Sunday, 30 November 2014
I think this is the first time I've remembered St Andrews's Day.
Happy St Andrews Day to all our Scottish readers.
My noggin was jogged when looking at the Weathered Tartan tie (above) by Lochcarron of Scotland. The tie is made in Scotland from Lochcarron's lightweight Reiver worsted wool. I think it will go very nicely with that blue chambray shirt I have, don't you?
Keep Squeezing Those Pipes
"A gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn't." Utter rot. Is there a more stirring sound than a bagpipe being given the full squeeze by someone who knows how to? A blast of Cock O' The North and my legs are literally marching by themselves.
And what better day to listen to some outstanding pipe work from the Massed Pipes and Drums?
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
The submariner has to be built of stern stuff. Cooped up for days under water, he faces the grimmest of perils, with no access to daylight, or fresh drinking water, or razors.
There was a time when all ranks in the British Army were not allowed to shave above the top lip, making moustaches compulsory. Moustaches are now optional (and civilisation descends). Beards are only allowed for some ranks and roles. In the Royal Navy, however, full-set beards are allowed (full-set meaning the beard needs an accompanying moustache). This is a blessing when you are a submariner and you run out of razors many fathoms beneath the ocean.
He can sport a beard, but what might our intrepid submariner wear?
Most U.S. films featuring submarines tend to be based in the Pacific. There will be scenes where the crew sits out a threat bleeping ominously on the sonar, engines shut off, the patches of sweat expanding on their khakis and vests.
But many famous British submarine operations took place in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea — sweater territory. Submariners needed to be insulated in these cold waters with the thick knitwear and duffle coats that were standard issue. You'll see this in films like Above Us the Waves [Amazon] and We Dive at Dawn [Amazon].
Of particular note were the white or natural-coloured woollen polo necks submariners wore — the classic submariner sweater.
North Sea Clothing
The ecru Submariner Jumper (top and below) by North Sea Clothing, London, is based on the sweaters originally manufactured for the Ministry of Defence.
Made in England, the sweater is a chunky, heavy knit designed for maximum warmth; but also able to resist water, aided by the thickness of the knit and the lanolin in the wool.
These mighty sweaters are also available from the Imperial War Museum to verify their authenticity.
I suggest you add one to your timeless wardrobe. Perhaps you should grow a beard this winter too? I think it will make you look distinguished.
Monday, 24 November 2014
'Weekend' in Bath
If you're thinking of a spending a weekend away, and you're strangely thinking of staying in Britain — despite the weather, the queues, and the general dysfunction — why not give London a miss and head to the city of Bath? If Bath is no longer all tea rooms and twin sets any more, parts of it are still almost civilised if you squint.
Timing will be everything. Don't try and visit Bath between May and October. You'll be trampled by camera-toting tourists fairly badly. Forget Saturdays too. That's when everyone from the surrounding area arrives to shop, and day-trippers from London pile out of coaches and trains. Hopeless. Let's make your weekend Sunday and Monday.
The stone used to build the Georgian centre of the city positively glows in sunshine, so you must visit when it's sunny too. Visiting on a sunny day in January is generally optimal. For added Georgian flavour, try and coincide with one of the regular Jane Austen festivals in the city.
Sunday as Saturday in Bath
You've got the timing right and you're now in sunny Bath on a Sunday. Let's take a little tour. It won't take long if you don't keep stopping to look in the shops.
Head up the main street until you get to Gieves and Hawkes in New Bond Street. You can ignore anything lower today. From here take a stroll to the top of Milsom Street. When you get to the top, turn right and look for a small lane called Bartlett Street on the other side of the road where you will see the Antiques Centre. Now the city gets a bit quieter. This will take you up towards the Assembly Rooms where the Fashion Museum is housed. Go all the way to the top and take tea in Bea's Vintage Tea Rooms. This is an order.
From Bea's head towards The Circus and then onto the Royal Crescent via Brock Street — all signposted from here. I'll leave you to yourselves now. I would make the further suggestion to either head down to enjoy Victoria Park; or head up from Marlborough Buildings, at the far end of the Crescent, to walk through the middle of the pitch-and-putt golf course and enjoy the view of Bath from the heights of Lansdown. You can enjoy the Marlborough Tavern and continue on to the Hare and Hounds from Lansdown if you are a stout walker.
See you tomorrow.
The Abbey and Pump Rooms
As you're here on a Monday, the area around the Abbey and the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms won't be so busy. Do visit them both. You Anglo-Saxons will be interested to note that King Edgar was crowned King of all England in Bath Abbey in 973.
Afternoon tea can be pleasant in the Pump Rooms, and is sometimes accompanied by a recital. Again, I'll leave you to explore for the rest of the day. Don't bother with Southgate and the area around the train station — a shockingly bland and echoing valley of chain shops.
After the Abbey, you could wander down Pulteney Street and look in at the Holbourne Museum. Yes, do that.
Bath does have a hat shop — The British Hatter — and a cigar shop — Frederick Tranter — so it ticks two boxes on Tweedy's civilised city index.
What else can I say on shops in Bath? Little in terms of menswear, I'm afraid. I'll list a few places, but I'm peckish as I type this list, so that might be influencing its direction...
- Paxton & Whitfield: cheese
- Fine Cheese Company: cheese
- Teahouse Emporium: tea
- Colonna and Small's Speciality Coffee (first photo below): coffee house (They won't snarl at you if you order tea.)
- Society Cafe: coffee house (Decent loose-leaf tea too.)
- Bertinet Bakery: bread
- Thoughtful Bread Company: bread
- Best of British: delicatessen
- Topping and Company: books
- Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights: books
- Brora: knitwear
There are some reasonably good pubs in Bath. Some old and established, plus a couple of relative newcomers that replicate all that we like in decent hostelries.
Here's a list from a while back.
As I mentioned, The Hare and Hounds is an outlier that's worth a walk.
Bath Ales run some of these.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
Deakin & Francis - English Cufflinker of Note
Deakin & Francis offer an absolutely spiffing collection of cufflinks. If you can't find any that you'd like to see peeking out of your jacket sleeve, well I'll be a monkey's uncle.
The company is family-owned and based in Birmingham, England, where all of their fine jewellery is made.
James and Henry Deakin are currently at the helm, with an eighth-generation hopefully in the wings — such continuity, such tradition. (Who was Francis?)
Deakin & Francis is an English heritage company with literally centuries of experience in all aspects of jewellery design, creation and manufacture. Their workforce specialises in a particular aspect of the craft, be that shaping, enamelling or engraving.
Don't listen to my advice — have a look at their collection for yourself — but I rather like the Bacchanalian suggestion of the gold and amethyst Grape cufflinks above.
The gold Fishing Fly cufflinks below show off some exquisite enamelling. Perfect for sitting under a tweed jacket on a country jaunt. Note the fish-shaped clasps.
Of course, any of these would make a lovely gift for a certain tweed-clad pig you know.
One for Bond Lovers
Following a collaboration with Anthony Sinclair (of the conduit cut James Bond suit), Bond lovers might be interested to see the Deakin & Francis range inspired by Geoffrey Holder, who played the henchman Baron Samedi in the 1973 film version of Live and Let Die, the first Bond film to star Roger Moore.
The gold ones above have a moving jaw that reveals diamond eyes when opened. Dramatic stuff.
The Live and Let Die range is available exclusively from Anthony Sinclair.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
Fighter and Lover
Denys Finch Hatton lived through that extraordinary period of change at the start of the 20th century. He was an English aristocrat and top-rate charmer; his charm compensating for a general lack of ambition. You know the type: 'Old Etonian drifter'. You may be familiar with his name through the film Out of Africa where he is played wholly inaccurately by Robert Redford.
Denys was a big-game hunter (later photographer), adventurer and settler in Kenya who was awarded the Military Cross in the First World War. He was part of the Happy Valley Set in Kenya in the 1920s, where he is most famous for his affair with Baroness Karen Blixen. His (equal) love of the landscape in East Africa led him in later life to be a determined conservationist.
Sarah Wheeler's biography of Denys, Too Close To The Sun: The Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton [Amazon], is an enjoyable read that uses themes from his life as an attractive hook on which to vividly describe English colonial society in that era.
Of Denys Finch Hatton, it was said: 'No one who ever met him whether man or woman, old or young, white or black, failed to come under his spell.'
Drink to Denys Finch Hatton
There is a pub in Ewerby, Linconshire, that was previously used as hunting lodge by DFH. It's naturally called The Finch Hatton Arms. I think he would enjoy that recognition. Who amongst us wouldn't like a pub named after them?
Monday, 17 November 2014
The English Cowboy Boot
People find great comfort in stereotypes. When things are as you expect, it simplifies the worldview, smoothing the chaos and bringing order to the universe and the space-time continuum — weltanschauung and all that. Stereotypically, we imagine our American friends to be wearing button-down shirts and chinos, but we're equally happy to turn up the American volume and picture them sporting a Stetson and cowboy boots. Conversely, we see our Englishmen in bowler hats or tattersall shirts.
This got me thinking, rather haphazardly, as to what would be the English equivalent of the cowboy boot. To my way of thinking, it would have to be the jodhpur boot, with its buckled straps that fasten around the ankle.
Ostensibly equestrian footwear, like the cowboy boot, you are just as likely see the jodhpur boot being worn without a horse underneath — like the cowboy boot.
Ready-Made Jodhpur Boot by Crocket & Jones
By common consent, the Crockett and Jones Cottesmore (above) is as good a ready-to-wear jodhpur boot as you may find; in calf leather, with double leather sole. I think this version in burnished chestnut is nigh on perfect.
Best worn with trousers that have a cavalry (military) hem.
Bespoke Jodhpur Boot by Horace Batten
Batten do cracking bespoke strap jodhpur boots in a range of leather colours. They even supply the dear bones to polish your boots.
This is one of those wonderful human-scale British companies I really like to promote. They make around ten pairs of boots a week, they take their time, and they put the product before the branding. They are family-owned and on to the seventh generation of Batten. All the exact opposite of 'fast fashion'.
Clearly, everyone should buy from them and help preserve the name.
Saturday, 8 November 2014
This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. No doubt you will have seen the images of the incredibly popular, and fittingly transient, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London. Designed by Tom Piper, the installation features 888,246 ceramic red poppies created by Paul Cummins — a poppy representing each British and Colonial fatality during the Great War.
Zoom in and there is a tragic story behind each one.
Talent Cut Short
And the stories go on through each subsequent conflict up to the present day. I was reminded of the poignant story of the British society painter, illustrator and designer Rex Whistler by a reader.
Rex died on his first day in action in the Second World War, aged 39.
Rex was proud to be commissioned into the Welsh Guards. When his uniform arrived, he painted the self-portrait above. The painting is now part of the National Army Museum collection.
Rex also drew the kit layouts below to amuse his fellow servicemen. Our reader had found the photographs of soldier's inventories by Thom Atkinson fascinating. He wondered if he had been influenced by Whistler's drawings.
A memorial to Rex Whistler, a glass prism engraved by his brother Laurence, is housed in Salisbury Cathedral.
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Bond & Knight
You think you know all you need to know about wallets, then a wallet comes along to shake all the certainties you held dear. I had such an experience when I clapped my peepers on this incredible wallet from Derbyshire-based Bond & Knight (as stocked by our very good chums at Lombres).
Consider this: the wallet is made from a single folded piece of high-grade, naturally-tanned Italian leather. Yes, a single piece. I have no probable need to point out that this means there are no stitches or seams — though there is some glue involved — this wallet is intrinsically smooth and slim.
The leather compounds the smoothness to a level not seen since Roger Moore picked up a Walther PPK. Popping this wallet in and out of your jacket pocket is like sliding metal on ice.
The wallet performs well on function, accommodating cards and bank notes neatly amongst its folds. The 'origami' design is actually a bygone approach to wallet-making. Bond & Knight tell me the design was popularised in the 1940s, and a result of the make-do-and-mend mentality of war time — less materials were used. Bond & Knight has updated such a clever idea with contemporary colour contrasts, making the design their own.
Bond & Knight Folded Wallet in Chestnut and Yellow
The one I have (below) is in chestnut and yellow. Glory at the lovely packaging in which it arrived. See how it glides friction-free into the jacket pocket of my vintage Maurice Sedwell hopsack jacket (the tailoring of which is second to none — so many tiny hand-stitches).
I'm so taken with the wallet that I've invited it to come on a trip with me next week. My longstanding peccary travel wallet has had a jolly good run. I won't forget you, old chum.
If you're looking for an 'origami wallet', insist on an original Bond & Knight. Made in England.
Monday, 3 November 2014
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. If you were hitherto unimpressed by the work of artist Damien Hirst, and considered his work little more than aseptic marketing activity designed to push brand Hirst, then I would suggest a trip to the Devonshire seaside town of Ilfracombe.
Tweedy's tweed-clad gang took a detour there recently — cream tea cravings — and the fact is we were quite thrilled by the statue created by Hirst that has been installed on Ilfracombe harbour-side.
Called Verity, the statue is the tallest in the UK; and it is awesome in the truest sense of the word. When the gang took a stroll to the harbour, we weren't quite prepared for the size of the thing. It is huge, and impresses like the Colossus at Rhodes surely would have done.
The statue is cast from stainless steel and bronze by Pangolin Editions. Pregnant and holding a sword aloft, Verity looks out from the harbour towards the sea. One half of the body — closest to the sea — has the skin stripped back to reveal her anatomy — which I suppose is a bit of a macabre Hirst flourish. One of our troupe nearly dropped their cockles at the sight from that side.
What's Hirst's connection with the town? Hirst lives nearby and has a restaurant there.
Reception to the installation of the statue has been mixed by the townsfolk. They have the statue on loan for 20 years. They must embrace it and not let go of it. In 20 years it will become part of the fabric of the town.
Parts of Ilfracombe are a little run down, particularly the main high street. But around the harbour, with the Pier Brewery Tap & Grill pub, cafes and galleries, you see signs of this picturesque Victorian town being reinvigorated.
Outward-looking Verity shows the way forward. The campaign to keep the statue on the harbour begins here.
Saturday, 1 November 2014
Scabal Classic Camel Hair Overcoat
Here's one for your timeless wardrobe. Scabal have fashioned some of their pure camel hair overcoating, in its in its natural tone, into a double-breasted overcoat. As always, it was from Britain that camel hair fabric production gained traction. The double-breasted full-length camel overcoat became a popular coat to wear over formal City wear, which remains the case. I believe such a coat is referred to as a Polo Coat in the US. They seem to want to tie everything in with polo.
The camel hair used for overcoating is the undercoat and is gathered when the camel moults; which is a good thing as you wouldn't ant to sheer a camel. They're bad-tempered bleeders at the best of times. They have nice eyes though.
Noël in Camel
Wondering whether or not to take the plunge? You won't find a better advert for the camel hair overcoat than this picture of dear Noël Peirce Coward.