Friday, 29 July 2011

Gwilym Simcock Gets the Tweed Vote

The Mercury Prize - The Vote is in from Tweed Towers

The Mercury Prize nominees have been announced for 2011. Pretty strong list this year. Here at Tweed Towers, the panel (young Mrs Tweed, the piglets and myself) whittled our favourites down to Metronomy, James Blake and Gwilym Simcock.

After much deliberation, we throw our considerable weight behind Bangor-born Welshman and jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock. His nominated Good Days At Schloss Elmau album is a blinding display of virtuoso playing. One of his tunes may even make it onto one of our esteemed Music to Button a Cardigan By collections. The album as a whole might be best listened to a Schloss Elmau itself. 

Winner announced on the 6th of September. Good luck Gwilym. Well done all.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Floris Rose Mouthwash - Oral Floral

Floris Rose Mouthwash - Medicine Cabinet Essential

Adding a little bit of luxury to an everyday activity can elevate the experience into one of almost Sybaritic indulgence. With Floris' Rose Mouthwash it's even possible to add a touch of glamour and romance to your dental routine.  

The mouthwash is very much a part of the history of this redoubtable company. It was developed in the early 1900s, based on the pure rose water that was available from the Floris catalogue around 1860. The mouthwash contains best quality rose water, which is obtained during the distillation process of rose otto oil from roses grown in the South of France, Italy and Turkey. The flavour is enhanced by rose de mai oil sourced from Italy and Egypt, with a hint of American peppermint oil.

This product is highly concentrated and only a few drops diluted in a small tumbler of warm water are required to produce an original and very special mouthwash.

Of course, we get used to these little pleasures, and there's usually no going back - as illustrated by the story of the Sybarite who got so used to sleeping on rose petals he could not sleep one time when a petal became folded. Hey-ho, I guess we only live once, so we might as well be as comfortable as possible. 

Floris Collaborates with Highgrove

From rose to lavender: Floris have collaborated with Highgrove to create a natural collection that contains essential oil distilled from lavender harvested on the Sandringham Estate, the country retreat of Her Majesty the Queen.

Two of our favourite British companies share the same ethos, and the collaboration seems well-suited.  

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Scabal's Remarkable Mills

The Bower Roebuck mill produces some of the finest cloth in England

Renowned for their fine weave cloth, from Super 120s to 200s, Scabal's Huddersfield-based Bower Roebuck mill also produced the world's first 100% vicuna suiting. So they have a reputation for pushing the boundaries of high-end fabric production. 

Ten years ago they produced the Diamond Chip cloth, which incorporates minute diamond fragments into the wool at its combing stage. The wool is then spun to produce a thread that hangs exceptionally well when woven. This year they celebrate the anniversary of that technological breakthrough with the release of The Diamond Chip 10th Anniversary Collection.

The cloth is a four-season medium-weight Super 150s twill of 80% wool, 20% silk. It comes in light to dark greys and blues, plus a few browns, plain and with fine stripes. Your tailor will, no doubt, be as delighted to create something with it as you will be to wear it.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'Sophistication Series' - Past Perfect's CD of the Month

Past Perfect CD of the Month -  The Sophistication Series
Past Perfect brings us a 3-CD collection this month, The Sophistication Series of 1930s vintage music, with popular tracks from the likes of Noel Coward, Al Bowlly and Marlene Dietrich, evoke an age of elegance and wit.

For the many people who already know and love this music, as well as those coming to it for the first time, the sounds of the 1930s always manage to conjure up a time of supreme refinement.

Offer for the Sophistication Series - Save £8
Click here to buy all three CDs and save £8 on the regular price when the CDs are bought individually.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Cherchbi - Wearing the British Isles on your Head

Cherchbi Strives for British Authenticity in their Leathergoods and Accessories

A belief in using wool from the rare-breed Herdwick sheep led to the formation of Cherchbi, a company dedicated to seeking out and using British materials to produce leathergoods and accessories. Herdwicks are native to Cumbria, their name deriving from Old Norse for sheep meadow, and were beloved of Beatrix Potter who kept and bred a herd.

Truly British Products

As you can see from the map above, many parts of the British Isles are represented in Cherchbi's products.

Cherchbi developed a Donegal-style tweed from the Herdwick fleece, called Herdwick No.10, that is woven in Wales. The tweed is finished in Lancashire.

Cherchbi's leather is finished in Derbyshire using Northern Irish cow hide.

Local British materials and craftsmanship in contrast to the companies that trade on British heritage, but are British only in terms of their stockmarket listing.

Not only truly British, but also adhering to a philosophy that values quality of the finished article over the shifting of as many units as possible. Made in Britain as a byword for excellence and reliability.

The British Isles on Your Head

If you want to wear the British Isles on your head, look no further than the 1571 Herdwick Cap from Cherchbi. The name of the cap has a lovely story about it. Was there really an Act of Parliament in 1571 which stated that "common men over six years of age must wear English-made woollen caps on Sundays and holidays, or face a fine of three farthings a day"? A nice detail, but also a very good idea to boost the domestic market if any MPs are reading this. This would go hand-in-hand with the flip-flop tax we've mooted on these pages before.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Tie-watch - The Lesser-Spotted Brown a Drakes?

Renowned British historian in brown tie with pink spots 

Timothy Garton Ash, the British historian, writer and all-round good egg, was seen on the Charlie Rose programme on Bloomberg sporting a fetching brown knitted tie with pink spots.

Some tie watchers suggested it might be a Drakes. At Tweed Towers, we're not so sure. It's certainly a good likeness.

The Tweed Pig is investigating, using old-fashioned journalistic techniques and an army of fact-checkers, but you certainly can't go wrong with Drakes' brown stunner, with the pink spots sewn by hand, if you want to achieve the historian-about-town look.

Whilst the investigation is ongoing, Facts are Subversive, a collection of some of the essays of Timothy Garton Ash is a worthy diversion. Commentary on current affairs with a considered historical perspective.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Slowear Journal - The Tweed Pig Delivers the Best of British

The Tweed Pig is recommended as a corner of some global web that is forever England.

The Slowear Journal is a good spot for a cultural snuffle around. Just recently The Tweed Pig stumbled upon themselves, no less, receiving a very welcome recommendation under the banner of Made In England.

I'll regurgitate their description of us, just in case our (I'd like to think) engagingly scattergun approach doesn't quite make it obvious: 

The Tweed Pig is a blog entirely devoted to timeless British classics and to everything on the same wavelength, from style icons and personalities to fashion brands, from tailoring to chinaware, from music to accessories. 

And by everything on the same wavelength, we would of course include our Italian friends at Slowear.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Bucharest and the Old Town Jacket

The Dacia Express from Vienna to Bucharest 
Eric Ambler's spy novels conjure up romantic images of eastern Europe, the Balkans and the near East before the outbreak of World War Two. All intrigue and heavy overcoats.

My particular favourites are The Mask of Dimitrios (there's a so-so film adaptation with Peter Lorre, but it's well overdue a remake) and Uncommon Danger, and were partly the inspiration for a train trip I made from Vienna to Bucharest overnight on the Dacia Express. The other part was that I wanted to listen to some live gypsy music, one of my favourite gypsy singers being Romica Puceanu from Bucharest.

The Dacia Express leaves Vienna's Westbahnhof station in the early evening. I took a sleeper cabin and was woken on the border of Hungary by guards who needed to inspect my passport - perfect. I listened for the sound of gunshots and falling spies passing on notes before they persish, but all was quiet in my carriage.

Next day I woke to wonderful views of Transylvania and the Carpathian mountains. In the dining carriage, which I shared with Germans travelling down for a walking holiday, they made heavy Russian breakfast of chips and pork chops cooked with red pepper.

Try the Peasant Museum in Bucharest
The train pulled into Bucharest North station in the afternoon. Bucharest feels very much on the outer edge of Europe. Much of the old parts are falling down, but the area around the museums shows how elegant and sophisticated the city must have been, with its wide boulevards, before communism reduced the city to a cultural ground zero. Ceau┼čescu's Palace was an obscene reminder of its later history. I enjoyed the Peasant Museum, which contained lots of interesting ethnic costumes, and Caru cu Bere was a highly decorative place to try the local beers. But could I find any cosy little places playing gypsy music? None. Perhaps I needed insider knowledge, but even the staff at the hotel had no idea where I might hear some. Another time perhaps. I'd love to visit Bucharest again

Old Town provides the perfect jacket for the job
Anyway, I say all this as background to a jacket I bought from Old Town, of Holt in Norfolk. If there was a poster-child for the type of British business we support, then Old Town might well be it. They are inspired by Britain's cultural heritage and produce clothes in-house and by hand on a small scale using British cloth where possible. The web site articulates their ethos extremely well - lovely looking thing.

I wanted a jacket to wear on my trip. It needed to be hard-wearing, good for travelling in and adaptable - I might have to sleep in it (and in fact did on the next leg to Madrid - another story). I didn't need anything too thick for the time of year, in May, but not summery either. The Stanley, in tan cotton drill, from Old Town seemed like the one. I phoned in my order and it was dispatched. Not long after we made the trip together and it served very well indeed. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Manual of Etiquette - Dress Well in Two Pages

Two pages is all it takes to describe the rules of being a well-dressed man.

In A Manual of Etiquette, edited by N. Bickley, 1952, two pages, well one-and-a-half pages are devoted to the rules of being a well-dressed man. Not much, but is it enough? Essentially, in terms of getting the basics right, I suppose it is. 

Some of the tips may need slight tweaking for the 21st century, it's a while since I've sported a gibus, but if you applied them no one could ever accuse you of being a badly dressed scruffbag. Ever. Who knows, you might even find yourself on one of those best-dressed lists.

I like the use of the word manual, as it implies a certain utilitarian objective in dressing well.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Nigel Cabourn - High-Tech Harris Tweed

Nigel Cabourn, England, launch a new range of clothes using a breakthrough waterproof Harris tweed.

Nigel Cabourn are no strangers to using authentic Harris tweed in their collections. This winter they make available their Lined Cameraman Jacket (above). The jacket uses Harris tweed coated with dry wax. A first for Nigel Cabourn, as well as Harris Tweed, as the wax coating enables the tweed to become a performance waterproof fabric.  

This collaboration is, of course, no surprise knowing that the man behind the label, North-east England-based Nigel Cabourn himself, consciously steers clear of throwaway fashion and trends. Nigel Cabourn draws on his personal archive of vintage clothes and for his Authentic Made in England range he drew inspiration from the clothes worn on the expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary for the 1953 ascent of Everest. His knowledge and championing of the rich heritage of fabrics and garments, from military  to workwear, that the British Isles has produced means that the Authentic range uses British manufacturers and original British fabrics where possible.   

For the country with the greatest love of attention to detail and quality there is also a Mainline Made in Japan range from Nigel Cabourn that uses the best Japanese fabrics and materials. The Tweed Pig must try and make it over to Japan soon.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Music to Button a Cardigan By: Tell Me A Tale

Michael Kiwanuka — Tell Me A Tale

You could say that Michael Kiwanuka's Tell Me a Tale is retro sounding, another in the line of new/old music that's been popular since Amy Winehouse had her success, but you could also say it is just great sounding and timeless.

I think there's an argument for saying certain types of pop music have been perfected, and the conventions established shouldn't be ignored but used as a template, like a recipe from the Larousse Gastronomique or the proportions of a Georgian townhouse. 

The estimable Michael Kiwanuka is the son of Ugandan parents and is currently based in London. He's been compared to soul greats, so I'll pitch in the name of Terry Callier. This track becomes the first in our series of cardigan-buttoning tunes at Tweed Towers.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Gymphlex - Real English Clothing is Big in Japan

Placing importance on heritage and quality wins fans in Japan and the UK. 

Gymphlex has produced high-quality sportswear and workwear since 1906. They have built a reputation for uncompromising quality of cloth and construction, often creating clothes for other brands who value the workmanship.

In terms of cloth, they seek out classic English fabrics, such as flannel from the world-famous Fox Brothers of Somerset - the original creators of the cloth with a history that dates back to 1772. We'll cover Fox Brothers in greater detail another time. The trousers shown below are in a raw flannel Gymphlex produced in collaboration with Fox Brothers.

The coat way above is produced in Ventile, the windproof and waterproof silent cloth developed in Manchester for the military. The coat below is produced in melton wool, another military cloth, produced by J & S Taylor of Halifax, who were established in 1861. We'll be covering Ventile and J & S Taylor when we get round to it too.

All the history, all the fantastic indigenous materials. The mission statement of Gymphlex is "contemporary, casual menswear made with the finest English cloth by traditional English manufacturers." Music to Tweedy's ears.

Compare and contrast with the big so-called British brands that ride on their heritage but don't use British cloth or British manufacturers, or reflect British style for that matter.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Iford Manor - If you Ever Get the Chance

Iford Manor is the venue for a wonderful mini summer arts series each year.

My steely English reserve was very nearly breached once upon a time, dear reader. It was my first visit to Iford Manor in Wiltshire to attend an opera. I enjoy Handel operas and was intrigued by the idea of the venue. Each year Iford Arts puts on a summer series of concerts and special events in the Peto garden of Iford. The operas are performed outdoors in a small cloister in the garden. Ninety lucky people sit around the cloister and the singers and musicians are squeezed inside. Intimate is the word.

On the first visit, young Mrs Tweed and I arrived on a beautiful July evening. The house and gardens are accessed by small winding roads down a steep valley, which that day were bathed in the late sun of the day. It felt pretty magical before we parked.

We picnicked on the grass before the performance, with the lovely house behind us and other attendees scattered around the garden clicking glasses and nibbling Scotch eggs.

In due time, we assembled for the performance. Two rows of seats around the cloister. That time it was Ariodante by the superb Early Opera Company. The singers took their positions and we were so close I could have shook their hands. The musicians were at one end and they launched into the overture, then the singers began. What with the beauty of the music and the stillness of a beautiful English summer's evening with the sun shining into the cloister, this pig's upper lip almost softened. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. We've returned a few more times and, like a junkie, I'm looking for the hit I achieved that first time.

The Early Opera Company have done a few seasons at Iford and they're back again this year performing Handel's Rodelinda. Dates are July the 29th and 30th and August 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 9th - hurry, there might be some tickets left.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Linley Gets Wood

Viscount Linley's childhood passion for cabinet-making led to him carving out a career as a furniture designer and maker.

Linley, son of Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon, studied carpentry in his youth and set up David Linley Furniture, now Linley, in the mid-80s. Linley sells modern classic furniture and objects. Craftsmanship, attention to detail and high standards of finish are intrinsic to the custom furniture side of the business, that "draws on centuries of excellence in the British tradition of cabinet-making.", and continues in their gifts and accessories. 

For your study, why not the Helix Pedestal desk and games table (below), and the Union Flag humidor (above). You need never come out.

As a self-confessed Smedleyolic, although I probably mnetion them too much, I can't let it pass to mention that Viscount Linley is also a fan of John Smedley. He goes for the polo necks and is often seen sporting one beneath a suit. Is there not a royal warrant for 14th in line for the throne?  

Monday, 11 July 2011

Seersucker to Keep the Paparazzi at Bay

Seersucker is a classic summer staple.

Seersucker, a crumpled cotton fabric, was commonly used for clothing in the hotter parts of Britain's colonies in Empire days. Its unevenness means that the cloth is held away from the skin, allowing air to circulate to keep the wearer cooler. I must say that I've worn seersucker shirts and not really noticed this cooling property greatly. If it's boiling hot, I prefer a soft cotton shirt or one of John Smedley's glorious Sea Island cotton polo shirts next to the skin, with maybe a bit of seersucker on top

I do like the lightness of seersucker for summer jackets and shorts though, particularly in the classic blue and white stripe. 

I spotted a couple of nice examples of jackets at Anderson and Sheppard (above) and Mark Powell (below - double-breasted jacket). And if you're being chased by paparazzi, the good thing is that you'll play havoc with their photos wearing seersucker.

Anderson and Sheppard,
32 Old Burlington Street
London W1S 3AT

Mark Powell - Bespoke Tailor
2 Marshall Street
London W1F 9BA

Friday, 8 July 2011

Sporting Blazers - Ralph Lauren and The Go-Between

The Edwardian blazer is very much in evidence in Joseph Losey's 1970 film The Go-Between.

Director Joseph Losey's film adaptation of the novel The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley - no relation to J. R. Hartley - was based on a screenplay by Harold Pinter. It deals with themes of class and loss of innocence through the childhood reminiscences of a man named Leo. The film has lovely incidental music by Michel Legrand, but I've never been entirely convinced it quite fits with the theme.

Much of the film takes place during one languid, hot Summer in Norfolk when the boy Leo stays with an upper-class family. Leo acts as go-between for star-crossed lovers from both ends of the class spectrum, played by a rustic Alan Bates and an elegant Julie Christie. For much of the film we get to see the Edwardians dressed for play. Lots of straw boaters, amongst other interesting hats, and wonderful sporting blazers in pastel colours with contrasting edging. The Edwardian sporting drag is worth a viewing alone.

Ralph Lauren Continues the Tradition

Mainstream interest in Edwardian-style blazers ebbs and flows, but full marks for the formal and elegant uniforms of Wimbledon staff by Ralph Lauren. I found the tennis a bit dull this year, but the uniforms kept me interested. Since 2006, Ralph Lauren have been supplying them and they speak of gentility, sporting tradition, cool reserve and maintained standards. Wimbledon is just about the most well-coordinated sporting event in the UK calendar, the uniforms speak of that too. Top marks. I think it's great that such high standards can be maintained, and good to see ties retained in an open-necked landscape. By comparison, the staff looked pretty scruffy in their Lacoste in the French Open. Ralph Lauren will be in charge of the Wimbledon uniforms till 2015. Game, set and match Ralph Lauren.

David Bowie Being Anthony Newley in a Blazer

David Bowie looked well in his blue blazer in the strange film Love You Till Tuesday, which came out around the same time as The Go-Between. Below is a clip from the film, showing Bowie's Anthony Newley influence, but the whole film is worth watching, particularly for Bowie's mime piece Mask

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Kingstone Brewery - A Taste of Tudor England

Kingstone Brewery provide a taste of Tudor England from Wales.  

Walks always help to channel thoughts, and on my recent trek along Offa's Dyke I ruminated that although The Tweed Pig aims to cover all corners of the British Isles (and anywhere else we fancy) - in our quest to uncover British classics and hidden gems, champion artisans and so on - thus far Wales was so far under-represented.

First up from the Principality then comes Welsh micro-brewer Kingstone Brewery, based in Tintern, Monmouthshire, and their 1503 Tudor Ale.

In Laurie Lee fashion, I walked out this midsummer with a salami and a couple of bottles of their 1503 Tudor Ale in my knapsack as welcome company.

The dark-brown beer is described as "unfiltered, uncompromised and unashamedly real." It has a a well-balanced bitterness, but with the sweetness of malty chocolate. Delicious. Nice with the salami and recommended as a hiking ale. After the second bottle, I restarted my walk with renewed vigour and purposefulness.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Kent Brushes - The Badger that Got the Cream

Kent Brushes have the shaving creams and soaps for your badger. 

Our friends at Kent Brushes, established 1777 (which continues to amaze me), are world renowned for their hair brushes and combs, clothes brushes, shaving brushes and even toothbrushes.

We discussed Kent's hairbrushes and combs in an earlier post, so by now you all should have one of each in your kit bag.

Today we look at the shaving brush and the shaving cream they produce to accompany it. My Kent shaving brush has given great service for many years. A good shave demands a good shaving brush - it's essential - and the softness and water retentive qualities of the pure badger hair delivers every time. It still works so very well that it's very difficult to find an excuse to purchase Kent's BLK12 - the king-sized silver tip. But excuse I will find, gentlemen. 

Note the glorious felt-lined red and gilt case, with its Regency echoes. Although I have to say that I like the new packaging that's coming through too.

The tub of Kent's shaving cream designed for use with their brushes produces a good, lasting creamy lather, and the addition of conditioning menthol produces a pleasant sensation on the face. The richness of the cream helps soften the bristles and completely eliminates any drag from the razor. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

'The Great British Dance Bands' - Past Perfect's CD of the Month

Past Perfect CD of the Month -  The Great British Dance Bands

A summertime smasher from our friends at Past Perfect. A great album that features Billy Cotton, Jack Hylton, Geraldo and many other memorable bandleaders. The 22 tracks are by a different British dance orchestra.

Pay careful attention to track 22, Shout For Happiness, it was licensed for use in the Oscar-winning film The Kings Speech.

"Great maestros, fine bandleaders and sheer majesty of sound. This evocative collection gets you up and dancing, just like they did in the 1930s!"

Price reduced by a whopping £3 until 12th July - just £6.97.

Friday, 1 July 2011

John Simons and Aertex Collection Explores Heritage

Aertex is collaborating on a new range with John Simons. The 60s-inspired Aertex with John Simons collection will be available from next year

I have a couple of navy blue Aertex polo shirts made with the trademark Aertex fabric. I like the way the loosely woven fabric has worn over the years, and its distinct look and feel in contrast to the ubiquitous cotton pique. The shirts are no-nonsense and hard wearing.

The collaboration between Aertex, a Manchester-based company that dates back to 1888, and John Simons will draw on their archive of fabrics. It would be nice to see some of the famous Aertex cellular cotton fabric of my shirts in the range. As well as its use in sport, of course, the fabric also has a British military history - the famous 7th Army, or 'Desert Rats', wore Aertex fabric in their North African campaigns. 

John Simons has been on the front-line as retailer, and lately designer, of traditional Anglo-American clothing since the late 50s. In their London shop you will find all the labels you could possibly expect to achieve an understated and timeless look from head to toe. Their own designs, produced under The John Simons Apparel Company label, are the result of his years of experience in knowing what works. I feel that some decent stuff is on the way, gentlemen - clean-cut and eminently wearable.

Aertex with John Simons will be available in the UK, US and Japan, including John Simons' own shop. Tweedy is eagerly anticipating the results of the collaboration. 

John Simons
46 Chiltern Street,
London W1U 7QR
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