Friday, 31 December 2010

Unveiling Heston Blumenthal's Hidden Orange

I was lucky to get a hold of one of the puddings Heston Blumenthal has created for Waitrose. By the time I'd heard about it, it had pretty much sold out across the country. I wasn't going to chase one on Ebay though. Luckily, after inquiring at the local Waitrose, a kind employee who had bought one too many offered his spare to me.

The idea of a whole candied orange in the centre, to infuse the pudding with flavour while helping to keep it moist, sounded like an attractive proposition. 

Heston's pud was a beauty. Needs to be taken in small doses though. So very rich, it should go on Forbes' next list. Accompanied with vanilla ice-cream, the combination was perfect. By the time I began to see the bottom of my plate, I had broken into a facial sweat due to the wonderful sugar-rush, and young Mrs Tweed joked she thought she was going blind.

I offered to make coffee for afters. Mrs Tweed accepted but with no sugar.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Little Treats - Taking a Cigar for a Walk

I think we all deserve little treats now and again. Old Tweedy's not one to try and continue pursuing the lifestyle of a 12 year-old boy with video games, skateboards and hooded tops. (Although I still like to read the odd Commando comic).

I find it nice to take a cigar for a stroll occasionally, perhaps to a local park or a quiet city street with an outdoor cafe, but moderation is the key here. I smoke very little, sticking to holidays and when I'm on the beach. Smoking cigars on the beach can be very nice, watching the shimmering sea from a lounger and puffing on a cigar in contemplation.

I'm still trying brands and have yet to settle on one, although I don't suppose I have to settle on one. I won't pay a fortune for these little indulgences, but don't want to smoke sticks bundled together either.

The H. Upmann and Punch came with me to the park. Upmann was John F. Kennedy's favourite brand, so legend has it. I don't know, but it was an easy beginner's smoke. Easy to draw and an even burn.

I showed the Punch cigar the aviary and botanical gardens. It was more full-bodied and a harder draw, so needed a relight. The burn was slightly uneven. I preferred the Upmann.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Pyjamas of Yore - T M Lewin

I came across a booklet I picked up in T M Lewin some years back. It contains excerpts from the catalogues they kept in-store in Empire days. Wonderful choice of pyjama suits back then. Wool, silk, cashmere - good for sleeping and lounging. I'll probably return to this catalogue on other themes to reflect on how tastes have changed and, in some cases, how they have not.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Pyjama Game - Derek Rose & Pakeman Cato & Carter

Noel Coward in Lounge Wear?

Is the wearing of pyjamas dying out? More and more 'lounge wear' is for sale right now, which normally comprises a plain t-shirt and non-matching bottoms. As this differs little from a lot of the day wear for sale, I'm not sure of the point of it. You can't really affect Noel Coward-like airs in lounge wear, or louche Hugh Hefner-ism for that matter. I prefer a traditional set of pyjamas, a two-piece, but I think I'm in a shrinking minority, as they are becoming rarer to find now. On the high street, M & S have a small collection, but there are one or two retailers off the high street that can still supply the traditional pyjama wearer.

Derek Rose have succumbed to the tyranny of lounge wear, but they still make pyjamas the way I like them - with a top that can button up to the neck. Looks so much smarter under a housecoat. Nice colour schemes and fabrics for summer and winter. For a company that puts Savile Row on its logo, it's a stretch when the last couple of pairs I bought were made in the Czech Republic.

I might give the offerings from Pakeman Cato and Carter a try next time. If you already have, please let me know. They have some with nice contrasting piping and rounded collars, and the buttoning to the top. Very nice looking - cosy but smart. You can't say that for much of the lounge wear I'm seeing.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Josephine Baker - The Black Pearl

Let's don our Oxford bags, pour a measure of absinthe over a cube of sugar and enjoy a Sunday moment pondering the life and times of Josephine Baker. A century has passed since the birth of the dancer and singer. 1920s Paris was where she established her name, particularly with her performances in La Revue Nègre and La Folie du Jour, including the infamous (for its time) banana dance. Here we see a clip from Princess Tam Tam, a sort of My Fair Lady affair. Nice.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Smashing Stamps Gromit

All I want for Christmas is a Wallace tank top. Are you listening young Mrs Tweed? That is one seriously heavy-gauge hand-knit. They say red and green should never be seen, except on a fool, but Wallace has found a look that works for him.

 “A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them.” So goes that often used quote of Hardy Amies. It could certainly apply to Wallace. He's been wearing a white shirt, brown woollen trousers, green tank top and red tie since 1989, and they still look fresh. Not sure, however, of the choices for the Harvey Nichols shoot. The Amies maxim seems to be cast aside to all our discomfort.

Good to see this great British eccentric along with his faithful friend Gromit have been honoured on this year's Christmas stamps. And with the green tank top in place, as well as some nifty seasonal knitwear.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Display and I'll Pay - Undressing Windows for Men

Gieves, not quite in the party spirit

They may spend a bit of time and effort on the Christmas window displays in the West end of London, but what of the smaller shops in the smaller cities? What about the efforts to attract male shoppers? Are we worth making an effort for? Gieves and Hawkes have gone for an understated display. Reflects their Savile Row heritage, but is it just a bit too refined? I don't know, I sort of like it this way, but is it pushing me in to buy a new tie for the work's Christmas do?

Jack Wills think they can get away with sticking a Christmas tree next to their clothes. Not quite good enough. Interesting to note that the male dummy is dressed in similar fashion to the one in the Gieves window. Quality may differ though.

Jack Wills - have yourself a merry little Christmas?

Shops targeting women, predominately, tend to make more of an effort. More glamour and fun in the displays. I want to go in, but I don't think they have anything for me.

I have to go inside, but I'm not sure why

How to attract men in to shops to buy gifts? Judging by the typical buying habits of men at Christmas, maybe this shop has all it takes?

The season for giving

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas Marketing

Nice Tradition
The Tweeds go to the local Christmas market every year, and pretty much know what to expect. In fact, if you've been to one Christmas market in Europe, you've been to them all. But it's a nice introduction to the festive period.

We watch the carol singers and Morris men whilst drinking the first glasses of mulled wine that mark the start of the Christmas season in earnest.

We visit the market at night when the market looks its prettiest. We're looking for ambiance, telling ourselves from past experience that we'll have little interest in the handicrafts or the food and drink on display. Yet, after finishing the wine and eating a sausage or a piece of strudel or two, perhaps it's the Christmas magic (and the mulled wine) starting to take effect, but we start to see things that we would like to include in our own Christmas celebrations. We buy a few Christmas baubles at first, they're small and room can be found for them. But then follows a hock of ham, a Christmas pudding, garlands, roast chestnuts and so on. Suddenly, we have a feeling of such festive bonhomie it's akin to the Christmas high Scrooge has at the end of a A Christmas Carol when he sends a boy to 'buy the biggest turkey in the shop'.  They are clever these Christmas markets.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Snowman was a Friend of David Bowie, Actually

The Christmas season is almost upon us. Time for wrapping-up not only presents if the weather forecasts are right. Have your chunky sweaters to hand. Even David Bowie has been known to pull on a seasonal sweater now and then.

Many people will recall the duet he made with Bing Crosby of the Little Drummer Boy, but perhaps fewer will remember the introduction he made for The Snowman when it was originally broadcast in the early 80s. For the first 45 seconds of the video you will see Bowie sporting a nice sweater and trouser combination. There is even a very brief window (the daylight hours of Christmas Day) when he could get away with the scarf too. Not sure the hairdo has stood the test of time, mind.

If you've never seen The Snowman, stick with it, it's full of charm and humanity, snowmanity even. I think we're still permitted to take a leap of faith at this time of year, so I'm even willing to believe Bowie really is the boy in the cartoon.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Duffle Coats - Gloverall Collaborates

Not wanting to bore on about duffle coats, but we mentioned the fine company Gloverall the other day, and a little bit earlier we spoke of Fred Perry. Well we can’t miss the opportunity to speak of their collaboration for this season. For the first time, Fred Perry have worked with Gloverall to produce a Fred Perry duffle coat. Should go down a storm in Japan.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Faggotini - A Warming Cocktail

I often have a craving for faggots in winter. To non-British readers, a faggot is a traditional British dish, sort of a meatball made with chopped heart and liver.

I wanted to do something a bit different with them though. Different I did. This may be a first —faggots as a cocktail. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the faggotini. The olives and peeled tomato are a serving suggestion. Pour a little whisky over them to add additional warmth, then serve.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Saving Tricker's - Star Cobblers

Tricker's shoes have been around since 1829. They're still making shoes in the UK and surviving the onslaught of globalization, because, like all survivors, they didn't panic and head in the same direction as all the others who were trying to save their skins. No attempts to outsource, expand, stretch, diffuse or dilute the brand. Just kept on doing what they've always been doing and hanging on to their unique differentiators of heritage, quality and that all-important (particularly in the Italian and Japanese markets) 'Made in England' label.

I'm sure the Yakuza would have thought differently of their particular Tricker's design of shoe if it was suddenly to be made in Bangladesh by children . No, the infamous Japanese gangsters appreciate that their shoes are made by craftsmen in Northampton, in much the same way as shoes have been made there over almost two hundred years. If you go to the factory shop, ask to see the Yakuza design by the way. The Japanese gangsters have perfected their way of dressing and, much like Tricker's, remain sublimely impervious to shallow trends. We could learn a lot from the Yakuza.

My Tricker's have served me well over the years. Trouble arises when I look to have them repaired. High-street cobblers are a gamble, you can never be sure that your shoes won't be returned with new dents and scuffs along with the repair.

Good to see that hope might be at hand. Star Cobblers offer a nationwide service. You pop your shoes in a bag and send them off to magically fixed. A good job they made too. Resole and heels with metal quarters. The heels were very worn down, as I'd been putting off the day when I trusted them with someone else for quite some time. The pastoral tableau above doesn't quite show the repairs, but it was a neat job and they even threw in a well-matched tin of shoe polish. Worth a try if you have become frustrated with shoe repairs elsewhere. I will certainly use them again.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Art of Shopping and Managing Expectations

I’ve never attempted to do my shopping on Christmas Eve. I don’t think I could take the heat, anxiety and stress of swirling between hoards of people from one shop to another, always relieved to be leaving the shop, but feeling I have quite possibly bought the wrong present. Surprisingly, plenty of men put themselves through this, but why? Perhaps because they have given absolutely no thought to it in the run-up and have left it too late even to go for the online option. 

Let us consider another philosophy away from the denial approach. Christmas shopping can be made into an art, to be perfected through the years, so that it feels like something you do by accident, painlessly. Almost a pleasure, even. To achieve this, it’s important to get some sensible tactics in place.

How I tackle Christmas shopping is by singling out a day and, on that day, walking into town early - giving myself enough time to have a hearty breakfast (the Full Monty) before the shops open. As preparation, I have established a clear idea of what I want to buy and for whom so that my choice of shops narrows down to no more than five. Once I buy something, I’ll get it wrapped in the store if the service is available too. In fact, a shop that offers this service has more of a chance of making it into the big five. I’m delighted to see that the service of wrapping gifts for free is returning, which was once standard practice. A fine innovation at one of my local restaurants is that they are offering to wrap your presents while you eat - superb, mission accomplished! I enjoy the mulled wine and hand the blighters over.

As an alternative to the single mission, buying outside the Christmas season has its own advantages. Prices are more sensible and there’s more choice - many products are put away in shops at Christmas to leave room for those specially packaged, and priced, for the festive season. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with giving a pair of loafers, a Panama hat or a linen jacket for Christmas when people are often thinking about next year's holidays. 

Giving Christmas gifts should be about meeting or exceeding expectations. Be ready to note down any hints your loved ones drop through the year. The present can be inexpensive, but may be something they wouldn't normally treat themselves to every day. A triple-milled soap or cashmere socks comes to mind. If you travel, try and find time to shop for unique or unusual presents. Keep your audience in mind - no use giving a blender to someone who rarely puts a foot in the kitchen or a bright yellow cardigan to a red-haired friend. Avoid anything that emphasises shortcomings, wrinkle-creams or gym memberships are a no-no. And above all, if you're not inspired, don’t be afraid to ask.  

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

National Trust meets Jarvis Cocker

Spent an enjoyable day at Kingston Lacy with the family Tweed. Nice landscaping and house. Like most National Trust properties, glorious for walking on crisp winter days, flask on hip. Slightly disappointed by the Trust gift shop though. I wish they could be a bit more imaginative and depend less on the kitsch and predictable. For a heritage organisation, it's a pity they can't look to support the small artisans up and down the country. Let's get some pottery from the Potteries in there, traditionally made objects, works by local artists. Highgrove, I think, does this better. More on them in another post.

I think the Trust are trying a bit with the food. The cafe had local produce. I'd like to see the same in the shop. The visitors are there to appreciate the history and culture of their surroundings, the products in the shop should reflect that context, should speak of the heritage, but also champion the present. Is a visitor from China going to be impressed by a thimble made in China? They should show visitors from overseas that we can still make nice things - objects of beauty shouldn't just be on display in the grand houses, but also sold. Let us have a narrative of how the past has shaped the present and is being re-interpreted by the craftsmen of today. I believe the Trust had a trial of displaying wares from up-and-coming designers. A good idea. More surprises please, less tins of shortbread.

Speaking of looking at new directions and ways of celebrating the heritage, their collaboration with Jarvis Cocker was a nice surprise. You can download a collection of sound recordings he made at some of their sites for free here. Sound is very evocative. None for Kingston Lacy, but maybe I'll make my own next time I take a trip out there.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Sunspel - Getting the Basics Right since 1860

Old label

Looking for timeless and understated British underwear? No? neither was I the first time I encountered Sunspel. I first picked up some of their underwear in Italy. I hadn't packed enough and set out to replenish as quickly as possible. Who wants to spend hours shopping for underwear in Florence? I didn't much like the other brands on offer in one particular shop, mostly tanga-shaped and in racy cloth and colourways - not to Tweedy's taste. About to give up, I spotted some quietly boxed items giving a barely audible ahem amongst the packaged glare. Without razzmatazz the underwear was waiting patiently for the discerning customer to discern. 'Sunspel', I read. 'Made in England', I read further. The underwear was in plain white and in my size. I took a chance, paid up and made my way to a date with a steak Florentine.

New label

Well cut and made with fine cotton, the underwear is frankly the most comfortable I have ever worn. I've expanded my collection as the company has expanded., trying their polos, including their famous 'riviera polo' of James Bond fame, and the t-shirts and vests. They wash and wash and don't lose their shape or colour. Wonderful basics.

The 'Caravan Kid, or Billy Joe Saunders, can certainly do them more justice than any picture of myself could. Here's a short film shot by Alasdair McLellan for the Derbyshire company featuring the boxer. They say there's a bit of Ray Petri there. I see a bit of Derek Jarman. Great little film.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Great Duffle Coat Wearers #2 - Paddington Bear

Sporting his signature duffle coat since 1958, Paddington Bear. Plenty of room for marmalade sandwiches in the pockets.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Duffle Coats aren't for Duffers

Milk, no sugar, thanks

I  remember the reassuring weight of the duffle coat I wore to school, and the red tartan lining that welcomed you in. It was incredibly warm, particularly worn with a balaclava. I liked how the snow stuck to it too and the smell of the boiled wool after rainfall. Like all timeless classics the coat was fit for purpose and duffle coats have required little alteration since the British Royal Navy issues up to World War 2. Incidentally, neither has the balaclava, but no-one seems prepared to wear or produce them nowadays. Maybe I'm soft, but I like to wrap-up well in winter.

With the original navy duffles hard to track down, there are modern options out there. Burberry have a nice example this season. I'm not sure about a detachable hood, as I would say that was intrinsic to a duffle, or the colour black. I would need to see it up close to see if it would pass muster midships in a force nine gale. I would think not, but it would probably be fine for a stroll to the nearest pub.

Little black duffle

More to Tweedy's taste are the Gloverall duffles. The company has an impeccable heritage for them, having first sold the Royal Navy's surplus and then produced them in its own right since 1954. In the 1960s they became fashionable and associated with the CND marchers at Aldermaston, wearing their badges and suede shoes. Since then they have a  reputation that is equally eccentric and classic. Their 'Monty' in tan looks good, with wooden toggles and jute fastenings. Just need to find a balaclava now.

Full Monty 

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Take 90 - Dave Brubeck

Jazz roll

When I was growing up, the one thing I resolved to have in my fantasy bachelor pad was a reel-to-reel player. It would have jazz playing constantly and there would always be a drinks cabinet to hand. It would be a short walk to my sunken bed with the headboard that acted as a shelf for lots of interesting photographic books on architecture and so on. I think there's a similar bed in a Woody Allen film., actually. It seems like a slightly dated, obvious and ersatz vision of sophistication to my now adult eyes. I suppose it depends, to some extent, on the player and the music. Though my bachelor days are over, the music would still include Dave Brubeck, that hasn't changed. So well done wee little Tweedy for getting that right.

Although I never got the reel-to-reel, I got the Brubeck. Wonderful to hear the broadcasts celebrating Mr Brubeck's 90th birthday yesterday. Happy birthday, sir.

The Arena programme, "In His Own Sweet Way",  directed for the BBC by Clint Eastwood was a joy. In video clips of performances and in photo stills there is always a broad smile. Talking about the music it was there too, his love for the form undiminished.

Sometimes unkindly regarded as background music, the sounds of his albums with the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the 50s and 60s are complex and elegant, famous for the unusual time signatures, and stand countless listens.

Signature Brubeck look in the photo here. Black-framed glasses, crumpled dark suit, skinny tie, white shirt. The sort of thing I might have wanted to wear in my child's vision of a bachelor pad. I would imagine there would have been a lot of smoke swirling around wherever they are playing and the sound of ice clinking in scotch glasses. Judging by the bassist, I think they have just played one hell of a set.  

I will be doing this in my 90s

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Where Did You Get That Hat?

Warm and soft

The cold weather seems to be settling in here in the UK. And when there is a chill wind blowing out comes 'old thumper', my fur hat. As you can see, it really is built to keep out the cold. I bought it in Prague for pennies about ten years ago. I was desperate for anything to keep out way below zero temperatures and it was an absolute godsend. That and the warming soup they were serving using carved-out loaves as bowls, so that you could eat the bowls as well. I've not seen a hat over here that would come close to its warmth yet, nor any restaurant using the bread bowls (a great idea). You could say that the style of the hat is a bit of a throwback to the Communist days, but I like to think it has a whiff of Cossack about it, maybe even Grizzly Adams. Does it look good? I certainly get some looks with it on, but it's normally from rather hypothermic-looking individuals.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Brilliant Brilliantine

I've had this little pot of Yardley Lavender Brilliantine for a good while. You need very little, barely showing the pot to your hair is sufficient. Smells wonderful and helps calm the hair down after a good wash and stiff brushing. Maybe it's completely bogus, but I'd like to think a dash of brilliantine helps protect the hair from the ravages of the modern air-conditioned office too.

The Yardley name has been existence since 1770, but I don't see much from Yardley in terms of men's grooming. I hope they're looking at their men's product range. I want to use more, buy more nice little pots - maybe a nice lavender shaving cream - but I don't see anything out there. I'd love to hear from you Yardley.

Tweedy's Tip: Don't overdo the Brilliantine, unless you want to look like Danny Zuko.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Accattone I'll Never Be

Accattone Sweater Action
I've watched Pier Paolo Pasolini's first feature film Accattone many times and I've always been particularly struck by the 1960s Roman street fashion of the male characters. It's rather smart.

In the film clip below you will see a nice white v-neck sweater at 1' 28''; and at 1' 40'' in you see a John Smedley style collared-shirt style sweater.

This is a wonderful, atmospheric film. The actor Franco Citti looks good (yet troubled) throughout, furnishing the lead character — an aimless drifter in the poverty-stricken slums of post-war Rome —  with a misplaced pride that fits the role perfectly.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Bloomberg for Tips

Bloomberg television, surprising as it might seem, is a better place to see examples of classic men's style than Fashion TV, which seems to be off the air now anyway. You'll get presenters, such as Tom Keene, displaying some classic Wall Street looks, with bow ties and button-down shirts. There's an economist that pops up occasionally  who dresses so traditionally he looks positively radical - certainly far more radical than the designers who try so hard to be edgy on Fashion TV and try and outdo each other by dressing men in banana-shaped coats and three-legged trousers and such. Was it Camus who said convention is true rebellion?

Unlikely to wear Crocs

When the figures behind and underneath are all flashing red, the clothes seem to exude an air of composure and unflappability. I wish I could get away with a bow tie, but I just can't - not through want of trying.

The guests who've started web-based companies appear in the obligatory blue open-shirt and chinos - a la J. Crew. Can look very good. It tries to say they're not like the corporate stuffed-shirts they're competing against. But it's on its way, if not there already, to becoming the de facto corporate uniform itself.

You will see insights into what might be the future of management style (in a clothes sense). A little more relaxed but still meaning business. Tyler Brule's appearance has echoes of a modern preppy style, as filtered through Japan. Looks smart, comfortable and great for the creative industry he works in and all the air miles he does. See here.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Uniformity - #1 Waitrose

Waitrose Supermarket Uniform

I enjoyed wearing my uniform at school. Blazer, shirt, tie, grey trousers and black shoes (polished regularly). Smart and sensible. Because we all looked the same there was no fashion competition between the children, and no time was needed to consider what to wear each day. It was also easier for parents to buy clothes for school, they had a template. I also feel it gave the school an identity and a cohesion - entirely the reason for a uniform.

With this mind, old Tweedy is thinking of running an occasional series on nice uniforms old and new that represent a company or institution or regiment well. First up is Waitrose. I've always had good experience with Waitrose. The shops are run well and the staff always courteous and helpful. The new uniform looks well and fits Waitrose well, being smart and modern. I complimented the staff in my local Waitrose on the uniform a number of times, and without exception they all seem to be pleased, and feel comfortable, to wear it. If you can think of a uniform that is worthy of posting, please let me know. Maybe it's your own, in which case you could pop it on and send me a pic.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

English Moustache

The sports at RAF Lyneham really got into the spirit for the Movember charity movement that aims to raise money and awareness for men's health issues by moustache growing.

Stiff (and hairy) upper-lip

Pity I can grow nothing better than something resembling an overused toothbrush. I grow the odd beard and sometimes leave a bit more length on the upper-lip as a sort of 'stealth' moustache to see what I can muster, but  it's very much a glorified eyebrow.

In different circumstances, I think I'd try for an English moustache. The style is defined on its dedicated Wiki page as "beginning at the middle of the upper lip the whiskers are very long and pulled to the side, slightly curled; the ends are pointed slightly upward; areas past the corner of the mouth must be shaved."  This Victorian photo of a British Army polo team in India shows some good examples. Some nice polo tops too. I could well see them in Hackett or Ralph Lauren.

No upper-lip left uncovered

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Time to Chukka It

One of the great things about the internet is that you can track down items of very specific interest. Steve McQueen, as we all know, looked great in Bullit. Debate rages over the chukka boots he wore, and I try not to involve myself in such debates, but I reckon Sanders and Sanders have it pretty much pegged. And a fine company they are too, making shoes since 1873. Must take a trip to the shoe museum in Northampton sometime, actually.

Not knowing about these, I bought the closet I could find. Otherwise, I would have snapped them up. They can be worn almost year round with the British weather and look great, well, when worn like Steve. When I've worn out my pale imitations, I'll get a pair. Wardrobe space being at a premium, I'm adopting a one in/ one out policy at the moment. You know how it is.

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