Tuesday, 25 December 2012
Sunday, 23 December 2012
The Maccabees - Walking in the Air
It used to be that bands competed to be seen on Top of the Pops. Now that the BBC is a diminishing force and new media giants like The Tweed Pig have shot to prominence it's likely those young thrusting bands will be competing to be seen on these pages.
Back on earth, we've chosen a lovely version of Howard Blake's Walking in the Air from the London band The Maccabees as our Christmas cardigan song. You'll know this classic from The Snowman, of which we're big fans.
The session where The Maccabees played the song was filmed a couple of years ago as part of a promotion and the video is rightly doing the rounds again. The Maccabees handle the song respectfully and retain its innocent and magic beauty. Singer Orlando Weeks imparts the lyrics with fragility as if lost in reverie.
Briggs' The Snowman - The Old Guard
Representing the old guard, Briggs' snowman has been with us now for 30 years in animated form. As you will recall, he was the one befriended by David Bowie. He'll be back with us again this Christmas Eve in a new cartoon called The Snowman and The Snowdog. From the look of the TV schedules, pretty much the only thing worth watching over Christmas here in the UK.
Tweedy's Christmas Viewing Tip: If you're stuck for entertainment over Christmas, I'd also recommend the Christmas Celebration from Shoreditch Town Hall that was televised a couple of years ago. Magical.
Lock & Co. Hat
You've been admiring that terrific hat on The Snowman's head. I couldn't say for sure that he shops at Lock & Co., one of our finest hatters, but I present a nice tweed hat from Lock's below. Don't let the kids put it on their snowman. This one's strictly for your bonce.
John Lewis Snowman - The New Wave
The new wave of British snowmen is represented in the John Lewis film below. Our svelte snow-hero undertakes a brave and hazardous journey to purchase a scarf as a Christmas gift for his wife.
Full of charm, the advert's been a huge hit here in the UK. Will he return next year?
Tweedy's Open Invite: Both snowmen would be welcome at Tweed Towers any time. We'd make sure the central heating was on low.
Cordings Holyrood Tartan Scarf
Continuing with the snowman chic, it's covered in snow but the John Lewis snowman's scarf looks like a blueish tartan from here. Cordings do a smashing lambswool tartan scarf in this colour scheme.
Saturday, 22 December 2012
Wrap Yourself in a Bow this Christmas
A bow tie is the most sensible form of neckwear on Christmas day. Wear a long silk tie and its dangling in your egg nog or splattered with brandy butter before you know it.
You want to keep it relaxed and casual for your informal celebration amongst family and friends. But still smart. A woollen bow tie sounds like the answer. Why not then one of Drake's lovely tartan woollen numbers?
Tartan also provides a little festive touch that will support you right through to Hogmanay, Epiphany even. The cloth is woven in Scotland and the tie is made in England - entirely what we want to hear.
The Register of Tartans
Interested in tartan? You might want to take a look at the Scottish Register of Tartans. You can search on colours or types, such as military or clan tartans, and you can even find out about thread counts. The sort of thing we care about. Excellent resource for tartanophiles. About time The Tweed Pig had a tartan registered, by my reckoning.
Drake's Loves Mackintosh
Drake's, and the companies we feature, combine a respect for the heritage of the industry in which they work and the quality of the materials they use. They are also aware of the intangibles that give their products integrity - the story behind them, the provenance and history. Intangibles that are often lost on conglomerates that position brands globally. Chasing after new markets and the latest trends, they undermine the narrative of a brand until what attracted customers in the first place is gone. I name no names.
It's no surprise then that there is often a mutual admiration between the companies we feature, sharing as they do the same ethos. Here's Michael Hill, Managing Director of Drake's talking about his Mackintosh coat.
If the name Mackintosh just gave your heart an emotional pull, you understand what the name represents and have formed an attachment to it. Michael treasures his coat for the same reasons.
Thursday, 20 December 2012
Queen's Speech Fodder
What to munch when watching the Queen's speech on Christmas day? I know, it's a dilemma. Maybe you're still ploughing through your Christmas lunch and you've not even torched your figgy pudding by that time.
But if lunch is out of the way, it doesn't mean you need to stop the over-indulging. What about adding some nice Dark Chocolate Griottes to your Christmas hamper from our old chums at Fortnum & Mason to nibble when the speech is on?
The griottes are handmade in England with Kentish Morello cherries. The cherries are steeped in brandy for three years, then dipped in fondant sugar to make a crisp casing, and finally dipped in dark chocolate. My word. The perfect Queen's speech accompaniment. England expects.
Here's a video of Tim French, buyer at F & M, explaining Fortnum's Christmas hamper methodology.
Tuesday, 18 December 2012
Truly Timeless British Classics
Looking for a one-off present this Christmas? If you're in London, Bentleys might have the answer. Bentleys specialise in the quality vintage British luggage and accessories. The sort of things we like.
Bentleys has two shops in London, one at Gieves & Hawkes in Savile Row and a shop in Walton Street off Brompton Road.
Taking Tweedy's eye are the ivory clothes brushes with crocodile skin case above. Made around 1900. And the silver hip flask from 1881 below. Absolutely beautiful and of a quality that's hard to find nowadays, as you'll know.
I'm not expecting anything, but if you were thinking of buying me something for Christmas either of these items would be most gratefully received. You'd make this old pig very happy indeed. I'd suggest next-day delivery. There's always someone around at Tweed Towers to take collection.
Monday, 17 December 2012
A Traditional Pot of Stilton
Running out of ideas about what to buy yourself for Christmas? Despair no more shall wound thee. If I can lift myself out of my pre-Christmas wind down and put key to pixel, I'll be spending the next few days suggesting little stocking fillers to offer yourself as tokens of self-esteem.
'Drink a pot of ale, eat a scoop of Stilton every day, you will make old bones.' so the old saying goes. Then how about this lovely ceramic pot of Stilton above? It's available from The Fine Cheese Company (Bath) and Cheeses of Muswell Hill (London) and other quality cheese outlets.
Made in Nottingham, England, the cheese is hand-ladled.
The ceramic pot is illustrated by John Broadley who also designed the charming Christmas card below.
Tweedy's Hope: Is the pot made in the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent? Hope so.
Pouring Port Over Stilton
Stilton needs a nice drop of port to accompany it; or to pour over it even. If you've never poured port over Stilton, it's an interesting tradition that may have started as a practical way of killing the mites on the cheese in less hygienic times. Give it a try this Christmas.
Saturday, 15 December 2012
Sir Richard Francis Burton - Interesting and Bizarre
There was a time when the English male was not under constant pressure to express his 'feelings', sublimate his natural tendencies by baking cakes or suppress his urge to head off in search of adventure and do dangerous and possibly stupid things.
He was not exhorted to weep at the slightest mishap or good fortune, rather to disregard both imposters, if we can borrow from Kipling. Manliness, in short, was not frowned upon.
What would society make of characters like Sir Richard Francis Burton today? One suspects that Burton would be rather frowned upon in any age. Like many English heroes - T. E. Lawrence, Lord Byron, Dudley Moore - he had a troubled relationship with his mother country. Indeed he preferred to be away from it.
Burton was a restless and highly-intelligent man whose boundless curiosity and desire for stimulation drove him into military adventure and exploration And because of this curiosity he tended to master the languages of the countries he visited and document what he learned of the cultures he immersed himself in.
He was called "the most interesting man of the 19th century". Or, as Graham Green put it, "one of the most bizarre characters whom England has ever produced". Who's the most interesting man of the 21st century? The most bizarre might be easier. Whoever it might be, Burton would have eaten him for breakfast in an erudite and well-informed manner.
The Devil Drives - Eland Books
As you now need to read about the life of this Victorian force of nature, The Devil Drives [Amazon],a biography of Burton by Fawn Brodie is a great place to start. Brodie described Burton as "fascinating beyond belief". Much more than can be said for the many celebrity dullards of today who insist on churning out biographies of mind-bogglingly inconsequential tittle-tattle.
Originally published in 1967, The Devil Drives is well-researched and shows a love of subject. Burton's life makes it an easy read. Brodie's psychoanalytical speculations on what made Burton tick are of their age but don't detract.
Eland Books has an edition out right now. They have a fine set of travel books, actually. Must look into their catalogue some more.
In the book you'll learn that Burton:
- Offered someone a duel in his first hour at Oxford.
- Was so keen to fight in India he got himself expelled from Oxford to join the army of the East India Company.
- Learnt most Indian languages when in India.
- Left the army of the East India Company army on bad terms following a 'thorough' investigation into Bombay's bordellos.
- Wrote a book on using the bayonet, which was adopted by many armies.
- Visited Mecca in disguise.
- Had a spear thrown through his face in Africa.
- Had a major falling out with fellow explorer John Hanning Speke re locating the source of the White Nile.
- Translated The Arabian Nights.
Burton looks dressed for a night out in Shoreditch below. Nice loose trousers for adventuring in.
Tweedy's Thought: Planning a reckless adventure? If so, let us know and we'll be happy to report on your progress or notify our readers when your body is repatriated.
Thursday, 13 December 2012
Toast with Harris Tweed
Toast has a three-piece Harris Tweed suit available right now, which can also be bought as separates.
The soft tailoring gives a casual feel to the jacket, intended to mould this wonderful indigenous cloth to the body over time. Just make sure your posture's good with soft tailoring. As tweed aficionados will know, Harris Tweed is the moniker for the long-established collective of weavers on Harris.
The lichen/charcoal tweed is a 4oz cloth. The jacket is complemented with corozo buttons and the straight-leg trousers have external brace buttons. The suit is manufactured in Europe.
Toast is country casual with quality materials and earthy, moorland colours. More Gabriel Oak than Sergeant Troy, if we can use a Hardy analogy. A perfect excuse to add a photo still of Alan Bates playing Gabriel Oak in the 1967 film version of Far From the Madding Crowd below. One of Tweedy's all-time favourite novels. I can't believe that's the first reference to Thomas Hardy on these pages. Must make amends.
Toast Made in England
Toast tell us that they are actively sourcing more UK factories and introducing more UK-made goods. They're stocking some of our favourite UK names: Lock and Co, Cheaney, Chapman, Pantherella, Sunspel. Do they read The Tweed Pig?
By way of example, they're stocking Cheaney brogue boots and shoes right now (see the Hythe below). Made in Northampton, England, they'd go a treat with the suit.
The Great Coat (below) is also made in England. This robust winter coat is constructed of a whopping 27oz melton, with horn buttons and a cotton half-lining. The collar can be fastened around the neck when it's particularly parky.
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Cad and the Dandy - Architects of Fine Suits
Remember we spoke about master cutter John DeBoise in the Blake London article? Well here's John in action in a film by old friends Cad and the Dandy.
Ah, the sound of scissor on cloth. And some Westminster chimes thrown in for good measure. Music to Tweedy's ears. Notice the hand-sewn button holes. Very important.
Tweedy's Thought: Are there any tailoring people out there who would like to show their skills to our readers? They're hungry for knowledge. Please get in touch and help us demonstrate why quality and craftsmanship matter.
Monday, 10 December 2012
I've been following the fortunes of 4711 cologne for some time now. It has a wonderful heritage, a distinctive brand image - with the baroque gold and Bremen blue labelling - and it's a terrific light cologne. It's a refreshing tonic in the summer. You can soak a handkerchief in the stuff and give yourself a discreet rub-down when you're wilting in the heat or drained by a particularly vexing crossword.
But go into one of the high street chemists and there the famous Molanus bottles sit in 'granny corner' overlooked and tucked away, whilst those dreadful and muscular celebuscents with the big marketing machinery behind them jostle for attention in the prime positions. A disgrace, I'm sure you'll agree.
I placed 4711 cologne in the category of neglected classic and expected one day to see the position it took on the shelves to be empty, replaced with a scent 'by' a runner-up from the X Factor. Civilisation goes down a notch further and another great name is consigned to history.
But this tale has a happy ending, chums. The owners are determined to keep this grand name alive and the original 4711 is staging a reassuringly dignified and understated comeback. And it's getting its well-earned due as an undisputed classic. Starting here.
A Tiny History of 4711 Cologne (1792)
Cologne originates from the fine German city of the same name. 4711 was launched in the city by Willhelm Muelhens in 1792. Muelhens was one the local pioneers who capitalised on the popularity of a scent made famous by Cologne inhabitant and perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina in 1709.
4711 takes its name from Glockengasse 4711, the building that housed the original manufactory.
The brand is currently owned by German scent manufacturer Mäurer & Wirtz, a fifth-generation family firm.
The Scent of 4711 Echt Kölnisch Wasser
The scent of a traditional eau de cologne is based on a combination of citrus oils. 4711 is composed of bergamot, lemon and orange, with lavender, rosemary and neroli. It's astringent, clean and fresh.
The Molanus Bottle
The famous bottle of 4711 was designed by distiller Peter Molanus, and is worth the entrance fee alone. Designed in 1820, the hexagon shape is intended for easier handling and transportation. The collar piece, or 'crop', between the shoulders and cap allows the liquid to expand in high temperatures. The Bremen blue of the label is unique to 4711.
The Molanus botlle is also used on the youthful and fruitier younger sister of the original, 4711 Nouveau de Cologne, which was introduced in 2011.
4711 on Film
Here's a film depicting the heritage you find in every bottle of 4711.
Saturday, 8 December 2012
Beau Travail - Terrific Ironing Scenes
We were chatting about the Corby Trouser Press recently, which reminded me of the film Beau Travail. Released in 1999, Beau Travail has some of the finest ironing scenes committed to celluloid. Directed by French director Claire Denis, the film is based on Herman Melville's Billy Budd.
The original story is set aboard a British warship. Billy is a handsome and popular sailor who rouses a morbid obsession in his superior, Master at Arms John Claggart. Like an Iago character, Claggart sets out to destroy Billy without apparent motive.
In Beau Travail the Billy Budd story moves to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and the characters are transposed to French Foreign Legionnaires. Gilles Santain, played by Grégoire Colin, is the Budd character, a new recruit to the legion. His sergeant, Galoup, played by Denis Lavant, is the Claggart character.
The film is beautifully shot and even the mundane experiences of everyday army life, such as the mesmerising ironing scenes, when shot against the desert settings are visual treat. Not many films explore the possibilities of film as a visual art form, but merely act as a device to tell a story. Denis, like Peter Greenaway, approaches film-making with a painterly eye. Beautiful film.
Britten's Billy Budd
The soundtrack of Beau Travail uses fragments of Benjamin Britten's operatic version of the Billy Budd story, with libretto by E. M. Forster. Let's hear the most famous aria "Handsomely Done, My Lad".
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehends it and suffers." Creepy.
Thursday, 6 December 2012
DAKS Stays Loyal to Jermyn Street
The DAKS menswear shop in Jermyn Street, London, has recently been refurbished. They've brought some of the interior touches and concepts applied to their popular Far East outlets back to the brand's spiritual home (though its fiscal home is now Japan) where it's the proud holder of three Royal Warrants. The interior is refreshed, but speaks of the timelessness of DAKS. It won't scare the horses. And we wouldn't want it to. We're not horse-scaring types.
DAKS House Check
The DAKS house check has been utilised as a design feature in the shop, such as the parquetry you can see in the top picture. It also continues in the design of the clothes, such as the current fat-checked button-down shirt (below). A robust interpretation of the check, it must be said. Nice. I'm seeing it with red v-neck sweater, navy moleskin trousers and brogues, just like you. Let's put a Barbour Beaufort wax jacket on top too, eh?
Personal Tour of the DAKS Shop
Paul Dimond, Dak's Deputy Chairman, will give you a personal tour of the new shop. But don't be a flibbertigibbet. You come back, okay?
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
I'm somewhat obsessed with putting a crease in my trousers at the moment. I'm even putting them in my pyjamas.
Creases are good. Don't let a scruffbag tell you differently. Here's why. If being clean and dressing smartly is a sign of respect to others, then a crease in the trouser (and an absence of unwanted wrinkles) tells the other that you hold them in the highest esteem. And I think they'll like that. All documented scientific fact.
Corby - Trouser Pressing Matters
So how to increase the crease count in your wardrobe? If you find ironing a bother or you've had to let your butler go in these straightened times, then help is at hand. And long-established help at that - the Corby Trouser Press.
Corby of Windsor was established in 1930 as a manufacturer of valet stands. Innovation followed and a pressing area was added to the stand, and then a heated press, till we have the Corby Trouser Press beloved of creasophiles today.
That's the Executive above. A sleek, black beauty that will give your tired trousers a new lease of life, all without your intervention. You pop the trousers into the welcoming maw of the press and let it work its magic.
And as an added bonus in winter, pop your trousers into this 'trouser toaster' and you have a warm pair of trousers to slip on when it's a cold and frosty morning.
Monday, 3 December 2012
Blake London - Old and New Combine in a Jacket
Imagine what would happen if NASA met tweed. If you're imagining an astronaut playing golf on the moon in a pair of tweed plus twos, then you're slightly off the mark. No, think more along the lines of mixing the inherent qualities of tweed with some whizz-bang NASA-type technology. That's what Blake London are doing, chums - "rebooting the blazer" no less, as London-based founder Darius Pocha puts it.
Blake London was founded last year and is named after poet William Blake. Blake's jackets are made in the UK and are fully-canvased with hand-stitched chests and hand-padded lapels. Working with heritage manufacturer Rayner & Sturges, they're selling ready-to-wear and made-to-measure blazers from Alexander Boyd, Artillery Lane, Spitalfields, London.
The jackets have a contemporary fit that was developed with Savile Row master cutter John DeBoise. All Blake's cloths are from British mills.
Pushing the Boundaries of Jacket-Tech
Yes, but where's the NASA technology, Tweedy, old man? In the lining, sir - a special lining that regulates temperature so you don't have to hoik your jacket on and off because of the vagaries of the British weather.
Blake London has collaborated with one of our oldest friends, Fox Brothers, to produce an original West Country tweed cloth based on one of their archive designs.
The dashing Douglas Cordeaux is modelling it a treat above.
Wanting to incorporate a cloth without a machine-made feel, Blake's range also includes a jacket in Harris Tweed woven on a single-width loom (below).
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Breakfast like a King
Breakfast like a king they say and could a king do better than a breakfast of Arbroath smokies and hot buttered toast? I know you know the answer.
Picture that well-earned weekend breakfast. You're wearing your best pyjamas and house coat, you're clutching your favourite morning read (perhaps The Economist with a Commando Comic tucked inside it) and you're favourite jazz vocalist is playing low in the background on your Revo Heritage (Made in Scotland). The scene is now ideally set for you to sit down to a plate of these smoked wonders. Afterwards, you can tell people how divinely and utterly happy you are.
Arbroath Smokies - Gobbling Food Heritage
Arbroath smokies are fillets of smoked haddock (kippers are generally smoked herring). The Arbroath smokie has EC Protected Geographical Status, which means that only haddock smoked using traditional methods within a five-mile radius of Arbroath can use the name ‘Arbroath smokie'.
But you don't have to live in Angus, Scotland, to appreciate them. Ian R. Spink Original Smokies - a smokie producer based correctly in Arbroath - is able to despatch them around the UK. We should be grateful to Ian for keeping this delicious part of our food heritage available to us.