Sunday, 25 December 2011
Trousers Prepared for Expanding Waistline
The gates at Tweed Towers have clanged shut for the Yuletide break. Old Jack, the night watchman, has been supplied with enough mince pies to get him through the next few days, as the workers trudge home through the snow and ice to warming firesides and crackling log fires.
The Radio Times has been marked. The biggest turkey in the shop prepared. The waist-adjuster buttons ('Daks tops') have been loosened for expansion on the trousers. All set.
We wish you a restful and enjoyable Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Friday, 23 December 2011
Cary Grant's Contribution to Christmas Records
What's your favourite Christmas song? The Pogues' Fairytale of New York? Good choice. 2000 Miles by The Pretenders? Still sounds good. What about Christmas 1979 by Billy Childish? Fair enough, it's not everyone's cup of tea. The same can be said of Cary Grant's Christmas Lullaby from 1967.
Christmas Lullaby is one of those talk-song affairs, and I'm a fan of talk-song records. We'll be covering Dirk Bogarde's soon, and we spoke of Renzo Cesana before now. In Christmas Lullaby, Cary piles on the sentiment, but it has a certain old-fashioned charm. I'm surprised it came out in 1967, with all the counter-cultural happenings going on around it at the time. Daring in its way.
Thursday, 22 December 2011
A Vision of Cardigans
It was as if I'd had a vision. I suddenly turned to young Mrs Tweed and said, "We must travel north, for I have seen Christmas and it is cardigan-shaped." I had a craving for some new John Smedley cardigans to get through the festive period. We try and fit in a pilgrimage to the Derbyshire factory once a year anyway.
John Smedley's Derbyshire Factory and Mill Shop
The John Smedley factory at Lea Mills, established in 1784, has claims to be the world's longest running factory. It is a bit of a devil to get to, but set in lovely countryside and surrounded by Peak District attractions. Something can always be found in the Mill Shop. The Mill Shop is open on weekends, which is handy for us, as otherwise we'd struggle to visit. But for some reason, we always arrive when they are close to closing. Timing issues. We shared the shop with a Japanese couple who had made a pilgrimage far greater than ours. Maybe the time imposition helped focus the mind. I decided on three cardigans with Bond-like decisiveness just as the nice ladies in the shop started to jangle the keys for closing-time.
One suggestion for John Smedley: a cafe would be nice. We've come a long way and we need a cup of tea.
We Three Cardigans
As Hardy Amies mentioned in An Englishman's Suit, the cardigan is probably the most versatile of the sweater-family, as it looks fine with a tie. (He wasn't keen on v-neck sweaters with ties.) They look okay without a tie to me too.
Here are the three — all in fine-gauge merino wool:
The Christmas Eve
The Christmas Day
The white buttons probably make this a bit of a summery cardigan, but for the sake of this piece let's say they remind us of snowballs.
The Boxing Day
A risqué sleeveless number.
There we are. I'm all set. The cardigans might be battle-weary at the end of the festive season — contending with mince pie and port stains — but they'll live to fight another day. As you know, a cardigan isn't just for Christmas.
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Tracklements Christmas Chutney
I like the story of the Saturday morning sausage and mash parties that were a feature when Tracklements, the artisan mustard and relish makers, started in the 1970s. The parties were arranged for tastings of their first mustard. Since then Tracklements have added many products to their range, with new mustards, pickles, sauces and chutneys, and maybe more mustard-based parties.
For the festive season they offer us Christmas Chutney. With the flavours of apple and cranberries and yuletide spices of nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. A good dollop is a nice accompaniment to a Turkey sandwich or a piece of game pie. Or some cheese.
The photo above is an artist's impression of our jar. We opened ours the other day and just kept dipping in. Tasty stuff. But we made the jar less photogenic the more we dipped. We resolved to get another jar, but our local stockist has been wiped out. Lessons need to be learnt here.
I know what you're thinking, "The chutney looks delicious, but I don't have a chutney spoon." Do not panic. The Tweed Pig has located just the spoon. Abbey Horn has a selection of chutney spoons in bone and horn (first below). The spoon has a long handle to reach to the bottom of the chutney jar. You have options perhaps you never thought you'd have with the selection of your chutney spoon. You can select the colour of horn and have the spoon monogrammed. What better for the chutney-lover in your life.
While we're on the subject of dipping spoons into things, they also make a nice selection of caviar spoons and spreaders in horn too if you prefer saltier tastes. As you'll no doubt be aware, metal cutlery will taint the taste of caviar, so horn (or mother of pearl) is recommended. Nice silver-tipped caviar spoon at the bottom there.
If you're feeling particularly horny, more on Abbey in the New Year.
Monday, 19 December 2011
Protect Your Face from Over-Kissing this Christmas with Trumper's Skin Food
If I know you, your face will no doubt be subject to the onslaught of Christmas kisses over the festive season. Best to get that skin in tip-top condition and ready to receive. What your face needs, in fact, is feeding so that it's protected against any kiss-induced chafing.
We're not saying you need to rub Christmas pudding over your mush, no we're talking specifically about skin food. Coral Skin Food from Geo. F. Trumper has a glycerine base and is fragranced with rose water.
You can use the skin food as an after-shave balm or as a pre-shave to soften bristles, or before and after shaving if you like.
Being glycerine-based, it is non-oily but conditions and protects the skin, making it eminently kissable. Once applied, all you need to do is stand near the mistletoe and wait.
Friday, 16 December 2011
Caddish Behaviour in Otto Preminger's Laura
As winter wraps us in her cloak, let's think about indoors entertainment that doesn't involve hurling yourself around the room with a joystick in your hand. How about a nice black-and-white film to watch, with some tips for dressing like a cad? I thought you'd like that. And you can have that sit down you deserve.
Laura is an American film-noir, released in 1944, directed by Otto Preminger. Dana Andrews plays a detective investigating the killing of the eponymous Laura, played by Gene Turney, who seemed to enchant everyone she met. Suspects include her flaky boyfriend Shelby (Vincent Price) and journalist friend Waldo (Clifton Webb). Who did it? You think you have an idea, then comes a big twist and your certainties are confounded.
Yes, yes, Gene Turney is beautiful, one of the most beautiful actresses of Hollywood's golden era. Dana Andrews is dependable as ever, but this is Clifton Webb's film. His character is waspish, snobbish, effete, arrogant and witty. A bit of a cad, actually, and a joy to watch. And his wardrobe marks him out as a bit of a dandy too.
A Cad's Wardrobe
What might we find in a cad's wardrobe? Here are a couple of pointers from the film.
- Cane for pointing dismissively at underlings.
- Smoking jacket for seduction.
Cad and the Dandy Teaser
Speaking of cads and dandies, we'll be bringing something special from Cad and the Dandy soon. As we're on a bit of a wind-down for Christmas - the mince pies are out already - it will most likely be a New Year treat. Stay tuned.
Thursday, 15 December 2011
Dents Increases theirs Manufacturing Base
Dents, the ancient glove and accessories manufacturer, was established by John Dent in 1777. It has been based in Warminster, Wiltshire, England for more than 200 years, where the gloves in their heritage collection are made. Dents heritage gloves are hand cut, and with the finest gloving leather supplied by our friends at Pittards.
Good news that they are expanding production in the town with the opening of a new purpose-built factory. The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, officially opened Dents' new Warminster factory, which replaces their 1937 premises. After opening the factory and being given a tour, Princess Anne was presented with a pair of Dents gloves. The company has a long Royal connection, having supplied the gloves for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 and the Queen's coronation in 1953.
Dents in the Car
Might I present my own pair of Dents gloves? The Crochet Back Driving Glove. Not required for any coronation, as far as I'm aware. King Tweedy?
I'm a fan of the super-classic crochet-back, or string-back, driving glove. Every car should have a pair. The crochet-back gives the flexibility required at the wheel, the leather palms the grip. Comfortable.
They look nice with a covert coat too, as you browse a flea-market, say, looking for old Blue Note albums. More on Blue Note covers in a future post.
Hand in Perfect Glove
If you're thinking of pushing the (glove) boat out, might I also draw your attention to the Handsewn Cashmere Lined Peccary Glove. The King amongst Dents' men's range, it has peccary outer and Scottish cashmere lining. Beautiful glove. They come in brown and black, but the yellowy cork version (below) is rather fetching.
Be careful with these. They are not the sort of gloves you want to leave on a bus seat.
Dents Glove Museum
After the move to the new premises, Dents' factory shop and glove museum are open for visits Monday to Saturday. Amongst the exhibits are the Queen's coronation gloves, a chicken skin glove and even Nelson's blood-stained glove (below).
You can also pick up your own pair of gloves and take a bit of living history home. You'll need to add your own blood-stains.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
We haven't done a post on tea for a while. That doesn't mean that the buckets of chain store coffee served on the high street have won. No one takes the tea out of The Tweed Pig. No, sir.
To reinforce the fact, let us introduce you to our latest tea champions - Rosy Lee Tea London. Note to our foreign chums: Rosy Lee is cockney rhyming-slang for tea.
About Rosy Lee
Young Mrs Tweed shared a pot of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge with founder Lorraine Rogers to find out more. Between sips, Lorraine explained how the company started:
"The idea came about back in 2008 whilst my husband was studying the knowledge [rigorous training course for London taxicab drivers]. I decided to start a tea business aimed at the cultural tourist. We were lying in bed one evening thinking of a name when my husband just came out with, 'it's got to be Rosy Lee!' Could you get any more British?
So the next day we looked the name up to see if anyone else had it. There were a few variations , so I applied for the trademark and it turned out that Tetley [big tea company, now owned by Tata of India] had it, but it was about to expire! I contacted them explaining that I was a mum of four looking to start up my own business, that there was a charity angle, I will be donating a percentage of profits to the Pearly Society.
Tetley said yes, you can have it! So after many, many cups of tea, I found the great tasting Assam/Kenyan blend from a Tea House here in london. The inspiration for the tin design came from the 'Keep Calm and Carry on Poster' of the 1940's. I also wanted to feature the Pearly Kings, but have a contemporary feel."
[Good for Tetley, thought Young Mrs Tweed, as she stabbed another piece of Victoria sponge with her bone-handled dessert fork.]
Where to Drink it
Rosy Lee Tea supply their tea to some interesting places, such as the Museum of London, The Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast, the Whitechapel Art Gallery Cafe, Albion Cafe and The Clerkenwell Kitchens. Look out for the distinctive red label if you're visiting the UK.
What to Drink it From
Rosy Lee Tea has collaborated with ceramic designer Ali Miller to create the rather charming tea set you see below. What a lovely little teacup, with that British Isles motif. As we never tire of saying here at The Tweed Pig, tea always tastes better in a china tea cup and saucer. And, of course, you can balance a couple of biscuits on the saucer. Living the dream.
Monday, 12 December 2011
S.E.H Kelly Men's Clothes
If The Tweed Pig does nothing else, and it probably doesn't, it serves to highlight that there are many British companies that still make things in the UK. You've just got to know where to look. If we want to support these companies, we need to get used to looking more carefully at labels.
In spite of the impossible odds of global price competition, more surprising, and heart-warmingly so, is the fact that it's not just the heritage brands that have been around since Waterloo that manufacture in the UK. An inspiring and exciting aspect of the news that reaches us at Tweed Towers is of the enthusiastic new companies that are starting for the very reason that they want to use and celebrate the raw materials and craftsmanship of the British Isles - and see a ready market for products with the strong selling point of a UK provenance. This is the new British heritage.
S.E.H Kelly was founded as a menswear brand in 2009. They started with five garments: two trousers, two shirts, and an overshirt. Over time they have added more. They make clothes to last in terms of materials and aesthetics. This isn't fast fashion, and as if to emphasise that point they do not release seasonal lines in the latest colour or cut that has fashion critics palpitating for a week. They release when they have developed a garment that's ready for release. As simple as that.
The founders, Sara Kelly and Paul Vincent, share an affection for British fabrics and the history behind the working mills. Sara, who designs the garments, has a background in Savile Row.
Look Out Japan - 新しい英国の遺産
S.E.H Kelly sell only through their website at the moment - the collection is small and they want to focus on getting the garments just right before growing. The Tweed Pig was intrigued to know whether the company has a presence in Japan. We think their stuff would go down a bloody treat. Sizing would need to be considered, mind.
Paul explains: "We don't yet have a presence in Japan, although given the menswear market out there, it'd be one we'd look to when we expand. Our plan is to steadily expand the collection -- to focus on the garments and to continue to improve on quality. We are confident that as long as we look after the garments, the rest will to some extent look after itself."
(Not sure the Japanese is right. Do correct me if I've inadvertently blasphemed or insulted a nation.)
Brown Hopsack Tweed Jacket
To emphasise the cottage-industry nature of S.E.H Kelly, the flecked brown Hopsack Tweed jacket at the top had an initial production run of 6. And how's this for provenance:
- Hopsack tweed from a mill in Lancashire.
- Horn buttons sourced from a button manufacturer in the Midlands.
- Made and finished in London
Grey Birdseye Wool-Cashmere Blazer
Look too, at the unstructured birdseye blazer below, which has a production run of 5.
It is made from a wool-cashmere cloth from a cashmere mill in West Yorkshire. The fabric has gone through a softening process at the mill. If you're tempted, best be quick. As I said, it has a production run of 5.
Friday, 9 December 2011
Cliff Richard - The Mod Years
Tied-in with the corduroy theme this week at The Tweed Pig, we bring a young Cliff Richard to the latest of our Music to Button a Cardigan By series.
Certainly, Cliff qualifies for being a British classic, with a record-breaking six decades of music making and countless number one hits. That's his first qualification for inclusion here. The second is this song, I'll Love You Forever Today, from the soundtrack to the film Two a Penny. Cliff also starred in the film, and you can see him below in a clip from the film singing the song as a mod serenading a young girl on a double-decker bus. As always, nice to see some vintage London scenes.
I think it's fair to say the tune is a bit of a hidden gem and it goes on many a playlist here at Tweed Towers. Could it be Cliff's best work?
Actually, we may do another Cliff-related feature some time. I've always been a fan of the film Expresso Bongo. Cliff, if you're reading this, any Expresso Bongo anecdotes you'd like to pass on? Maybe tips on brewing espresso or playing bongo?
Thursday, 8 December 2011
An English Hand - Honesty in British Craftsmanship
An English Hand, the accessories and clothing company started only two years ago as a reaction against the global trend of brand first, product second.
Co-founder Jonathan Lloyd-Platt explains the story...
"We had been involved in running several well-known brands and been deeply involved in the global sourcing model. It's pretty much universal now in luxury fashion, certainly in the UK. Italy and France have their exceptions of course, but we were jaded by the rather cynical profit-driven model of manufacturing off-shore (the Far East, Eastern Europe, Turkey etc), importing the almost finished product, sewing a few buttons on and calling it 'Made in Italy' or wherever. Profitable, yes, but not really honest. And more to the point, reducing, or eliminating the skills and the manufacturing capability here."
In the Beginning
From a house deep in the Suffolk countryside An English Hand developed the idea of building an online business that would work with British designers, makers, jewellers, leather workers and anyone else who was good at what they did. They started with men's accessories, presented online to an international audience.
The first items available from An English Hand were the ties woven in Suffolk mills from the best silk Jacquard fabric available.
The ties are hand-cut and sewn in the few remaining workshops capable of this labour intensive process. The tie below was designed with Georgina von Etzdorf, and references her Dragons design inside, which is also reflected in the colours of the spot.
British Design and Manufacturing - Slowly Does It
Designs from An English Hand make their way to their own workshops or to the workshops of other British craftsmen with whom they have built a relationship. The design brief is to be contemporary but un-faddish, and to keep the manufacturing completely in the British Isles.
Nothing is rushed, time is allowed to get things right.
Tweed Goes Viral
This season An English Hand's unstructured Harris Tweed jackets have sold out, and the wash bags in the same fabric are their most popular line in the run up to Christmas. It seems that people can't get enough of tweed nowadays.
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Tuesday, 6 December 2011
Hands off Our Corduroy
We're here to explode a well-worn myth today, chums. Corduroy is a British cloth, not French. Its name does not derive from a French expression for cord of kings. The French have nothing to do with this practical and hard-wearing cloth, but they keep quiet about this fact. They have denim, so they can't complain. Hands off our corduroy.
Corduroy has been with us since the 18th century. Typically made from twisted cotton fibres, or a blend that might include cashmere or silk, the weaving process produces a distinct series of parallel ridges. The ridges can be narrow (needle cord) or super thick wide-wale (elephant cord - at least that's what I've always known it as). But I don't need to go into detail describing corduroy, as you will know about it and probably own something in the fabric. Because corduroy went from Britain to conquer the world and dress the great and the good, the young and the old, the et cetera and the so on.
I tend to own only cord trousers and veer towards the heavier elephant-end of cord. Jackets can be a bit stiff in the fabric, but I'm not averse. A young Cliff Richard, looking every inch the mod swinger, pulls off his seriously heavy cord jacket above. See it in action here.
My German and Swedish friends refer to my cord trousers as Manchester trousers, possibly because that's where corduroy was traditionally made. Not now, I'll wager. That term could be a northern Europe thing. In Spain they call corduroy "pana".
Orange and yellow examples below from my cord trouser collection. They haven't sagged and gone shapeless like some cord trousers can. The yellow ones look winningly tatty around the pockets.
Good Shops for Corduroys
Some good corduroy trouser action to be had in:
- Pakeman Catto & Carter
- Brocklehursts of Bakewell - you can also enjoy a Bakewell pudding while you're in town, and spend an afternoon visiting nearby and glorious Chatsworth House.
If you are looking for a corduroy suit, Porter and Harding, now owned by Lear Brown and Dunsford, produce English corduroys in lovely colours from a hefty 25oz to 15oz.
Is this the End for the Corduroy Club?
Over in Anglo-America, where they say that one-in-five pairs of trousers bought is in corduroy, could this year's meeting of the Corduroy Appreciation Club be the final one? There was talk, maybe unfounded?
Monday, 5 December 2011
Ralph Lauren-sponsored Tweed Run Makes second Outing in London this Year
We've watched the transition of the Tweed Run in London from the bumbling and well-meaning amateur event that was organised through a forum in 2009 to the much slicker corporate event of the second Tweed Run of 2011, which was sponsored by Ralph Lauren.
A few questions are raised. Should there be more than one run a year in London? Will too many dilute the attraction, like two Ascots or Wimbledons perhaps? And as bumbling and well-meaning amateurs ourselves, what charmed us about The Tweed Run was it's seemingly bumbling and well-meaning amateurishness. Does the sponsorship by Ralph Lauren and the way the event is now treated like a business change that? Or was that always the intention?
However, I think the most important question to ask is would we miss it if it was gone? And the answer is, of course, yes. Its charm and eccentric Englishness has spawned many imitations around the world. The ethos being espoused is one of gentility, politeness and the joy of taking part in a communal activity with nothing to gain. If only other events made these values priorities. We don't want just angry gatherings where badly dressed people shout and break things, do we?
And then there's the clothing. Who would argue against more tweed and sporting check on the streets? So if it takes a bit of sponsorship and business planning for it to continue, so be it. The Tweed Run is still the original and best. An long may it continue. No more than two a year though, eh?
Maybe The Tweed Pig should think about being a bit more business-like...?
Friday, 2 December 2011
All Hampers Great and Small
Do you like a big one that you can enjoy with friends? Or do you prefer a smaller one that you can squirrel away till the 25th and devour on your own? Of course, with Christmas around the corner, we're talking about festive food hampers, in particular the ones with F & M printed on the side.
Fortnum & Mason sells a wide selection of hampers. They tell us that new hampers are released each year and the approach of their buyers is to offer fresh and inspiring contents, but retain the traditional elements people expect in a carefully edited selection of preserved food and drinks.
A Hamper - Perfect Christmas Gift?
The great thing about giving a hamper of food and drink as a gift is that it doesn't outstay its welcome. Unlike giving a vase, say, you don't have to worry about a hamper fitting in with the recipient's overblown aesthetic sensibilities. Once consumed, the only trace is a rather attractive basket. Indeed, Fortnum's has experienced a growing interest in giving hampers as gifts over more permanent items.
And with the Classic Christmas hamper above you can also start thinking about the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in the new year. Fortnum's has created the Jubilee Truffles and Jubilee Tea, which are included, to mark the celebrations next year. You can skip from one celebration to the next. Chain-celebrating.
The Ready-to-Eat Revolution - A Scotch Egg is Born
Fortnum's has supplied food that is ready-to-eat and ready-to-dispatch for almost 300 years. In the 18th century, they supplied hampers for the hungry gentry embarking on long coach journeys from London.
In the 18th and 19th century the store’s location provided the perfect site for travellers to collect their hamper for journeys to the South and West of England. Customers could order a boned stuffed roasted chicken, cheeses, beer, a game pie, butter wrapped in lettuce leaves and a fruit cake to take with them. The hampers were supplied with disposable cutlery made of bamboo, pie dishes and bottles needed to be returned.
Innovations came out of this necessity to supply easily transportable food and drink. Fortnum's became pioneers in the development of preserved and pre-cooked foods - they reputedly invented the scotch egg, a boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat. You could find one of those delicious things in your hamper by 1756. Walter James MacQueen-Pope, a theatrical historian, felt compelled to mention Fortnum's scotch eggs in his book Goodbye Piccadilly. I feel compelled to pick one up every time I pop into Fortnum's.
The Intrepid Hamper
A Fortnum's hamper accompanied many a British explorer in the Victorian era and early 20th century. One has images of the immense struggle involved in undertaking these expeditions - frost dangling from beards in the Arctic, malarial fevers in the tropics - but it's an interesting contrast to think that a 1922 expedition to Everest was accompanied by Fortnum's hampers containing amongst other items 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne. That's how to explore.
Feature idea: Wherever I Lay My Hamper. If anyone has pictures of far-flung Fortnum's hampers they'd like to share, drop a line to Tweed Towers.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
Brady Bags - Made in England since 1887
Brady Bags was established in 1887 in the English Midlands city of Birmingham by brothers John and Albert Brady, and the company is still locally owned and with a Brady family connection. They continue to make their bags by hand in nearby Walsall using quality British materials and craftsmanship.
One of Brady's classic designs is the Ariel Trout Bag, which was first produced in the 1920s. It's available in different sizes and in heavy duty canvas (khaki version below), wool (dog-tooth version above) or English saddlery leather. Beautiful things and very well constructed.
You can see why Nigel Cabourn was eager to collaborate with Brady.
The canvas version has a removable rubber lining, the leather version cotton check. You can purchase replacements linings and also the useful pocket insert (below). With one of these bags at your side, fishing could well be easier too, as I'd imagine that the trout, full of admiration, would be jumping out of the river to take a closer look. They know a good bag when they see one.