Sunday, 27 February 2011

Novi Singers - Portable Polish Jazz Happening

There's a 'happening' going on at Tweed Towers with a little bit of 'iron-curtain' jazz from Poland's Novi Singers. There are no dress-rules, so old Tweedy's going for a John Smedley extra-fine gauge shirt and cardigan combination in purple. Na zdrowie, chums.

Play the video to Torpedo at home and it's like a portable jazz happening. Some swinging dance moves too, which you may want to re-enact in private (or public).

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Gieves & Hawkes - Dress Like a Prince

There was much speculation and anticipation as to what Prince William will be wearing on his wedding day in April (although maybe not quite as much as with Catherine Middleton's dress). The talk was of which tailor, and would he wear morning dress or military or neither.

Speculation over: Gieves and Hawkes of 1, Savile Row will be making his wedding outfit and it will be a military uniform. The uniform is guaranteed to be impeccably tailored, Gieves and Hawkes are now in their 240th year as military outfitters. Rest assured that they will pull out all the stops for the cloth and the cut to look perfect. The only question now is which service, and hence, which colour?

Let's hope the sun shines on their day. If so, Gieves and Hawkes' lovely English Classics in English Colours range for Spring 2011 is just the sort of bright and optimistic kit I'd like to be wearing, the smart end of casual - perfect for the elongated Easter holiday we can enjoy as the great uninvited.  

Friday, 25 February 2011

George Sanders - Still Making the Grade

"I never really thought I'd make the grade. And let's face it, I haven't." A quote attributed to George Sanders. A nice bit of self-deprecation, but it's hard to argue that he didn't make the grade in possibly his finest, and Oscar-winning, role as Addison DeWitt in All About Eve, a wonderfully cynical and waspish film character. That instantly recognisable and urbane voice brought delight too in the characters of Shere Khan in Jungle Book, Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and as Charles Strickland in Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence.

Not quite making the grade, perhaps, though not because of Sanders, is the film Journey to Italy. In theory, it's all there (for Old Tweedy): George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman as a bored married couple, with Naples circa 1953 in the background. Intended as an English-language piece of Italian neo-realism; however, it's at best a pleasant watch. I enjoyed the shots of Sanders in sunglasses (which appear to be Ray-Ban Aviators) and herringbone tweed (above). And, of course, the voice was as lovely as ever to listen to.

I heard a track from his album entitled The George Sanders Touch: Songs for the Lovely Lady a few years ago. I've been hoping for a CD reissue ever since. No joy yet. His autobiography, Memoirs of a Professional Cad, is traceable, but it is prohibitively expensive. Let's hope for a reprint, chums.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Brooks Brothers - Subversive Conservatism

The new Brooks Brothers' Fair Isle tie looks pretty smart. I'll be looking out for it when I'm in their Regent Street, London shop.

The quintessential American Ivy League brand, Brooks Brothers was owned by Marks and Spencer for a time and is now Italian-owned. Established in 1818, none of the more recent owners abandoned the traditional Anglo-influenced aesthetic associated with the brand, which was perfected in the mid-twentieth century.

And with Brooks' Made in America range, suits are made in Massachusetts and shirts in North Carolina to this day. Commendable. The most famous Brooks style is, of course, the Oxford button-down, which was inspired by the founder's grandson John E. Brooks, on seeing how shirts were worn with collars buttoned-down by polo players in England. This English creation has evolved into a integral part of American culture. (A bit like the hymn Amazing Grace, actually, amongst other things.)

 "Isn't all this a bit square, Tweedy?", I hear some of you say. Well maybe that's the point. Let's call it confrontational conservatism or, perhaps, subversive conservatism. Lest we forget that Kevin Rowland's Dexys Midnight Runners adopted the Brooks Brothers look wholeheartedly for their mid-80s Don't Stand Me Down period. Never has such conservative dress been worn with such attitude. Rowland had been down this route before, remembering how the style echoed the UK street fashion worn in the 60s. In Rowland's words: "I stopped outside Brooks Brothers and saw the clothes we had worn years ago: raised edging on the seams, hook or off-centre vents in the jackets, patch pockets. The jackets were so subtle it was untrue, because at first glance they looked very square." At first glance, square, but look again and you'll see that in an age where tattoos and piercings and assorted rebel looks are now all part of mass culture, perhaps Brooks' clothes are actually as punk rock as can be. Kevin Rowland understood that.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Blakey's - Segs Appeal

Calling all would-be cobblers. Blakey's now have an online shop selling their shoe protectors directly. Between full shoes repairs, I certainly knock a Blakey's seg or two into the leather soles of my shoes, both heel and toe sizes that add a satisfying 'clack' when I walk. They're tricky to whack into older leather soles, but it's very satisfying when you knock one in sweetly and know that it's going to be doing it's job protecting the sole for a good while.

I like to don an apron and some half-rimmed glasses when I fit my segs - my cobbler look - then, kneeling, position the shoes between my thighs and knock in the segs with rapid taps of my tack hammer. Maybe with Puccini heroines singing in the background. The type of segs you need depend on how your shoes wear. Mine wear down just at the front tip and on one side of heel. Luckily Blakey's sell segs in all shapes and sizes

The company started as Blakey Shoes Segs and Protectors in 1902, then Blakey's became a brand manufactured by the newly-named Pennine Castings. The company and brand survives because the products can't be bettered for the function they perform. A British company with a fine heritage that still manufactures in the UK - music to Tweedy's ears. Good value too.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A Suitable Case for Globe-Trotter

On a trip to Spain recently, my suitcase was certainly looking its age, burst zips, broken seems, the usual wear-and-tear you'd expect from years of service. Sadly, I had bought it only last year in Venice. The sales assistant assured me that this Italian range of luggage was the most rugged and well-made on the market. Practically indestructible she assured me in an utterly charming way. I was beguiled and bought a case. Here I am a year later considering a replacement. Maybe Globe-Trotter is the answer? They've been around since 1897, so probably know a thing or two about creating robust luggage. And, although they look nice new, I imagine it's the sort of luggage that looks even better with a few knocks and scrapes.

Globe-Trotter had a successful tie-up with Hackett last year to produce the Mayfair, Aston Martin Racing and London Line ranges. Now they have the ‘1897’ series, a full collection of soft leather goods. Designed and hand-made in England. Beautiful stuff. I'm taken with a Boston weekend bag and an Original trolley case in orange and tan, so I'd better start saving.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The New English - Ceramics

The decline of the pottery industry in the six towns that comprise the Potteries in North Staffordshire has been long and painful. Generations of families worked at the same factories passing on skills honed through generations, but as the factories have closed, unable to compete with changing tastes and the 'Tsunami capitalism' from China of recent years, so the skills have been in danger of disappearing. And when cultural heritage is lost, it tends to go forever.

But maybe the once-familiar Made in Stoke-on-Trent, England label under your tea cup is due a comeback. From an area world-famous for its pottery manufacturing, The New English has unleashed some much-needed energy and inventiveness to English ceramic design and married it with the traditional skills found in the Potteries. Let's hope this is the start of a new era in the area that concentrates on design, quality and innovation to compete in the global marketplace, and which will attract the design talent to a region that gave us Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Minton, Spode and Moorcroft to keep the momentum going.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Cider - Asturias versus the UK

I'm just back from a very short trip over to Spain. If you've been following, I'm happy to report that my Lavenham quilted jacket was an excellent travelling companion. Light but warm and easy to stow away. I flew over to Madrid and in a short day I just had time to walk round the shops in Serrano - along Calle de Goya and Velazquez (Hackett was very busy there) - and for dinner of suckling pig in Casa Lucio.

From Madrid, I took a high-speed RENFE train up to Oviedo in Asturias - green Spain. What a lovely trip it was. I normally fly in direct when I visit Oviedo, but I'm sorely tempted to stick with the train from now on. The Preferente-class carriages are well-staffed, quiet and spacious. You're welcomed aboard, provided with fruit juice and newspapers, and headphones for the films they are showing. And, for the time I was travelling, there was a three course meal followed by coffee and brandies. Palencia, one of the cities we passed, looks like it might be worth a visit another time.

What I'd like to talk about here though is cider. Asturias is the home of Spanish cider and Oviedo its capital. There are many 'sidrerias' in the city where you can try some. The traditional still cider has a special pouring technique, which has been developed to mix it with air to bring out the flavour and add a sparkle. A bottle is held as high as possible and splashed into a glass held as low as possible. Only a small amount is meant to be retained in the glass, which is then meant to be drunk quickly whilst the sparkle is still present. My Asturian  friends are rightly proud of their cider heritage. Oviedo is a lovely little city and the cider-scene definitely makes it worth visiting.

Over in the UK, there seems to have been a resurgence in the drinking of cider, and indeed perry - it's pear-based relative. The range of cider produced by Aspall is a particular favourite of mine. And what a heritage the company has. Aspall has been an established family-owned business since 1728, with the eighth-generation of the Chevalier family being the current custodians. All have a wonderfully clean and refreshing taste. Good with food or as an appetiser, it is truly premier cider. The long-necked bottles, based on the bottles produced in the 1920s, are attractive too. Maybe I'll take some over to Oviedo next time I visit.

The video shows an example of the Asturian cider-pouring technique. Rough translation of the pertinent points: Throw away a little to clean the glass as it's meant to be shared. The cider oxidises and loses it flavour quickly, so it's important to pour the right amount of cider into the glass and to drink it straight away - the right amount is called a 'culete' or a butt.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Slowear at Liberty

In an echo of the slow food movement, a number of Italian clothes brands united under a single project identity, called Slowear, which casts itself as a direct alternative to fast fashion - espousing quality, workmanship and timeless appeal in very wearable collections designed to compliment each other. An admirable ethos, finely represented in their publications.

It's surprising that people who might be very fussy about provenance and quality when it comes to food, don't extend that to other purchases such as the clothes they buy. So it's good to see that Slowear grows and the collaborations continue. The latest involves a tie-up with Liberty. The collection has shirts created by Slowear using Liberty prints. You have to be very careful with floral prints, they require plain everything else. The one above would look pretty good under a fine-gauge navy crew-neck sweater, just hinting at the floral on collar and cuffs in a less is more kind of way.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Hardy Amies, an Englishman's Suit and a Plate of Macaroons

If a book on the history of suits doesn't sound like an enjoyable read (although it does to me), then you might not be immediately drawn to Hardy Amies' The Englishman's Suit. But The Englishman's Suit, as well as being a slightly potted history of  suits, is also a rather charming guide to living elegantly. With mock-seriousness tones, that you suspect are deadly seriousness underneath, he has some very definite rules. On any page you will see entirely contestable statements delivered playfully as unquestionable truths. You must "in all weathers wear socks to the calves"; it is "totally impossible to be well dressed in cheap shoes"; a "white handkerchief is acceptable but only just". I may not agree with some of his maxims, but his plea for the seeking of quality and gentility in life is winningly delivered. Best read with a pot of tea and a tray of delicious Laduree macaroons.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Criminally Nice Sweater

Looking at the images of the Australian criminals posted on the Green Box site, I was struck by the sweater of Mr F. Murray, 1929. Although it has seen better days, it looks really well with the surprisingly contemporary-looking attire. The sweater has nice oversize buttons and collar, and a comfortable-looking loose fit, but not too loose. It's a good style tip to wear a collarless shirt under a collared sweater too. Resolves that two-collar dilemma if you want to layer. Mr. Murray, you may not have got the breaks in life, but you had a certain style. And by the look of the hairdo, you may have known it.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Why Jeff, Why? - Bob Hoskins and The Long Good Friday

Gangster Style

What do they say about gangster style? Not knowing when to stop with the good taste? I'm not sure that applies to Harold Shand, the protagonist in the greatest British gangster film, The Long Good Friday. Shand's style is understated and smart, but it's never too much, which helps put the charisma and quiet menace of the character into sharper relief. What a performance by Bob Hoskins as Shand. The ending mesmerises me every time I watch it; and I've watched it many times — an absolute acting masterclass from Bob Hoskins. As a consequence of watching this film, I'll never forgive Jeff or Councillor Harris.

As an aside, Hoskins was also excellent in a BBC version of Middleton and Rowley's The Changeling. I can't find a copy of this anywhere. Please let me know if you can. The music wasn't as memorable as with The Long Good Friday though. Francis Monkman's wonderful soundtrack for the film blends jabbing synths, disco strings and jazzy sax sounds to give a London sound (somehow).

Let's listen to the famous Taken from the close of the film and witness bravura acting with perfectly fitting music. [I don't want to spoil your fun, so don't press play if you've never seen the film and fully intend to. Or perhaps listen to the music with your eyes closed  — better.]

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Tweed Run and Cycling Shoes

I like the Italian insouciance demonstrated by the bicycle rider on this old cigarette card. It reminded me to check dates for this year's Tweed Run. Sadly, I won't be able to make the date, but maybe you can? If so, please tell me how it was.

I will have to settle for being there in spirit or I could do a one-man run another time. If I do, then these modernist cycling shoes from William Lennon could well be the footwear of choice. They are a brilliant price for shoes that they make to order themselves on a British last.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Hand and Trumpet - Wrinehill

"When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.” 
Hilaire Belloc (1911)

Pubs are closing left, right and centre in the UK. It's very sad and always puts me in mind of the words of Hilaire Belloc. I feel like my visits to a pub are akin to acts of charity nowadays - I contribute so that they can continue to do their good work. The right type of pub, of course. One such is the Hand and Trumpet in  Wrinehill, near Betely, Cheshire. Passing through recently, we called in for a Sunday roast. The roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was terrific with a dollop of horseradish sauce made by Darlington and Daughters, a local family company from Cheshire. Fine selection of ales in the pub too, although old Tweedy likes a drop of red wine with his beef. Titanic is a local brewery of note. The pub had the nice, relaxed buzz of a place that blends efficiency and informality in its service. Worth a detour from the M6.

Incidentally, I was reading about the history of the name and the symbols of hand and trumpet used on the pub sign. According to local historians, it's likely that there was a connection with the nearby coach route. A hand was often used in conjunction with a symbol that signified a local amenity. Here, the trumpet denotes the one used by coachmen to signal their arrival or departure. If a female hand had been on the original pub sign, it would have meant that the pub offered other more bawdy diversions.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Covert Coats Go Overt

The covert coat undertook quite a renaissance a few years back. Maybe it was their prodigious use in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels that started it? But you can't keep a classic down. The coat started out in the country as a gamekeeper's coat, but was adopted by the gentry and taken to the city where it was favoured by gangsters and toffs alike. It moved out of Jermyn Street and onto the high street. And there it stays.

T M Lewin have a nicely cut version without the velvet collar, but with the classic fawn colour and signature four lines of stitching at the cuffs and hem.

Covert cloth is woven in Yorkshire and of medium weight, but very robust. I have had my covert, with velvet collar, for over ten years and it still looks like it has a lot of life left in it. I just need to give it a brush down and a dry-clean once a year and it's good as new.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Bloomberg's Keene on Hats

We bring you slightly delayed news from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. You may have spotted Tom Keene's remarkable hat during his broadcasts out there and wondered, like me, whence it came. Wonder no more, chums. It's from Worth & Worth, the New York-based hatters, who have been providing coverings for the discerning bonce since the 1920s.

I've mentioned this before, but Bloomberg offers all the style tips a man could need, none more so than with the traditional stylings of Tom Keene - anchor for Surveillance Midday on Bloomberg Television and host of Bloomberg Surveillance on Bloomberg Radio. And think about this: while you are marvelling at a particularly fetching bow-tie, you're also absorbing useful business information - clever stuff. You can't do that with Fashion TV.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Highgrove Check

Highgrove have produced a lambswool tie in the Highgrove check. Old Tweedy likes the provenance indicated on the labels. We have 'Woven in Scotland' and 'Hand Made in England'. They don't come much better than that. The colours of the Highgrove check are inspired by Prince Charles' garden, so we have the greens and subtle heathery hues. Nice, and useful if you only want to wear a bit of tweed.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

John Barry - All the Tunes in the World

Sad to hear of John Barry's passing. He was responsible for some memorable film music, in particular the James Bond soundtracks from the golden era - Dr No to Man with the Golden Gun. His trademark sound, with muted brass and dramatic stab chords was immediately recognizable. The Goldfinger soundtrack is a particular favourite and one I keep in the car to play when I'm on a 'mission'. (Reality: driving to the supermarket or to the airport). The later Bond films are not the same without that sound he perfected. I need it. Maybe they should bring out some new Bond films set in the 60s and bring it back?

Let's remember him with the opening credits to his first soundtrack for 'Beat Girl'. I must mention also that there are plenty of great compilations out there for the unacquainted. I have one that introduces the theme tune  to Zulu with Richard Burton's narration of a dispatch to the British government. Spine-tingling.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Dashing Tweeds - For All Dandies in All Weather

Scooter Jacket

I first saw Guy Hills on a TV programme about Harris tweed, or was it about Savile Row? Not sure now. Maybe both. Anyway, he was brilliant and the company he runs with weaver Kirsty McDougall, Dashing Tweeds, is brilliant too.

Incorporating ideas from sportswear and technology, with their fabric range and designs they have given tweed a 21st century refresh without losing any of the inherent qualities of the cloth or diluting its heritage. Their 'lumatwill' has practical applications and is also wonderfully eccentric. I'm particularly taken with the Scooter Coat for when I'm riding my Pashley Roadster. Based on the Household Cavalry greatcoat and using one of their urban tweeds, it is reflective and water repellent, and can even be fitted with elbow guards. It certainly beats a high-visibility tabard from Halfords.

Friday, 4 February 2011

With a Little Help from my Fisherman's Friends

I used to enjoy sucking a Fisherman's Friend when I watched the local rugby team. Helped me to concentrate and kept the old pipes clear for bellowing curses at the players when they fumbled the ball. I don't go so much now and got out of the habit of buying them. I reacquainted myself with the original extra strong flavour the other day. (Tweedy always prefers originals.) Most refreshing.

Made in Fleetwood, Lancashire, by Lofthouse's since 1865, they're pretty popular in Scandinavia, particularly Finland, where they're mixed with vodka. Now that's a manly concoction.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Kent Brushes - Good for Baldies

Long hair, short hair, no hair? Kent Brushes have the brushes for you. Yes, even if you have no hair on your head, there are always the clothes brushes for your worsteds. Old Tweedy's a short-back-and-sides man, clean-cut. So, the classic brush and comb combination works for me. (We'll cover shaving brushes another time).

I'm always amazed that there are companies still in existence that can date back as far as 1777, as Kent does. Redcoats could have packed their combs on their way to fight in the American revolution. The mind boggles.  I go on about how these heritage brands are more celebrated abroad, and I know it's not the British way, but we really should be shouting about these companies and feel extremely proud of their longevity and the quality of the products they produce. Go into Boots today and buy a Kent comb, your hair deserves it and so do Kent - you're buying a bit of history.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Commando Comics - 50 Years of Derring-do

I wrote to Commando Comics a while back. I wanted to include a weekly strip on the blog and provide them with an opportunity to get some worldwide coverage. Yes, believe it or not, we get readers from all corners of the globe. They never responded.

Not to worry. Commando Comics are still available in all good outlets, as they say, so their ripping yarns can be enjoyed by those who grew up with them (me) and a new generation of readers (the boy Tweed). To celebrate the anniversary, Commando are launching 'Operation Gold'. They'll have new stories out this year and re-issues of the first 18 books. Moving with the times, they'll also have iPad-friendly digital editions. Happy birthday Commando, an impressive service record. Tweedy salutes you.

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