Monday, 29 September 2014
Tweed Pig Laureate: Toni Servillo
I would like to announce the recipient of our first Tweed Pig Laureate: the Italian actor, Toni Servillo. Congratulations Toni. A round of applause please, gentlemen.
How we all enjoyed his performance in The Great Beauty. After watching his performance in The Consequences of Love recently, the award seemed obvious.
As well as being one of the best smokers on celluloid, Toni — of Afragola, Italy — chooses his films and directors well. Paolo Sorrentino directed The Great Beauty and The Consequences of Love.
Both films are staged and shot beautifully, and have a visually meditative quality, with isolated protagonists, played wonderfully by Servillo, who have difficulty reconciling the certainties of the past with the fragmentary nature of the present.
Italian cinema seems the most grown-up of contemporary cinema, particularly with the work of Sorrentino, who is fast becoming our favourite director. (Another Tweed Pig Laureate in the offing?) Too many films are coming out of America about adult men behaving (and dressing) like children. I'm looking at you Seth Rogen.
The Consequences of Love
In The Consequences of Love (2004) [Amazon], Servillo plays Titta di Girolamo, a resident of a hotel in Lugano, Switzerland. He is a detached observer, rather than participant, of life being lived around him. Of his withdrawal, Titta reflects, "Shy people notice everything, but they don't get noticed."
We witness Titta's quiet routines, such as his daily coffee and cigarette in the reception of the hotel, and other less savoury rituals. However, traces of the former life that brought him to this point are revealed; the estrangement from his past becomes apparent. He is suffering a life of concealed purgatory.
Salvation — or perhaps redemption — comes to Titta when he decides to rejoin the living. A waitress at the hotel — confronting him on his failure to acknowledge her — finally lifts him out of his apathy. With echoes of Mann's Death in Venice, Titta makes his choice — rejecting the solitude of his existence and embracing the consequences of love.
Right now I think this is an even better film than The Great Beauty. Do see it, and you'll see why we chose to hurl laurels over Toni's head.
Tweedy's Thought: If you would like to nominate someone deserving of a 'Golden Pig', the new informal name for these awards, please get in touch. No one noisy or who swears a lot, please. Let's not let this idea wither on the vine. Unless it's palpably terrible.
Saturday, 27 September 2014
British Fighting Kit through the Ages
Has anyone sent you a link to a photo series called Soldiers' Inventories by talented photographer, Thom Atkinson? If so, why not have a click around the site and see if you can topple the Singing Chelsea Pensioner from the top of our most popular list? Or pop an idea for an article on a mail. Or buy me a cup of tea.
I think Thom's photographs make a good addition to the living inventory of British classics and hidden gems that is The Tweed Pig. They show how British military kit has changed over the centuries since the Battle of Hastings in 1066; inventories of what was worn and what warriors carried to battle, including items for those idle moments when they weren't cleaving skulls in twain.
At the top you see the kit of an archer at Agincourt, 1415. Below you see the kit of a private sentinel at the Battle of Malplaquet, 1709 — daring use of mustard yellow. Incidentally, the uniform below is similar to the ceremonial dress still worn by Chelsea Pensioners — as they came into existence around the same period. Why change?
The inventories roll on to present day, where you see more technology and fewer blades. If anyone is aware of a period when the British haven't been involved in some kind of conflict, do let us know.
Wednesday, 24 September 2014
Images of polo neck sweaters sitting under tweed jackets are flitting around my mind's eye. These pleasant images remind me that the polo neck is perhaps one of the most misunderstood of the sweater styles. If you wear them well, they can be winningly elegant or robustly rustic; But get a polo neck wrong and you can look like a mime artist or Steve Jobs (avoid black).
Obviously, the neck part serves as a scarf, so these styles are made for scarf-wearing season primarily. If you think you might not need to wear the 'scarf' all day, then make sure you're wearing something under the sweater should you need to take it off. And I don't mean just your vest. You don't want to be the talk of the tea rooms.
Let's set a benchmark on the roll-neck sweater straight away with this 8-ply Scottish-made cashmere wonder from Johnstons of Elgin. This would look so well under a green tweed jacket.
Monday, 22 September 2014
Seventy Five Years in Ten Minutes
Here's a nice little documentary film from Topic Records. The folk music label celebrates its 75th birthday this year. This makes it the oldest independent record label in the world.
Did you spot dear Anne Briggs amongst the folk musicians immortalised by Topic through the years? What would we have done without Topic? Lost a big chunk of our musical roots that's what.
The Full English Project
Topic continues to provide the best support for British folk musicians, helping them find new audiences and keep the tradition alive. The label is naturally involved in The Full English project initiated by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
The aim of The Full English is to "unlock the hidden treasures of England's cultural heritage" by creating the "world's biggest free digital archive of English traditional folk music and dance tunes". That's right — free.
The project also has a band — assembled from the enormous folk talent of Seth Lakeman, Martin Simpson, Fay Hield, Nancy Kerr, Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron and Ben Nichols. Their album, inevitably released on Topic, is also called The Full English [Amazon].
Saturday, 20 September 2014
Singer Sargent Sweater
One of our most eagerly-awaited periodicals has arrived — the Autumn collection from Paul Stuart.
Please take a look at the full catalogue here and pick out your favourites — all superb quality, all timeless. Tell them Tweedy sent you.
I believe that Edwardian painter John Singer Sargent is an inspiration for the collection this year. He was described as an 'unrivalled recorder of male power', which you can see in one of his portraits above. As Brian Sewell mentions in the video clip at the bottom, Sargent was compared to van Dyck because of the realism of his portrait paintings — at a time when the art world (and political world for that matter) was in such tumult with all those boundary stretching -isms.
We've picked out a couple of shots from the Paul Stuart collection here that reflect that male power, and perhaps the colour palette of Sargent too.
The three-piece full-canvas suit in wool/cashmere above has a fetching double-breasted weskit with a shawl collar.
The jacket below is in a cashmere plaid cloth, which is also fully-canvassed, the green of the ensemble complemented nicely with the deerskin gloves, I must say, if that's not sounding too much like a fashion editor.
The family of Anglophone countries is well-represented in the Paul Stuart collection (with a liberal dose of made in Italy too). I see labels for Canada, USA, and England; and that coat below is made in Australia, by gad. I think that's the first made in Australia item we've featured.
To Our Aussie Readers: We don't get too much correspondence from our Aussie readers. Do get in touch. One thing I'd like to know is an Australian brand that makes extremely hard wearing trousers in cream colour (possibly other colours). I think sheep-shearers may have used them originally. I used to have a pair, but for the life of me I can't remember the name. Incredible things.
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
We've been long-time supporters of British mills (and fabrics) at Tweed Towers. None more so than Abraham Moon. The Moon tweed jacket I bought yonks ago still comes out with me on bike trips. There it is above. It was a welcome companion on a recent trip to The Queens Arms in Corton Denham, Somerset (below).
The Queens Arms is a very nicely situated pub that serves excellent pork pies. Worth a cycle out if you're in the vicinity, but quite hilly to reach it. You need strong thews.
As always, listen to the theme tune to Rutherford-era Miss Marple before undertaking such a journey. I make no apologies for adding this clip again. Ron Goodwin's Murder She Says [Amazon] is our adopted theme after all.
Abraham Moon Archive
Enough of the meandering introduction. Let's get on with the business in hand. I mention Moon because I wanted to say how much I've enjoyed reading through the short history of famous cloth and clothing they're put together on their web site.
Look under Heritage Collection and read about the British red coat, shepherd check (jacket - top), tweed, pinstripe, tartan, worsted, covert, cavalry twill, tattersall (weskit - above), duffel (below) and thornproof — all the bally hits.
When you see this information pulled together, you can really appreciate the contribution British mills and manufacturers made to defining classic men's style; and in expressing our culture through dress. Moon's Heritage Collection makes these cloths available to you today.
If more of our traditional mills can be less reticent about celebrating their heritage — as it's one thing that can't be faked by their ravenous Eastern competition — people will then fully understand the significance of the label they see inside their jacket.
Monday, 15 September 2014
Burwood in Sandalwood
Prada are reducing their stake in Church's. They've sold 45% of it. Uncharitable types might hope they sell the rest, and let Church's get back to producing purely English-style shoes again.
They've released some travesties in recent times; 'fusion shoes' in a confused mix of English and Italian style. Luckily, some of Church's classic range never went away. Burwood (above) is their textbook brogue. Built on a sizeable last, with a triple sole, there's no here-today-gone-tomorrow fashion styling about that shoe. This is bell-metal Britishness.
I've had the Burwood shoes you see in these photos for over twelve years, so they may be pre-Prada. I was hesitant to buy them at first because of the 'polished binder' technique they use to finish the leather. It's not a deception on Church's part to cover sub-standard leather; these are full grain leather shoes with full-leather lining — and mine are buttery soft and very comfortable. And the finish gives the Burwood in sandalwood a depth of colour like no other brogue. They proved too much to resist when we first locked eyes and eyelets.
As for the polished finish, on the plus side it is maintenance free. As I say, mine are twelve and I've only ever wiped them with a cloth. Look at the shine in the photos. On the negative side, any heavy scuffs to the surface will remain; they can't be wiped or polished away. This is not necessarily unattractive in itself, and sometimes desirable. You probably wouldn't want all of your shoes in this finish, nor want your work shoes to look knocked around, but it's good to have one or two pairs of shoes that look after themselves whatever the weather.
Saturday, 13 September 2014
The cool of Autumn starts to be felt in the second half of August. It's not quite time to bring out the sable-lined overcoat, but an additional layer under a jacket is welcome.
This is where John Smedley always help. (Actually, I wear them year round, but I'm pretty nesh.)
I've just added a couple of Smedleys to my collection (a green one and a red one) to fit specific under-jacket purposes. I tend to favour their 30-gauge extra fine merino sweaters for layering under jackets, as they're suitably thin.
A green Smedley v-neck sweater to sit under this vintage cashmere and lambswool flannel glen check jacket:
It just about allows a standard size Brooks Brothers button-down collar to poke through.
A brick-red crew neck to sit under this silk jacket:
I don't think I'm doing justice to the sweater or jacket in the photos here. They deserve better.
The cloth of the jacket, which is made in Italy for Maison Martin Margiela, is a wondrous heavy, non-shiny silk — loose-weave, but not quite a hopsack — that's a delight to wear. This is not a label I'm apt to wear (or cover), as there's a clear danger of heading into 'fashion' territory — so I bring in the tie and sweater with the hope of rendering timeless.
I tucked in the sweater for a '20s Brideshead, Sebastian-in-Morocco-style ambiance. Not sure that worked either. It all looks a bit unbalanced, as if I have legs like Jerry Hall. I'm sure you get the gist though.
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
The No. 1 Police Dress
It's a shame the police forces of Great Britain have largely moved away from their formal uniform into quasi-military 'tactical' uniform.
The Number 1 dress is instantly recognisable and reassuring. It exudes authority, but retains approachability; saying that this person is here to protect and serve, and won't incapacitate you with a taser if you ask them for directions.
Let's see the traditional uniform return to the streets. We want the classic dark navy serge tunic and trousers, white shirts and black tie, a whistle on a chain into the top pocket, the custodian (or bobby) helmet, a traditional wooden truncheon, polished black shoes, a Melton greatcoat for cold weather and Mackintosh cape for wet weather. And we want it all made in the UK.
We want our police looking smart and like grown-ups. We certainly don't want them twirling expandable batons in any hideous combination of fleece jacket, high-visibility tabard, open-necked shirt, combat trousers and (obvious) body armour. Do we?
Monday, 8 September 2014
I don't cover watches, but when you have one of your most experienced continental field operatives (gen here and here) imploring you to say something about a British watchmaker, you have to take notice.
The watchmaker is Robert Loomes of Stamford, Lincolnshire, England. (See Robert himself in the video below.) Our operative says that they're attracting the attention of watch collectors and enthusiasts from Antwerp to Vienna.
Robert Loomes is a family business that produces a range of manual-wind wristwatches that are entirely English-made in their Stamford workshops. A team of twelve watchmakers machine the components and assemble the watches, each specialised in a particular aspect. Loomes machine 80 percent of the watch components in-house. They also machine the cases and dials, and cut and polish their own crystals. They are happy to discuss any aspect of the manufacturing process and you are welcome to visit their workshops.
Keen as you are on heritage and provenance, you'll be pleased to know that the Loomes family has been involved in horology since the 17th century. You're buying into genuine British heritage here.
That's The Red Robin at the top in a solid 18ct gold casing. This model has the same mechanism as the watch Sir Edmund Hilary wore when he scaled Mount Everest.
A 'Swiss-made' watch requires only 50 percent of its movements to be made in Switzerland; dials, cases and so on can still be imported on top of that. LVMH use Seiko parts in their Tag Heuer watches, for example. This feels something of a con, perhaps perpetuated to fuel Chinese mass-consumption of 'luxury European products'. There are many notable exceptions, of course. I believe Rolex is a shining beacon against this practice, with Swiss-made everything; they even have their own in-house gold foundry.
Read the label and caveat emptor.
For the Anglophile Horophile
If you buy a Loomes watch, you support British manufacturing and reject the sharp practices and deceptions of the conglomerates in one fell swoop.
I relent. I will cover British-made watches form now on. How's that?
Saturday, 6 September 2014
How Could We Not Say Something?
DAKS, the epitome of clean-cut, conservative British style celebrates its 120th anniversary this year. They've pulled in Paul Weller to help showcase their anniversary collections. To say that this collaboration is a good fit is something of an understatement. Paul, master of the clean-cut British mod aesthetic, must have been clapping with his feet at the palette, the cut, and the all-round sartorial classicism of the clothes.
I can't find a great deal of information on what he's wearing in the photos here for the DAKS winter campaign. If you let me know the details, DAKS, I'll add it.
You Do Something to Me
For good measure, here's Paul with his daughter, and fellow musician, Leah in a video short for DAKS directed by Paul Barry. They're singing You Do Something to Me [Amazon] in duet.
Leah is also wearing DAKS. If the attention-seeking branding puppetry of record companies can create as disagreeable a product as Miley Cyrus, the timeless elegance exhibited by Leah in DAKS might just be the antidote.
Wednesday, 3 September 2014
I smuggled a few tins of angulas (or elvers) back from my summer trip. I simply adore these tiny little eels (recipes). After steak and kidney pudding (from Rules), angulas might be my favourite thing to eat. Does a British company supply them? Maybe we ship all of ours over to the continent? That would be a shame. I know we like the jellied variety, but let's make sure we're devouring the small ones too.
Broto do a nice-looking tin of angulas. I considered the bearded fisherman on the box as a pin-up. He's just the sort of imperturbable type we look for. A storm off the Beaufort scale? That's not going to alter his plans. The rain it rains.
The Rain it Rains (When I was a Little Tiny Boy)[Amazon] - Spiers and Boden
Monday, 1 September 2014
"I kiss at last the beloved ground of my land..."
Il Ritorno di Ringo [Amazon] — Ennio Morricone with vocal by Maurizio Graf.
And so, suitably dressed, Tweedy slipped quietly back into his routines. He sipped his tea. The tea was strong, loose-leaf breakfast tea. He needed a clear head. He lifted a shortbread biscuit to his lips and crunched with determination. It was time to begin.
A good, restful holiday (and news blackout) can take off the years more successfully than hair dye and a corset. I spent much of my time floating around in the sea like a plank, wonderfully inactive. Planks have a good life.
Tweedy's Beach Thoughts: Two things help guarantee a good holiday location. Property developers haven't spotted its potential as a place to lure in oligarchs and princelings and priced the locals out. And secondly, the fashion-industrial complex hasn't spotted its potential as a fashion backdrop, then shuttled in vacuous fashion avatars — like Alexa Chung or Olivia Palermo (or whatever their names are, they're entirely interchangeable) — to proclaim the place 'hip'.
Pity the airport experience was so tiresome on the return. We don't expect swaying and chanting peons hurling rose petals in welcome. We wouldn't want the fuss. But can we not expect a modicum of civility and politeness at our borders? When you treat people as suspects, any engagement will inevitably result in conflict.
I did manage to read our summer book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The film version should be remade. I'd start on the script, but Christmas is around the corner.