pub named after them?

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Jodhpur Boot






















The English Cowboy Boot 

People find great comfort in stereotypes. When things are as you expect, it simplifies the worldview, smoothing the chaos and bringing order to the universe and the space-time continuum — weltanschauung and all that. Stereotypically, we imagine our American friends to be wearing button-down shirts and chinos, but we're equally happy to turn up the American volume and picture them sporting a Stetson and cowboy boots. Conversely, we see our Englishmen in bowler hats or tattersall shirts.

This got me thinking, rather haphazardly, as to what would be the English equivalent of the cowboy boot. To my way of thinking, it would have to be the jodhpur boot, with its buckled straps that fasten around the ankle.

Ostensibly equestrian footwear, like the cowboy boot, you are just as likely see the jodhpur boot being worn without a horse underneath — like the cowboy boot.

Ready-Made Jodhpur Boot by Crocket & Jones

By common consent, the Crockett and Jones Cottesmore (above) is as good a ready-to-wear jodhpur boot as you may find; in calf leather, with double leather sole. I think this version in burnished chestnut is nigh on perfect.

Best worn with trousers that have a cavalry (military) hem.















Bespoke Jodhpur Boot by Horace Batten


Here is a great bespoke alternative for jodhpur boots. I don't have a good image to demonstrate this (just the measly effort below), but go take a look over at the Horace Batten web site and read about their history.

Batten do cracking bespoke strap jodhpur boots in a range of leather colours. They even supply the dear bones to polish your boots.

This is one of those wonderful human-scale British companies I really like to promote. They make around ten pairs of boots a week, they take their time, and they put the product before the branding. They are family-owned and on to the seventh generation of Batten. All the exact opposite of 'fast fashion'.

Clearly, everyone should buy from them and help preserve the name.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday


This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. No doubt you will have seen the images of the incredibly popular, and fittingly transient, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London. Designed by Tom Piper, the installation features 888,246 ceramic red poppies created by Paul Cummins — a poppy representing each British and Colonial fatality during the Great War.

Zoom in and there is a tragic story behind each one.


Talent Cut Short

And the stories go on through each subsequent conflict up to the present day. I was reminded of the poignant story of the British society painter, illustrator and designer Rex Whistler by a reader.

Rex died on his first day in action in the Second World War, aged 39.

Rex was proud to be commissioned into the Welsh Guards. When his uniform arrived, he painted the self-portrait above. The painting is now part of the National Army Museum collection.

Rex also drew the kit layouts below to amuse his fellow servicemen. Our reader had found the photographs of soldier's inventories by Thom Atkinson fascinating. He wondered if he had been influenced by Whistler's drawings.



A memorial to Rex Whistler, a glass prism engraved by his brother Laurence, is housed in Salisbury Cathedral.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bond & Knight - The Original Origami Wallet



















Bond & Knight

You think you know all you need to know about wallets, then a wallet comes along to shake all the certainties you held dear. I had such an experience when I clapped my peepers on this incredible wallet from Derbyshire-based Bond & Knight (as stocked by our very good chums at Lombres).

Consider this: the wallet is made from a single folded piece of high-grade, naturally-tanned Italian leather. Yes, a single piece. I have no probable need to point out that this means there are no stitches or seams — though there is some glue involved — this wallet is intrinsically smooth and slim.

The leather compounds the smoothness to a level not seen since Roger Moore picked up a Walther PPK. Popping this wallet in and out of your jacket pocket is like sliding metal on ice.

The wallet performs well on function, accommodating cards and bank notes neatly amongst its folds. The 'origami' design is actually a bygone approach to wallet-making. Bond & Knight tell me the design was popularised in the 1940s, and a result of the make-do-and-mend mentality of war time — less materials were used. Bond & Knight has updated such a clever idea with contemporary colour contrasts, making the design their own.

Bond & Knight Folded Wallet in Chestnut and Yellow 

The one I have (below) is in chestnut and yellow. Glory at the lovely packaging in which it arrived. See how it glides friction-free into the jacket pocket of my vintage Maurice Sedwell hopsack jacket (the tailoring of which is second to none — so many tiny hand-stitches).

I'm so taken with the wallet that I've invited it to come on a trip with me next week. My longstanding peccary travel wallet has had a jolly good run. I won't forget you, old chum.

If you're looking for an 'origami wallet', insist on an original Bond & Knight. Made in England.





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