Thursday, 20 October 2016
Worcester Real Leather Company
Dear new chum Tom Hardy and his team up at Cropthorne in Worceshire have been crafting leather goods for the past thirty years.
Using the best British materials, everything the Worcester Real Leather Company sell is made by by hand, including wallets, belts, bags and sporting goods. I imagine the team wearing brown aprons, sitting and tapping away at their respective benches, aged tools laid out in front of them, their glasses perched on the tips of their noses, rapt in concentration and working their materials lovingly. I suspect there's a Jack Russell or a Border Terrier padding around the premises. Being Worcester, the classic folk song Worcester City will be playing on loop in the background. I hope I'm not overly romanticising this business.
Tim says: 'I have always been passionate about British handmade, superior quality products encompassing the heritage of this country, and try to reflect this in my products by using British leathers, fittings and materials wherever possible.'
The leather worked by Worcester Real Leather comes from J. E. Sedgewick and Pittards of Yeovil. The fittings come from the skilled loriners at the Abbey Foundry, formerly B. B. Stanley Bros. of Walsall.
Tim's early influence was through handling the leather tack used at his father's farm in his youth — his father kept working horses — from which he developed an interest in leather working that was honed through study at the world-famous Cordwainers Technical College, now part of London College of Fashion, training in leather-working.
The Tottie Box
Perhaps nothing better represents Tim's love of craftsmanship and working with the best British materials than the Worcester Real Leather Company's Tottie Box you can see above (and below with their shotgun cleaning kit). The Tottie Box is a mini bar you can carry around with you. The case has solid brass locks, corners and handle plates, with a bridle leather exterior and pigskin suede interior. The interior is fitted out to hold twelve solid silver and gilt-lined tots made by hand in Birmingham's jewellery quarter. The tots are held in a lift-out tray, beneath which is found a cedar-lined cigar box.
I've just finished a generous tot of whisky myself — all this writing about tots left me hankering for a noggin —but I don't think I'm overstating the case when I say that the craftsmanship of something like the Tottie Box represents the greatest expression of the human spirit; art being a revolt against fate and all that, eh what?
For Men of Action
Anything with Shakleton's name attached and we're interested, particularly a clothing company that has the involvement of his granddaughter, the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, and bases its modus operandi on Shackleton's maxim: 'I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life's set prize.'
The clothes from Shakleton are intended to equip today's men of action. I suppose men of inaction can also present a more dynamic impression of themselves if they're wearing such clothes.
For the anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1916 Endurance expedition, Shackleton bring out the Canvas Box Jacket (above and below). The jacket is made in Britain from heavy duty cotton canvas, and has a leather collar and patch pockets.
You might want to throw a Shackleton Signature Jumper underneath the jacket at this time of year, so make sure the size of jacket you buy can accommodate one.
The sweater is made from British wool that is undyed with a natural brown fleck (nepp).
The basket weave and roll neck of the sweater take direct inspiration from the sweaters worn by Sir Ernest and his team of explorers.
Shackleton describe the sweater as 'an investment in comfort; a dependable companion that is built for life'. If you look after it, it will look after you for a long, long time.
They call the wool Jacob's nepp, so I wonder if it comes from the Jacob sheep. I hope so, as they're wonderful-looking things (see also Jacob Sheep Association). I'll get my people to speak with their people and find out.
The Jacob's sheep is an ancient breed, with an attractive piebald fleece and multiple horns, which survived largely because it was used as ornamentation in the grounds of English stately homes. Apparently, they make good 'guard dogs', too. You can see one of the largest preserved flocks in the country at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire, where lamb and hogget from the flock is sold by the National Trust.
Shackleton’s Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
What am I Looking For?
Out of ideas for a present for a friend, I decided on a print from the National Portrait Gallery.
I could have spent forever trawling the huge collection from the National Portrait Gallery's web site — so many portraits are available for printing using their 'award-wining Portrait Printer system' in which portrait images are printed on demand 'in their original proportions within a white border on a selection of standard paper sizes or canvas.'
But it's the devil of a job locating what you're looking for if you're not sure what you're looking for in the first place.
After considering several by Angus McBean, I went for the photograph you can see above of Evelyn Waugh by (Madame) Yevonde Middleton. My friend is a fan of the City look, though I'm not sure what he thinks about having Evelyn Waugh hanging on his wall. The photo has it all though — pinstripe suit, brolly, bowler hat and cigar.
I was rather taken by a couple more of Madame Levonde's photos — the one below of actress Joan Maude (1932) from Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death in particular. I'm considering them as further gifts.
The photograph of Mrs Edward Meyer as Medusa (below) is quite breathtaking — remember this is 1935.
Mesmerising — I look at it and all the world is a rhyme.
On the subject of the National Portrait Gallery, they've been exhibiting the work of William Eggleston (pictured below in a very nice sweater and jacket combo) since July, and — apologies for not mentioning sooner — it finishes at the end of the week.
Do hurry along if you haven't visited.
Yevonde was a pioneer of colour photography, using an early British process called Vivex, where the image was built up from three exposures in each primary colour. Similarly, William used a special colouring technique called dye-transfer (described in the video below). Both processes, despite the glorious end results, are now sadly defunct.
Tuesday, 18 October 2016
Just when I thought I was Out...Trousers Pull me Back In
I sometimes think about cutting back on the posts on clothes. Can I really say anything more about sweaters? Who cares? Besides, know-it-all, self-important chroniclers of men's clothes are ten-a-penny nowadays.
From the correspondence I receive on this subject, readers of The Tweed Pig regard them as completely interchangeable — just change the banner. I would never betray a confidence, but one very distinguished reader is highly peeved by a particular writer who specialises in dry-as-dust, surgical dissections of clothes, and seems to be stamped into the marketing material of every other clothing company we care about. I don't wish to arouse that level of opprobrium — hence the thoughts about bowing out on the clobber front. But...
...I then spy something else that tickles my fancy and the urge to pass on the intel proves too great. Call it clothes madness — an incurable case.
So it was with these delightful trousers by New & Lingwood. Don''t most other trousers we know and love pale in comparison? You have to be very careful about what you combine with these trousers. I'm reading a book on the history of dandies at the moment (more on that later), and these could very easily verge into fop territory if you don't keep things muted elsewhere. We don't want to stand out too much; although it's hard not to when everyone around you is wearing Superdry anoraks.
The All Ireland Tartan Trousers have side adjusters and brace buttons, rather than belt hoops, which keep things neat and tidy at the waist. I wouldn't recommend a colour for the braces for these trousers until I see what you're wearing with them.
By the way, I've been wondering about leather braces. Has anybody tried them? Are they light enough, comfortable? Perhaps our excellent chums at Equus might consider adding them to their product line. I would be looking for a pair on the same level of quality as Equus' stunning belts.
Saturday, 15 October 2016
Spry as a Fox
In capes for foxes news this week, our good chums at Stewart Christie were asked by Hendricks Gin to design an outfit for a stuffed fox that replaces the old one ('Hamish') at Mark's Bar in Soho, London. And doesn't he look well turned out, with his lovely little dear stalker and bow tie.
Wondering what happened to the old fox? The video below reveals all. We can only hope we receive such a heartfelt and fitting send off when our time comes.
Friday, 14 October 2016
Sitwell's Façade - As Ugly as Modern Poetry
The findings are out. Rap was invented by an Englishwoman in England in 1923. This was the year of the first performance of Edith Sitwell's Façade, an after-dinner entertainment featuring a series of Edith Sitwell's poems set to music by her protégé (and sometime lodger) William Walton.
For the original performance, the poems were recited in proto-rap form using a Sengerphone (a papier-mache megaphone). The performers were hidden behind a curtain, with the Sengerphone poking out of a hole in the mouth of a face painted (by artist John Piper) on the curtain — avant-garde doesn't come close. Edith was very much a product of a time when Britain was a cultural Galapagos, before the cultural homogenisation of globalisation seeped in.
This 1929 recording with recitation by Edith and Constant Lambert gives a flavour of its odd, creative brilliance. Try to make it to 7' 04" where you get the slightly famous Popular Song.
Take that Jay Z.
If you dare, there's a CD transfer of this 1929 recording that includes a later recording Edith made with Peter Pears. As a bonus on the CD, you also get The Triumph of Neptune by Edith's contemporary and fellow English eccentric Lord Berners thrown in.
Edith on English Eccentricity
In her 1933 book English Eccentrics, Edith — who a shallow critic once described as being as 'ugly as modern poetry' — wrote: 'Eccentricity exists particularly in the English, and partly, I think, because of that peculiar and satisfactory knowledge of infallibility that is the hallmark and birthright of the British nation.'
English Eccentrics is out of print, so you will need to hunt around for it. I obtained a very nice hardback edition by The Folio Society after some searching.
God bless the English eccentrics and long may we maintain a habitat in which they can flourish.
Tweed TV - Walton on the Sitwells
This short documentary describes William Walton's relationship with the wonderfully free-spirited Sitwell siblings in the 1920s, whose patronage and contribution to the art and culture of England has never been fully recognised.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
A Bone to Pick
It's good to see that bones can be still found on British menus. As any avid Bond reader can tell you, bone marrow was M's favourite dish at Blades, his club. Or was it Bond's favourite dish when he visited as a guest? Anyway, I imagine that they both enjoyed bone marrow. They say that most meat is prepared too lean and bone-free nowadays, so we're missing out on the vital collagen-giving properties of a good plate of bone marrow to be scooped out and spread on crispy toast.
Grilled Bones with Parmesan and Parsley Salt is a lip-smacking starter at 45 Jermyn Street, Fortnum's restaurant in one of our favourite London streets. You should pop into the restaurant after you've had your shave and bought your bowler hat just for the bone marrow alone, though the menu has all kinds of wondrous, timeless non-faddish treats on offer (oysters, caviar trolley and so on). You can even try some Dorset snails.
Actually, with my particularly Victorian palate, I tend to favour unfussy food so I'd be spoilt for choice at 45 — Dover sole, ox cheek, calves liver — just my kind of grub — though I don't see any pigs ear stew.
PS: I'm also hearing very good things about 45's Sunday roast, which is carved at the table just as it should be.
Recipe for Bone Marrow
Can't make it to 45 Jermyn Street? You will find recipes for baked bone marrow in Mrs. Beeton's Cookbook and her Every-Day Cookery. You can obtain a free copy of these invaluable kitchen aids from Project Guttenburg.
Of including bones in the diet, Isabella says that two ounces of bones contain as much gelatine as one pound of meat. Time for a bone marrow transplant — into your welcoming mouth.
Do you know, if you're thinking of opening a hipster restaurant, you might not go far wrong resurrecting some lost dishes from Mrs Beeton and her ilk. Personally, I'm willing to travel great distances for v. good steak-and-kidney pudding — it's getting increasingly hard to find. Please, someone make it fashionable again.
Back to bones — Mrs Beeton has a recipe for boiled or baked beef marrow bones in Every-Day Cookery. Why not ask your butcher for some decent bones this weekend?
BEEF MARROW-BONES, Boiled.
Ingredients.—Bones, a small piece of common paste, a floured cloth. Mode.—Have the bones neatly sawed into convenient sizes, and cover the ends with a small piece of common crust, made with flour and water. Over this tie a floured cloth, and place them upright in a saucepan of boiling water, taking care there is sufficient to cover the bones. Boil the bones for 2 hours, remove the cloth and paste, and serve them upright on a napkin with dry toast. Many persons clear the marrow from the bones after they are cooked, spread it over a slice of toast, and add a seasoning of pepper; when served in this manner, it must be very expeditiously sent to table, as it so soon gets cold. Time.—2 hours. Seasonable at any time.
Note.—Marrow-bones may be baked after preparing them as in the preceding recipe; they should be laid in a deep dish, and baked for 2 hours.
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Something for Your Next Race Meeting
I flicked through the autumn/winter Paul Stuart catalogue and singled the rig out above as a possible or your next race meeting. What should you like about it? I'm sure you'll like the man-sized tie and collar. You might say from this angle that they're a little too big for the lapel of the jacket, but the collars fill the opening nicely.
The outfit has an undeniable elegance you always get from our favourite Anglo-American outfitters. Let's zoom in...
No, we see that our concerns about scale are unfounded. We're looking good.
Note how the purple lines of the plaid in the jacket match with the colours on the print of the tie and cotton twill shirt. Finishing of with what look like red needle-cord trousers completes the picture very satisfactorily.
Note also that building checks on checks, as with the tie and jacket, and mixing patterns work as long as the colours complement. It's a very English approach to dressing. The chap above wouldn't look out of place at the Badminton Horse Trials, apart from the all-American handsomeness. We just need some outdoorsy windburn on that face.
The jacket is made from Scottish lambswool of a full canvas construction, with slanted hacking pockets and with a throat latch on the lapel.
The Equestrian-themed tie — perfect for horse events — is hand-made in the USA of printed Italian silk and cashmere, self-tipped and looped with wool interlinings. It's one of those patterns that come around and then it's unlikely to be seen again. You know what to do.
Thursday, 6 October 2016
Right for Each Other
A few weeks back, during my summer sojourn, I waxed longingly over a Cordings tie. The tie never really left my thoughts. I'd be clipping my box hedging at Tweed Towers by hand or supping a half of bitter in the Queen's Arms at Corton Denham and just wishing it was there with me, wrapped lovingly around my neck.
Despite the distance between us, it was clear we were meant for each other. We shared the same interests; culturally we were in perfect alignment.
I'm glad to say that this story has a happy ending. As you can see from these photos, as of this day we're now together.
The Cordings Crest tie (made in England) is based on a tie from the Cordings archive. It's available in blue and navy. I plumped for the green version and the Cordings Pale Blue Overcheck Tattersall shirt to be its perfect canvas. The shirt has a manly-sized collar — none of those childish micro collars at Tweed Towers.
And look at the tattersall tipping at the back of the tie.
Of course, they're going to look good out in the heather with your tweeds, but the ties and tattersall shirts from Cordings work in any off-duty situations; inimitable and easy-wearing British style that Cordings like to think they do well. They might consider it impolite and boastful, but after all these years I can say on their behalf that they actually do it well.
I have to tell you a bit about the mail service from Cordings, too. (Remember: I'm loathe to leave Somerset at the moment.) The shirt and tie arrived wonderfully packaged by the delightful Natalia and Catherine over at Cordings HQ in London.
I've tried to capture the artistry here, but you'll have to imagine the pleasing rustle of the tissue as the booty was uncovered from the box and my excitable face beaming like a child on Christmas day. Tears of joy? Utter poppycock! I don't know where you heard that from.
I'm rather pleased with the first photo of the packaging below. It has something of the style of Willy Hameister's work on The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari about it — accidentally, of course.
Behold! Purest Cordings delivered fresh to my door:
The darling package from Cordings also included a rather nice little booklet (bound with string): Cordings and Pol Roger Present Your Guide to the Autumn/Winter Season (Tastefully Curated by Aunt Agatha and Uncle Bernard)
The booklet has some lovely illustrations by Oliver Preston.
I do like what Uncle Bernard is wearing on the cover. I think I have something similar to everything but the sweater — excellent, a wardrobe gap. We should have Uncle Bernard as a pin-up.
You can read the booklet, courtesy of Cordings and Pol Roger, here.
Wednesday, 5 October 2016
Twice as Much Fun
A friend of mine loaned me some vintage clip-on braces in mauve the other day. I was in the mood for mauve, what can I say? I've always been a button-braces man, but these clipped numbers worked really well with the informal clothes I was wearing. Since then I've been considering the hybrid — braces with dual switch-and-remove attachments so you can use them with buttons, say, on suits and with clips for those casual trousers of a weekend.
If you can also see the advantages of such a set up, then these own-label made in England herringbone tweed braces with brown leather fobs from Liverpool-based outfitters Morrows might be the thing.
I imagine the photographer knew he was visible on the slide-clips of the braces?
For the Brave Sweater Wearer
If I'm not wearing a tie, then I almost always fill the forlorn gap between shirt and jacket with a crew neck sweater; this would be a sea island cotton sweater in bright Klenkian colours in summer and then with thicker gradations of woollen sweater as the days get colder.
We're entering Shetland sweater weather at the moment. You see a vintage Shetland sweater above, which is made in the Shetland islands from the wool of Shetland sheep by Laurence Odie of Shetland — which means it's about as Shetland a sweater as you will find.
Native Shetland wool has had a protected designation of origin since 2011, and provides uniquely strong and warm characteristics. A classic Shetland crew neck made from this wool will use a medium thickness of yarn and have a gauge of knit that is not tight, but not overly loose either, and a slightly uneven and coarse look and feel. Yes, the wool can be a bit scratchy, but with a warmth and beauty that compensates the brave wearer; and if you wear a smooth-as-silk shirt and underclothes underneath there's no harm done. In fact, that smooth/rough contrast heightens the natural beauty of the wool. You can perch a tie on the neck of the sweater, which looks pretty spiffy in an old-school way, if you can't abide the thought of going tie-free.
A sweater in baby cashmere has its obvious attractions, but for my money a good Shetland sweater is hard to beat, and much easier to throw on and forget about. I read somewhere that the Shetland sweater wouldn't interest the 'metrosexual' male. Make of that what you will, though I thought that term was dead and buried.
You will need several Shetland crew neck sweaters in your timeless wardrobe in various colours. (Shetland wool takes dye well.) Don't be concerned about your growing stock, enjoying and collecting clothes is a perfectly respectable hobby, like model making and train spotting. (The sweater would keep you warm if you're train spotting.) You can take these sweaters out to show friends when they visit, pointing out details and labels and giving a little bit of history. This is how we proselytise and get people to turn their backs on the fast fashion warehouses of the high street. As any economist will tell you, the quality of the materials and the potential years of usage (timelessness) these sweaters represent offers maximum utility when considering a purchase decision. You could wear them from ages ten to one hundred and ten and they'd still be looking appropriate.
Paul Weller's Shetland Sweater Selection
Sound, ye trumpets. Paul Weller's boutique Real Stars are Rare (see post on their Fox Brothers collaboration here) currently has a selection of Shetland Sweaters in classic colours for us mere epigones.
The sweaters are knitted from Shetland wool in Scotland. You should go with the Heather and the Burnt Orange you see here to start with, and — risking accusations of metrosexuality — both colours will go with a surprising number of base colours, your navy, your grey, your brown and so on.
Friday, 30 September 2016
You'll Struggle to Find Better
If you want the very best of British button-down shirts then let me point you in the direction of John Simons, the traditional men's outfitters close to Baker Street in London. It's been a while since we covered them. I think the last mention was when they were collaborating with Aertex.
John Simons was established in 1955 by the actual John Simons, and is currently run by John and son Paul. The clothes they stock have never wavered from the timeless British, Anglo-American and classic continental clobber that you and I are drawn to. It was John who gave the name 'Harrington' to the Baracuta G9 jackets he was selling. He named the jacket after the Rodney Harrington character, played by Ryan O'Neal, in Peyton Place. Harrington wore a Baracuta jacket. Now that's how we all refer to them.
John Simons' own-brand Oxford cloth button-down shirts are second-to-none. As you may be able to discern from these photographs of my striped John Simons shirt — made in London. The unlined collar has what shirt scientists call a perfect roll, and a depth that gives a first-rate fit, even around my puny 15" neck. They know what we're after with this type of shirt; nothing too tight, no trendy touches to draw attention (in the wrong way), but you do get a buttoned breast pocket and box pleat at the back — which all adds up to the sort of dependable shirt you can always reach for.
As John Simons say of these shirts, they're 'the result of 60 years' experience in the menswear industry'. They also go on to say: 'You'll struggle to find better.'
They're right, you know.
John Simons - A Modernist
If you're unfamiliar with the influence of John Simons on the modernist look, allow adherents Kevin Rowland, Paul Weller and Paul Smith to provide a little background in this video, though you might think Robert Elms gets a bit carried away with the sociological import.
Thursday, 29 September 2016
A Light on Tweed Towers
Today I'm going to let a little light in upon the magic of Tweed Towers. Lights to be precise. Both models you see here ensconced in shady corners of the Towers are from Original BTC Lighting.
The shade from the Circle Line wall light above is made from bone china and based on the old lights you used to see on London's underground. BTC do a lovely range of lights in the Circle Line range, including wall, ceiling and free-standing options. (The paint colour is by Farrow & Ball — I think it's Oxford Stone)
BTC are committed to local manufacturing. The bone china shades for the lights are produced in Stoke-on-Trent. The metal parts for their lighting products are manufactured in Birmingham. Original BTC acquired English Antique Glass in 2011, which specialises in producing highly labour-intensive mouth-blown flat glass using 12th century techniques. This incredible glass — also used for the stained-glass panes at York Minster and Buckingham Palace — is also used in Original BTC's light fittings. I suggest you take a look at the website of English Antique Glass, as they have some very nice tableware including this elegant carafe in ocean blue.
I don't think photographs can do justice to the heft and quality of this glass; and into the bargain you're taking possession of a little bit of ancient English history.
Okay, let's get back to the lights at Tweed Towers.
Original BTC's Hector Bibendum (below) is the latest addition to Tweed Towers (wall colour F&B's Pitch Blue).
The Hector Bibendum (Michelin man) lamp was designed by Sir Terence Conran. Once again the shade is made from bone china. The flex is available in red, blue and yellow. Both the Circle Line and Hector Bibendum produce a nice light, but this one has more of a glow and the Circle Line is more directional, if that's the term.
I couldn't reproduce a good photograph — try as I might — with either of them switched on. In fact, the photo of the Hector Bibendum is not good at all. I think you'll need to look at Original BTC's website to appreciate this one.
(N.B. I can't tell you anything about the miniature portrait in the ivory frame you see in the picture.)
There we have it. It was good to get that off my chest. I think we know each other a bit better now. Did I overshare? And they say I value my privacy too much in this age of exposure.
Tuesday, 27 September 2016
The hedgerows that crisscross the British landscape, line its B-roads and surround its houses perform numerous useful functions — providing privacy, keeping out riffraff, marking boundaries, attracting wildlife, absorbing sounds and forming a natural (and pliant) break from the elements. A fence, by comparison, can only be justified by the impatient.
You can read all about the hedgerow and many other things in the delightful Little History of British Gardening, an 'account of a national obsession', by Jenny Uglow.
The dense, slow-growing yew hedge is naturally perceived as the king of formal hedges, but a privet or mixed hedge of native plants has much to admire. If you will permit me, I can never get used to hedges grown from laurel — I find the leaves too big to form that compact wall of green expected from a hedge, and the shade of green can be somewhat glaring.
Watch good old Dyton in the public information film below (from the BFI archives) showing how to train an unruly hedge, pipe in mouth, by proper laying (or plashing).
Get the Dyton Look
Having watched the video, I'm sure you're now keen to have a bash at hedge laying. If you don't have a hedge yourself, a local volunteer group — or a body like the RSPB — could put you to use in developing your country skills. Who knows, it might open a whole new world of possibilities and get you out of your (assumed) rut, as well as making the landscape more lovely when I drive past.
Obviously, you will need a protective leather jerkin like Dyton, something like the one in the top picture, which is from Bradley's the Shropshire tannery. The tan Heritage Leather Jerkin is handmade at Bradley's tannery and is inspired by gardener Montagu 'Monty' Don. Bradley's say the jerkin will get better with age and I believe them. Built to last, treat it with some kind of leather balm every now and then and you'll be leaving it in your will. If you live in the country, it wouldn't look out of place at your local pub with a tattersall shirt underneath. I'm pretty sure Dyton would be wearing his when ordering a half of bitter and a ploughman's lunch at The Rose and Crown.
You should also think about Bradley's Heritage Anti-Bramble Gauntlets (below) with saddle leather cuffs before you start hacking away. Again I have to agree with Bradley's when they say: 'There may be cheaper gardening gloves on the market, but none with such superb handmade quality, value and durability as these.'
I like to think Dyton would nod his non-verbal approval at a pair of these beauties.
Hedges by Post
PS: Buckingham Nurseries have some good hedging options and a hedge planting distance calculator.
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