Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Put on Your Coate's

In shaving circles there was no more auspicious name than Coate's for shaving cream. When rumours circled that Coate's was to be no more, there was talk on shaving forums of pots changing hands for ludicrous sums, such was the renown of the product. If you search hard you can still locate the odd pot.

Coate's was established in 1847, and based for main part of its existence in Somerset, England. It looked like this fine brand was to be consigned to shaving history. But this story has a happy ending, chums. The Gentleman's Shop rode to the rescue and took the brand under its wing, if you permit me to mix my metaphors. Not only does the brand live on, but it continues to be made in the UK. Hurrah!

Being a sensitive-skinned soul, I favour shaving creams scented with rose or almond. The first batch of new Coate's is a glycerine and coconut oil-based shaving cream that contains tea tree and rosemary essential oils. This should suit me very well too. More scents are due to follow. 

The application of shaving cream and brush really is the best way to shave. Here, Robert Johnston of The Gentleman's Shop offer some tips:

Lost and Found - Contemporary Nostalgia

What makes an object worth saving? Is it sentimentality or beauty, maybe functionality, perhaps the preservation of heritage. Cost?

Of course, there's no easy answer, but it is a question posed by Becky Oldfield, the creative force behind Lost and Found, who believes that we should reconsider the value we place on objects, reappraise and find new uses for them. To this end, she has produced some really engaging and quirky pieces for the home that are informed by and created from vintage objects with a particularly British slant. Witness the deck chairs made with old Union Flags and the bus destination light boxes used as wall hangings.

Heritage objects put in a new context and, as a consequence, given a new lease of life. A bit like when old Tweedy visits the seaside.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Lodger - England's Finest Giving Italy the Boot

And did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England's mountains Lodger shoes? Old Tweedy wipes away a tear of patriotic pride. Lodger, as part of the Lutwyche group, have announced that from now on all their shoes will be made in England. Some styles had been made in Italy, but no longer. To this end, their focus is to produce the finest crafted shoes in England.

Lodger's spring range is arriving soon and is eagerly anticipated at Tweed Towers.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Anne Briggs - Forgotten but not Gone

Anne Briggs was active in the UK folk scene around the mid-60s to early 70s. Despite stepping back from music since that time, she continues to be something of a minor cult figure. Her vulnerable, gentle vocals have found favour in Japan in recent years, and there have been much-anticipated re-issues of her difficult-to-get-hold-of recordings amongst those who are aware. Let's hope momentum can build thanks to the wonders of the web.  

This tune is a lovely example of her sound, its freshness compares admirably against much of the new acoustic and contemporary folk around. Nice to listen to with a plate of cheese and onion and a dimpled mug of Ruddles County.  

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Make Space for the Boat Race

Come on the blues. The British social season is edging into longer days and warmer weather with the definitive spring event, the Oxford and Cambridge boat race. Watching the exertions between Putney Bridge to Mortlake is more evocative to me than hearing the first cuckoo.

I'm no wet-bob, nor a dry-bob for that matter, but I enjoy the tradition of the boat race. It still feels like a properly sporting event. It's not about inflated egos or salaries, the competition is all.

I may forget who won last year, and never give the event another thought the day after, but it's pleasant watch and a moment for collective spectacle and the chance of a flutter (bet). Gentility is a rare commodity these days, and the race retains some of the Corinthian spirit in which it began. The local pub's having a boat race theme, so I'll make an admittedly lazy effort and wear my Henley shirt by John Smedley. In the interest of impartiality, the blue is neither Oxford or Cambridge in shade.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Burleigh - England on a Plate

After I mentioned The New English and the (hopeful) resurgence of the pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent, a reader kindly informed me of Burleigh Pottery. Quite different in design from The New English, Burleigh produce earthenware in classic patterns, including the most famous pattern of all - the willow pattern. They've updated this classic with a range in a rather smart and contemporary black shade - trendy gentility. 

Burleigh use clay suplied from Devon and Cornwall to manufacture a purely English product. They are a family business and have been creating their wares in a Victorian factory in the heart of the Potteries for 150 years. The factory is the last working Victorian Pottery in England. "Good show," says old Tweedy.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Blimey Cro'Jack

Japan and Italy, admirers of British heritage brands, get ready to welcome a newcomer. Contradiction in terms? Not really, Cro'  Jack offer high-quality British men's apparel with designs that reflect British heritage in terms of materials and styles. And Made in England, unlike some of the more high-profile British heritage labels. Old Tweedy approves considerably.

I'm taken with the nautical feel of the Blimey jacket, with its duffle toggles and British Duralinen fabric, and the super-thick fisherman's sweater. This stuff looks indestructible and its maritime feel wouldn't look out of place in The Cruel Sea (or a football terrace). Indeed, as they say, a cro’jack (cross jack) is a piece of nautical equipment - the lower yard on the mizenmast of a square-rigged ship. I knew that.

I could well see some of these initial Cro' Jack pieces becoming collectors items when the Japanese find out about the company, so you could consider a purchase an investment (good excuse #59). That's partly why I'm going to buy one of their cardigans. It should come in really handy for my forthcoming trip to Prague.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Abraham Moon Mission

A jacket in Yorkshire tweed bought from Marks and Spencer. Features that attracted me:
  • It is tweed.
  • It is woven in Yorkshire by Abraham Moon, established 1837.
  • It was designed in collaboration with the brilliant Timothy Everest.
  • It is unlined and unstructured, which is not common for tweed jackets, so is good for cycling in.
  • It looks a bit like one Dirty Harry wore.

I thought the jacket was a bit of a hidden gem at the time. And the great thing about the cloth is that I've put it in the washing machine a few times, on a wool wash setting, and after a careful iron and stiff brush it comes out good-as-new. The buttonholes have gone a bit stretched, but that's probably the pressure I'm exerting on them from within. Yes, a tweed jacket in the washing machine — take that dry cleaners. Well done Moon, this jacket has given me very good service and I'm sure I'll be throwing it on for many years to come.

Moon also produce cloth for other clothes retailers. The picture below is from Jack Wills. This is encouraging. For locally sourced materials maybe we should look to the Moon.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Grenson - Going Brogue

I've just been clicking around the nice new site of Grenson. Established in 1866 and still making shoes in the shoe-making capital of England, Northampton. There's a smashing selection of brogues and chukkas, which, as we know, are required purchases to complete a wardrobe.

The Fred is a take-no-prisoners brogue boot with its triple sole and big punch holes. Crikey, it's an incredible looking thing. If you're going brogue, no point in holding back, says old Tweedy. I feel sure if you were to remove those beauties at an airport security check there'd be gasps of admiration from the staff frisking you.

By contrast, the Smith is an attractive suede chukka that offers a classic tan colour and understated elegant lines. Here the admiration from the airport staff might be suitably low-key, perhaps a faint, barely perceptible look of appreciation as you pick them off the conveyor.

Grenson are starting to release summer styles. I'll be keeping a beady eye on this site.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Don't be Afraid, Darling, it's Only a Man's Apartment

Renzo Cesana, an Italian actor based in Los Angeles, developed a romantic character called The Continental for radio in the 50s. Cesana would whisper sweet-nothings into the ears of listeners in Los Angeles, and conjure up images of love and romance, with a little bit of Latin rakishness in the mix. No singer he, but the formula proved successful enough for the Euro-charmer to make a number of recordings of talk-songs for Columbia and Capitol Records.

I first came across some of these recordings on Capitol's Ultra-Lounge series of compilation CDs that bring old exotica, lounge and cocktail music tracks together. Cesana's tracks are usually hidden unlisted tracks at the end of the CDs, so they need to be sought out. Truly hidden gems. Apart from the one below.

The Continental, I raise my bone-dry Martini to you, sir.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Angulas - Eel Appeal

We spoke about the jellied eels supplied by M. Manze recently. Hopping over to the continent and the eels start to get a lot smaller. The Spanish are crazy about the elver or young eels, which are known as angulas there. Whenever I make a visit I always make sure I bring a couple of tins back - usually from El Pescador de Arosa. I can't find an online supplier in the UK. They are packed with olive oil and some small chillies to enhance the flavour. Delicious cooked with spaghetti or on toasted bread with mayonnaise.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Criterion Jacket Fulfils Criteria

Not sure of the production numbers for this beautiful cycling jacket, but I'm keeping a careful watch to see if I can bag one. An adorable piece with fine attention to detail.

The forthcoming Criterion cycling jacket is being produced through a collaboration between Timothy Everest and Brooks England. The jacket is being made in London and is water-repellent and lined with tweed. Amongst the many well thought through details, I like the idea of the shoulder straps inside so that you can take off the jacket but carry it very easily. And the way that you can pull the jacket under yourself and over a wet saddle to keep dry is also a nice touch. This is a stylish example of the best of British heritage and design. I really feel that James Bond should be wearing one of these in his next outing, maybe to cycle over to Blades in Mayfair.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Brooks England - Saddle Phwoar

If you've ever been to Forte dei Marmi in Italy, a cycling heaven, you will have noticed that the Italians take their bicycles very seriously, much like their clothes. And, generally, if they want the best saddle they go for a Brooks of England.

Established in 1866, Brooks are extremely well-regarded for their saddle-making heritage and manufacturing quality. Pashley also recognise this and there's a nice black sadlle that came with my Roadster Sovereign. My posterior is very grateful for this 3-sprung touring saddle, which makes for a most comfortable sit down, and will probably last longer than me. In a low-key effort to 'pimp my ride', I also added Brooks' plump leather hand grips, which are ageing attractively, which is more than can be said for me.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

James Herriot - Focus on the Tweed

Remember the old James Herriot series on TV that ran from 1978 to 1990? No matter, it's a bit hazy for me too, which means it's probably due a remake. Heaven knows, we could all do with some uncynical, heart-warming television, with the occasional internal examination of a cow, right now.

If they do remake it I hope they don't stint on the tweed. To my mind, the original series was possibly the most tweed-heavy TV series in history. Nobody wore it better than actor and English longbowman Robert Hardy appearing as the blustery Siegfreid Farnon.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

English Song Festival

The English Song Festival at The Forge in Camden, London began on the 13th of this month and will continue until the 10th of April in a series of Sunday evening performances. The festival is curated by pianist William Vann. I heard a sample on Radio 3 and was most impressed, not least by the ambition. Accompanied by Vann, ten singers and a violinist are performing music written by more than twenty-five English composers. 

Next up is a recital of songs that use the words of William Shakespeare, including Tippett's wonderful Songs for Ariel. As they say, "All five evenings will take the audience through a fascinating exploration of the inimitable and ravishing songs – and poems – that are an invaluable part of the cultural heritage of this country." This is the inaugural festival, so let's hope it builds and becomes as much a part of the cultural heritage of this country itself, much like the Proms.  

Altogether now:
Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip's bell I lie; 
There I couch when owls do cry. 
On the bat's back I do fly 
After summer merrily. 
Merrily, merrily shall I live now 
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize

Spring is in the air and I've cleaned off my Pashley Roadster Sovereign ready for some fair-weather cycling. If we get a particulalrly nice day, maybe I can re-enact a few scenes from Les Bicyclettes de Belsize. Nice tunes and interesting and charmingly innocent shots of late 60s London.

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Keep Short Trousers at Arms Length

Trousers have been rising up the leg again. The half-mast look only works with skinny trousers, which only work if you're skinny. And half-mast only works in the right context, as you wouldn't wear half-mast trousers as part of a wedding suit. The safe trouser length, for the standard width, is the single break - one horizontal crease at the front, with material falling about half-an-inch over the heel at the back. Less length than that and the trouser needs to narrow. More length shouldn't really be considered, as a mass of material bunched over your lovely shoes won't look good.

Know these rules and you can play with them. I was flicking through a book on British street style by Ted Polhemus the other day, whilst sipping a mug of Earl Grey, and happened on this remarkable photo of Paul Weller taken in Oxford in the early 80s. Blimey. Weller is wearing light trousers at very short length with dark shoes and socks and it bloody works. The coat looks tremendous too, which reminds me of the maxims I employ when shopping:
  1. Formal wear: Would the item look okay if I were an extra in a film starring Cary Grant?
  2. Casual wear: Would Paul Weller allow me on the back of his scooter if I turned up wearing the item?
  3. I need this item. Will rationalise the spending later.  
Happy shopping, chums.

Friday, 11 March 2011

M. Manze - First Class Pie, Mash and Jellied Eels

The traditional cockney dish of pie, mash, liquor and jellied eels is being invigorated through the web. Courtesy of M. Manze the dish can now be delivered throughout the UK. Established in 1902, Manze's is still a family-run business and survives despite the proliferation of American fast-food outlets competing to 'super-size' us on every high street. Their Tower Bridge shop is the oldest eel and pie shop in the land. Next time you're in London, pop over and try a bit of tasty living history. If you're in the UK, why not try some from the comfort of your home.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Pashion for Pashley

When I was looking for a new bike two or three years ago I was determined that it wouldn't be some over-designed monstrosity churned out from some South Korean mega-factory. I also wanted to be able to sit in an upright, comfortable position. My old mountain bike forced me to sit in a ludicrous hunched position. Trips to India had made me fall in love with old-style, unfussy bikes. Could I find a similar one here and, hope against hopes, could I find a British manufacturer that could supply it?

I quickly found one or two acceptable looking Dutch bikes and a nice one from the Damish company Skeppshult on the web, then I stumbled on the web site of Pashley Cycles. My heart started racing. I read the opening paragraph,  'Pashley - England's longest established bicycle manufacturer. Founded in 1926 and based in Stratford-upon-Avon.' So far so very good. I clicked through the pages showing the models of bikes. I saw the first bike. I wanted it. I saw the second bike. I wanted that too. In fact, I wanted them all. Pashley it would be, but which model? In the end, it had to be the majestic Roadster Sovereign. With its large frame and 28" wheels it's such a marvellously elegant and serene ride. In fact, its such a pleasure to ride I find it hard to take the sort of beatific grin off my slightly self-satisfied face when I'm in the seat. I glide around tinging my bell at passers-by and, years later, the thing still engenders a feeling of joyful giddiness in me. Let's call it the Pashley-effect. Frankly, I might look a bit mad.

I was delighted that I could find a bike made in the UK, and one that has brought me so much pleasure. One thing I'm undecided on, though, is whether to get a basket on the front for chucking in newspapers and cheese and plums when I pop to the shops. I'll let you know if I decide to.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Commando at 50 - Hun Bait, Mate

Commando continues its 50th anniversary celebrations with the re-issue of the original 12 stories. This month we see Hun Bait. This story features Sergeant Kelly, a big Australian eager to get his hands on the enemy's throat. Ripping stuff.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Shopping at The Savoy

The new SHOP at The Savoy within London's landmark Savoy Hotel sounds very interesting. Open to residents and non-residents alike, the shop has a carefully edited collection of products that are slanted towards British brands, which certainly gets a tick from Tweedy. Some of the things that take my eye are the Cutler and Gross sunglasses, the Savoy library collection of 50 titles reflecting London in literature, The Savoy Cocktail Book, and china from our friends at The New English. With all those books, it would be tempting to become a semi-permanent resident - nice idea.

There will be a seasonal rotation of big names and hidden gems in the shop (another Tweedy tick). In addition, shopping services are available that include 'London Unwrapped' excursions. These can be arranged with distinct itineraries such as Bespoke Outings. Of particular interest to me is a trip to Savile Row that may be arranged escorted by Savile Row author and expert, James Sherwood. Ladies, perhaps that would be of interest to the special man in your life...or your husband.  

Sunday, 6 March 2011

James Bowman - High Praise for High Notes

James Bowman is one of my favourite counter-tenors. In recent times, thanks largely to Alfred Deller spreading awareness of the early-music repertoire of the counter-tenor in the 50s and 60s, the counter-tenor has found a new and growing audience. James Bowman has helped that progress.

In many ways it is a very English singing voice, which harks back to the minstrel days of John Dowland, and James Bowman is a very English counter-tenor. His recordings, particularly for Hyperion Records, have brought me immeasurable pleasure over the years. There is something about the high range that connects with me. I eventually managed to see him live in a small church in deepest Somerset, performing an intimate recital of song including Dowland and Purcell, and I am grateful for having done so.

On May the 21st, James will perform his last London recital at the Wigmore Hall with harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani in a programme of Handel, Bach, and Purcell. It should be an absolute treat. I'm currently investigating how I might conspire to attend. In the meantime, here is a nice clip of James.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Hyperion Records - Much Better than Bungee Jumping

Indie music isn't dead. Hyperion Records is a British independent classical record label that produces wonderful recordings. Described as Britain's brightest record label, they have a surprising knack of producing albums that I want to own. I first dipped into their catalogue with their Henry Purcell recordings. Purcell: The Complete Odes and Welcome Songs is a particular favourite, featuring the wonderful counter-tenor, James Bowman, and tenor Rogers Covey-Crump. James Bowman was also the star counter-tenor for the Handel: English Arias, another favourite.  

When I ponder over my ambitions in life, in idle moments usually when I'm meant to be working, I think how nice it would be to own the entire back catalogue of Hyperion Records. That's my kind of ambition. Not for old Tweedy wanting to jump off a bridge connected to a piece of elastic, thank you very much.  

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Tom Keene - His Favourite Bow Tie and the American Fear of Heavy Fabrics

A previous post on the style of Bloomberg's Tom Keene has proved to be very popular indeed. This can't be ignored. We listen to what you're saying here at Tweed Towers. How then to satisfy the obvious demand (and capitalise on Keene's popularity)? Feeling the need to dig a bit deeper, the answer became obvious. Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the inaugural Tweed Pig Q & A With Mr Tom Keene.

Tom Keene, a media and Wall Street veteran with over 20 years of investing and business media experience, is known for his insightful conversations with some of Wall Street's top minds. A colourful character, he can be spotted at Bloomberg's world headquarters in New York giving regular lessons on how to properly tie an old-fashioned bow tie. Tom is the owner of over 40 bow ties and he claims he's addicted to the neckwear for the simple reason: "after the third necktie is ruined by food/drink, it's a no-brainer."

Q & A

Tweed Pig: Has your style developed over the years? When were the bow ties adopted?
Tom Keene: Style was beaten into me as a child, growing up in upstate New York. Bow ties are in the genes - I just discovered a photo of my grandfather holding me at age 3 and he was wearing a bow tie.

TP: Will you dress differently depending on the guest? Is there a guest that makes you want to 'up your game' in the style stakes?
TK: I really don't dress for the guests. If they wear magenta, I won't match it.

TP: Is there anything you need to avoid wearing on TV, because it won't look well?
TK: Seersucker just doesn't work. With the new, bright television studio lights, I have to go to dark suits. The grays get washed out.

TP: Is there a particular attribute in a man which would make wearing bow ties more flattering than ties?
TK: I'm not sure on the whole short-tall, thin-wide debate. Much of it is just being comfortable.

TP: If you could pick a period in time, is there a favorite in terms of news reporting? And what about in terms of fashion?
TK: There are benefits to each era. I grew up in a Huntley-Brinkley house. My parents were major news junkies. The fashion back generations of the family was pretty predictable. There was no teal.

TP: Do you buy your own bow ties? Do viewers send you any? What's your favourite? And the most eccentric?
TK: Yes, I get this all the time and no I don't have a deal with Herm├Ęs. Viewers and listeners have been very generous. My favorite bow tie is a solid red one from my youngest daughter who hates that I wear them. By far my most emotional tie is a quiet red-white-and-blue tie from Brooks Brothers that I bought in the late morning of September 11th drifting in shock out of downtown Boston, up Newbury Street and across the Commons. I wear it once a year.

TP: Which item of clothing do you choose first when deciding what to wear?
TK: What's clean.

TP: Three wardrobe staples for winter? Three for summer?
TK: Winter: A hat. Get a hat. Use it. Heavier suits: Americans are afraid to wear heavier fabrics. A scarf. I went to a lighter Saint James scarf this year. I liked the longer, lighter feel.
Summer: Seersucker; dark blue cotton; To Boot Johnson Shoes.

TP: What or who inspires your sense of style?
TK: My children and staff. They're brutal.

TP: Do you have a grooming routine or any medicine cabinet secrets?
TK: Crew Wax; get a good haircut (shout out! Ivan at Paul Labrecque)

TP: What statement, if any, do you think your personal style makes?
TK: My style says tuition payments.

TP: Three tips for dressing well?
TK: My tips are my mother's gospel. Buy a few quality things. Take care of them. Worship a good tailor. Always check the stitching first.

TP: Favourite colors? And what about sartorial no-nos?
TK: My colors are dictated by TV. I tend to pink shirts (Paul Stuart), dark suits (Oxxford) and brown shoes (Alden).

With sincere thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer these questions, and providing a few tips and useful insights for the well-dressed chap. Maybe I will try a bow tie after all.

Tom Keene serves as the host of "Surveillance Midday" a hub for the global Wall Street audience. Watch the program on Bloomberg Television or visit for a selection of online videos and links to Tom's Facebook, Twitter and blog posts.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Penhaligon's Sartorial - Made to Pleasure

It was really inspired to create a fragrance based on the evocative aromas of a tailor's workroom, and a very specific workroom at that. Hand made in England using the finest ingredients, the latest eau-de-toilette for men from Penhaligon's, Sartorial, has been designed with the workroom at Savile Row tailors Norton and Sons in mind. All the bottles have ribbon bows on the neck, but you can imagine this one as a bow-tie. 

I am a big fan of their Castile fragrance (and so is young Mrs Tweed, who is always sneaking squirts), and also of the English Fern aftershave, which contains witch hazel and menthol for a proper after shave tonic, so was eager to try Sartorial. And very nice it is too. There is wood, old leather-bound books and rich florals in there, nice bit of spice. Reassuring and elegant, like your favourite suit. And pretty masculine, so maybe young Mrs Tweed won't be sneaking squirts of this one. Or maybe she will?

I've hunted out their promo video, an animation by Quention Jones. It shows the master perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, who created the fragrance, at Norton & Sons absorbing the scents and smells of the workrooms. Smell the colours, gents.

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