Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Three Slices of Toast

Toast launched a menswear range this year. If you're familiar with the brand's aesthetic, you will not be surprised that it continues with the soft, casual tailoring, and natural colours and materials found in the womenswear.

Here are three slices of toast to satisfy Tweedy's appetite.

The Matelot Jersey wool fishing sweaters are made by French sweater specialists St James, with the traditional three buttons at the shoulder. A wardrobe staple, gentlemen.

I'm pleased to see that a proper pair of pyjamas are also in the range (above). Regular readers may recall an unreasonable rant about the proliferation of loungewear killing off the pyjama. Pyjamas are back. Great to see that proper top button to fasten the Cerrone Pyjama right up to the neck, as well as drawstring trousers. In 6oz cotton, with decadent blue and green stripes.

The Flannel Blazer is woven in Yorkshire in a 10oz wool/cotton twill flannel. An  unstructured, Edwardian-style jacket. Good for summer travelling on the Sawai Madhopur to Delhi train reading E. M. Forster novels. Actually, it's similar to a jacket I wore from Old Town for just such a trip, of whom more later.

Monday, 30 May 2011

DAKS - The Third Check

You'll know what the Burberry house check looks like, and Aquascutum's too, I'll wager. What about DAKS? Well that's their house check above. It's a relative youngster, actually, being designed in 1976. But the colours are classically in step with its industry cousins.

The check might be a newcomer, not so DAKS itself, which can trace its antecedence back to the famous Simpsons of Piccadilly that began as a London-based tailoring business in 1894. Of these three stalwart British heritage brands, DAKS is perhaps the most low-key. My own pet theory is that the label was never taken up by football casuals with as much enthusiasm as Burberry and Aquascutum, so didn't gain such popular recognition. The Japanese, of course, know and love the brand, and it was eventually brought into majority Japanese ownership in 1991.  

Some trivia about DAKS:
  • The name, so redolent of Britishness and elegance, was pitched as a contraction of Dad's Slacks. I think I'd prefer not to know that.
  • The company launched a self-supporting trouser in 1934, with a patented waistband.  
  • Timothy Everest has collaborated with the brand - to quote: "Daks is a British institution that needs to be modernized but it can't be overly trendy. I see it as like Herm├ęs or Celine—great quality and a great sense of Britishness.

Modern but not trendy is a very fine line. I think they pull off the feat with the trousers in the DAKS check. They also have a made to measure line, made in Italy, so you could have a full suit made in the cloth. You're right, too much.

Look out for the DAKS Sport line coming next month.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Mrs Darlington - At It Night and Day

We've been chomping our way through Mrs Darlington's collection of chutneys, jams and pickles here at Tweed Towers. Made with Love, eaten with lust. A couple of highlights:

Morning snack

The Legendary Lemon Curd is bloody good, frankly. I've been spreading a dollop of that on some hot toasted crusty bread and serving with Whittard's 1886 blend tea. Food of the gods - tasting like lemony manna from heaven.

Evening snack

A plate of mature cheddar and good bread with a big spoon of Mrs Darlington's Real Ale Chutney or Sweet Apple Chutney. The beer used in the ale chutney is Eastgate Bright, from Weetwood Ales in Cheshire.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Take a Seat - James UK

If you're going to be sitting in your study or library pondering on life's major questions, - What was the best episode of Fawlty Towers? What's the best way to fold a pocket square? How to persuade The Smiths to reform? - you'll need a good chair.

The furniture of James UK is British-designed and made. As you'll know from previous posts, this is important to old Tweedy. It's also important for the proprietors of James UK, James Harrison and James Kinmond. By keeping the manufacturing and supply chain local, they can closely control the quality of their products, support British manufacturing and minimise their impact on the environment. This is opposed to the poorly constructed, flimsily-built objects sold in many high street shops. By way of anecdote, I was looking at a wooden storage chest in a major high street shop this week, and as I opened it the cloth lining fell off. The chest looked reasonable from a distance, but was so shoddily constructed. With the cheap cloth stapled against the patchily stained wooden lid, I was aghast that they dared to sell it. Buy cheap, buy twice.    

No such concerns with James UK, and I feel confident that when sitting in the Wingback (pictured) the answers to the above questions would present themselves readily. And plenty more questions for many years to come.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Singing Chelsea Pensioner

Chelsea Flower Show - Lutwyche Amongst the Blooms

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is on this week. Not sure of the weather forecast, but let's hope there's a requirement for a display of Panama hats from Lock's amongst the show gardens rather than an unfurling of Fox umbrellas. It's always a good idea to take both. I'm thinking of honing up my gardening skills, by the way, and taking a couple of RHS courses. Should keep me good. And would be a good excuse to locate some fine gardening clobber.  

Do look out for the The Times Eureka Garden, created in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Designed by Marcus Barnett, the inspiration for the garden is taken not only from the beauty of plants, but the science behind them and their boundless utility. The garden will be relocated to Kew gardens at the conclusion of the Chelsea Flower Show. Marcus Barnett will be wearing a Lutwyche suit. Gold medal for elegance then.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

T M Lewin Take to the Crease - Cricket and Ironing

T M Lewin, a sponsor of the England cricket team, are inviting suggestions on your favourite British tradition. For this, you're in with a chance to win tickets to one of England's matches this summer. H'm, conkers, Henley, afternoon tea, listening to Test Match Special...

You'll likely be aware that T. M. Lewin is the official supplier of England's formal wear for the next three years. To look like an England cricketer, and they look pretty well-dressed in the Lewin kit, you'll need a navy Borough suit from its Red Label collection, a Windsor slim-fit shirt and a panama weave silk tie. As you can see from this picture, they don't skimp on the construction of the suit.

If the only crease you need concern yourself with is the one on your trousers, T. M. Lewin have some advice there too.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Barbour - A Cardigan for all Seasons

I get a little worried sometimes, chums. I become concerned that a brand I've known and loved might suddenly disappear. I lived near to the Belstaff factory growing up. It was a shame to witness its demise. It's good to see the name lives on in Italian hands, but it's pretty much an Italian brand now in style and ethos. Belstaff were one of the early pioneers of manufacturing waxed cotton clothes - for motorcycling mainly. I had a jacket made in its long-gone factory. A brown waxed bike jacket, all fasteners, zips and British no-nonsense heft. Smashing thing. Wish I still had it. A little piece of the soft culture of these isles, now vanished.

Occasionally, I may cast a concerned eye over a new item produced by a favoured brand. Will this item be available in the future? Will the brand be around? Will the brand retain the qualities I admired in its products in the first place? I might then panic and buy the item, deciding that I won't see its like again.

With all this in mind...an unusual cardigan from Barbour, which probably attracted me to it. The quilted inner layer in traditional Barbour green can be removed, which means it is probably suitable for 10 months of the year in the UK. The outer layer is in a dependable ribbed navy blue lambswool that gains with a light shirt with a deep collar underneath. Good for fishing, then meeting young Mrs Tweed at the local pub for a Sunday roast.

Dear Barbour: If you have any archive photos of old product lines, the readers and I would be very grateful to see them.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Harney and Sons - Tea Sexier than Coffee?

"Wouldn't it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn't drink tea?"
Noel Coward
The buckets of dishwater served by Starbucks may have decimated the tea rooms of Britain in recent years, but the cultural exchange has not all been to the detriment of we Brits. I've tried a few of the tea products sold by Harney and Sons, an American tea business based in Salisbury, Connecticut, and I've been very pleasantly surprised. Rather than tipping tea into Boston Harbor [sic], our American cousins now seem to be enjoying quaffing the stuff.

The Queen Catherine blend is nice. The Japanese Sencha green tea likewise. I've even tried a couple of herbal teas, as the others were so good. Not bad at all, although I rarely find I'm in the mood for herbal teas (and it doesn't seem right to dunk a biscuit in one). 

Now how to get rid of Starbucks? To start with, Harney and Sons could open a couple of tea rooms over here and remind us why tea became our national drink. Least of all we need to take our custom where better quality tea is served. The UK Tea Council can help us here with its list of favoured tea rooms and tea guild members. Make your voices heard (not too loudly), and clatter your tea cups, tea drinkers of Britain.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Green and Jack's Made-to-Measure Shirts

Always struggle to find a well-fitting shirt? Green and Jack's might hold the answer if Savile Row's a bit out of the way. Send in your measurements and they'll create a shirt out of a fine collection of cloth from the UK, Italy and Switzerland.  You have a choice of options: you can send body measurements, easier: send measurements you've taken from one or more shirts, easiest: send a beloved shirt and they'll copy the measurements.  

The web site's hard to navigate, but once you find your way around you can choose the details for cuff, collar and hem and add touches like a monogram. Even a Victorian swept wing collar if you should so choose. Very competitive prices.

I see this brushed tattersall cloth with a button-down collar, waisted fit, box pleat, two-button cuffs. Too casual for a monogram, but a little TP monogram on the waist wouldn't go amiss on a more formal style like the pink number above.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

English Bike - Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

I saw this battered old bike chained outside a cafe with no obvious owner. Defiantly unsuitable for being used off-road, almost to the point of being un-roadworthy. I could almost hear the creaking and rattling it would make in transit. Marvellous.

It was probably made by some long-lost company. I could imagine Arthur Seaton making the parts for it in the Nottingham bicycle factory of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - "I'm out for a good time - all the rest is propaganda!" 

Are there any bicycle factories left in Nottingham? That's why we need to support Pashley, chums.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Truefitt and Hill - Boots the Chemist

The staff members in Boots are always pleasant and conscientious. I was in my local branch the other day and was assisted ably when I couldn't find some mosquito repellent for a forthcoming trip to India. The last time I was in India I'd had no bother from the blighters on the ground, but the Air India plane flying me back to England was full of them and I was bitten like billyo. Taking no chances this time.

Whilst in Boots I spotted a familiar name - Truefitt and Hill. You may know them from their St James's establishment or maybe one of their franchises. For summer, I enjoy their Freshman and West Indian Limes colognes. Well, Boots now stock a Truefitt and Hill shaving range in modern packaging called Authentic No. 10.

Nice to see it there on the shelves. I don't feel alienated as a traditional customer, nor do I feel the range dilutes the brand. Sensible to have the new range distinct, in that respect. The packaging clearly differentiates it from its classic line of products. I'm sure it will help raise the profile of this redoubtable company.

I had a feeling of pride for some reason, actually. It almost felt like seeing the son of Truefitt trying to make his way in the world.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Suitable for the Beach - Bill Amberg

Sumer is icumen in, and I've been looking into things for the beach. I came across this picture from a '20s Spring/Summer catalogue. Perhaps the chaps are a tad overdressed for people's sensibilities today, but it's good to set the bar high.

Bill Amberg has some smashing bags for hols, as well as some lovely leather bags for work. He started his eponymous bag-making and leather-working business in 1984. You'll find his flagship shop in Burlington Arcade. The Selvege Clipper, made in the West Country of England, looks just the job for the beach - nice and sturdy. 

What to put in it for the beach? Lets' see...
  • Reimann P20 for the fair British skin
  • Bag of Pistachios
  • Kent Brushes folding pocket comb
  • Bottle of 1 Litre USA mineral water, with its integrated cup
  • Cash for ice creams
  • A couple of H. Upmann junior coronas (tubed)
  • Spare Sunspel Riviera polo
  • Latest copy of Men's File magazine
  • One of the forthcoming Penguin hardback editions of Evelyn Waugh's travel books, possibly Labels 
  • (Leaving space for the piglets' things)
That's it, I'm done. Have I forgotten anything?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Another Country - Revealing A.S.A.P at Clekenwell Design Week

Our friends at Another Country, Dorset, England-based makers of handcrafted solid wood furniture, have been busy. As well as helping fit out Oliver Spencer's new shoe shop in Lamb's Conduit Street, London, they are launching new pieces for their Series 1 collection, which will be unveiled at Clerkenwell Design Week - where they are teaming up with UK furniture designers and manufacturers, Assemblyroom, Pli and Scene, under the collective banner of A.S.A.P.

All this industry is paying off for Another Country. As part of their growing reputation, they've been named as one of the top emerging furniture makers by Details magazine.  

Assemblyroom's Classic Contemporary British furniture is handmade using the best of British craftsmanship and quality materials, including the rather attractive 50s inspired AR001 armchair shown below. I can see myself nursing a Scotch in that chair, whilst listening to Chet Baker.


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Crombie - Under the Overcoat

When we hear the word Crombie, we are likely to think of their overcoats, such is their renown - particularly its three-quarter length style. Crombie has a venerable history. The British company was established in Aberdeen in 1805 and remains British-owned.

Let's not forget, however, that they produce more than overcoats. I was in Fortnum's recently, picking up some of the excellent gourmet marshmallow they sell there (violet and Rose), supplied by Confektz of Suffolk, which you can also buy directly.

A dapper chap was also at Fortnum's confectionery counter, wearing blue blazer with yellow cotton trousers. I was rather taken with the trousers, so set about searching for something similar. The closest match I've found are from Crombie, which are part of their Quintessentially British Collection. The collection doesn't have an overcoat in sight. 

Monday, 9 May 2011

Sunspel - At Their Fighting Weight

Our friends at Sunspel have released another short film made by photographer
Alasdair McLellan.

The film was shot at Repton Boxing Club in Bethnal Green, East London, and is a mini gem. Each frame is beautifully shot. As well as showing off the Sunspel clothes, it brings over the history of the club, which was established as a big society gesture by Repton public school in 1884, and the dedication and loyalty of its boxers.

Like McLellan's last film short for Sunspel, the boxers really do justice to their clothes and underwear. They are also so very engaging on-screen, particularly Ryan Pickard, who takes on a tour of the club and the local greasy spoon cafe.

The style of the film reminds me of how documentaries used to be, letting the subjects tell the story rather than having a personality narrate and turn the thing into a demeaning soap opera of broad-brush characters. The humanity isn't filtered out in the cause of entertainment. 

Young Mrs Tweed has watched the film several times now. I never knew she was so interested in boxing.

Repton Boxing Club by Alasdair Mclellan for Sunspel from Sunspel Clothing on Vimeo.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Stichelton - To Be Confused with Stilton

Stitchelton cheese was created as a result of Stilton cheese no longer being made in unpasteurised form. The Stilton name has EU protected status and must only be made from pasteurised milk in the environs of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, England.

Randolph Hodgson, of Neal's Yard Dairy, and cheese-maker Joe Schneider were determined to preserve a piece of British culinary heritage and give people the option to continue to enjoy Stilton made from raw milk. For legal reasons, the cheese they make using an original Stilton bacterial culture could not be called Stilton. Hence the name of Stitchelton, the older name for the village of Stilton in Cambridgeshire that gave the cheese its name. 

The production of this cheese, and the very hands-on process it demands, has been a labour of love for those involved. The result is an incredibly intense tasting cheese that has a strong flavour, combining sweet and salty, and a buttery texture. Lovely with a glass of port.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Take Ivy - Our Tweedy's Gone all Yankee

The cult of Take Ivy grows. I first heard about the book on mod style forums. Mods like button-down shirts and penny loafers, which are also key pieces to the Ivy look, hence the interest. Take Ivy has long been discussed in reverent tones for its pictorial record of a distinct style that developed at Ivy League universities in the late 50s and pre-hippy 60s. The book was produced from the viewpoint of Japanese enthusiasts who toured the campuses in the mid-60s to capture the look - a look that Japanese adherents have taken to their hearts for the last 50-plus years. The book was printed in Japan and the original was only available in Japanese. It took on mythical properties. 

Things started to move pretty quickly in recent years when excerpts from the book started to appear over the web. Word was spreading. 

The resurgence of interest in classic men's dressing puts Take Ivy back in the spotlight. And, finally, with much anticipation, an English-language version of the book was produced last year by Powerhouse Books.

Some of the look may be a slice of Americana too far for any self-respecting young fogey, mod or sartorial hardliner - white socks with black shoes, a tweed jacket and Madras shorts, for example. But there are also style pointers that cut through time and place, and resonate today. Partly, perhaps, because they were already established as timeless classics by the time the photographs were taken - Harrington jackets, raincoats, tweed jackets, penny loafers, chinos/khakis had all been around for a while. So it's not so much the clothes individually, which did not originate from the US in most instances. No, it's the way the clothes were worn, the combinations - and style is essentially how clothes are put together after all. It's the idiosyncrasies, the details, that matter after all. Mix in varsity jackets and sweaters, clean-cut haircuts and trousers worn very short, and the look takes on its own identity. The casual approach to dressing informs men's style today.

I'm waffling. It's a great book for anyone interested in the history of men's clothes and style.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

How to Get (Well) Dressed - Patrick Grant

The best dressed man in England? I don't follow best-dressed lists, in fact I don't follow any lists, but, all things being equal, Patrick Grant has to be up there. And some of those names that I suspect are up there certainly shouldn't be - mentioning no footballers.

You might say that he has an advantage, as well as an obligation, being the proprietor of Norton and Sons and E. Tautz. But it was a love of clothes that led him to acquiring the renowned Savile Row tailors, and creating a ready-to-wear menswear house out of E. Tautz - restoring vitality to their esteemed names. 

Speaking as a cardi-phile, this double-breasted cardigan from E. Tautz is an eminently wearable and versatile item. Currently available online from Mr Porter. A few other Tautz items there too. Of course, for Norton and Sons you'll need to head to Savile Row.

Can you imagine if every man in the UK paid so much care and attention to their appearance? Is it too much to ask for this video to be part of the school curriculum? Maybe we need a new referendum? (And perhaps a swingeing flip-flop tax whilst we're at it?)  

Monday, 2 May 2011

Drakes London - The Ties that Bind

Oh, what a lovely tie by Drakes. Handmade in England with silk, using a loose honeycomb grenadine weave on Jacquard looms. The sort of tie that you would plan your outfit around. The freshness of the colour and light appearance of the weave give it a summery appeal. It's going to look so good with white shirt and mid-grey summer-weight jacket. 

I'm looking forward to seeing some of the Drakes ties in person, as it were, with the forthcoming opening of the Drakes shop in Clifford Street, London - around the corner from Savile Row.

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