Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Cigar la Rica

Gather Ye Rosebuds
I've had a complaint that we don't feature tobbaconalia enough. I will try and make amends. I don't puff a great deal, but I'm going to Spain soon, so I'll try and pick up a few tubos de cigarros. In the meantime, a La Rica cigar...

I had been carrying this cigar around all day waiting for the right moment to enjoy it. Suddenly the deities approved and the clocks were stopped: pleasure time.

La Rica Nicaraguan cigars are hand made from a Nicaraguan filler with various wrappers. You can see a Corona in the pics — it's my favourite size — with a light Ecuadorian wrapper. I would be lying if I said I wasn't influenced by the look of the tube on this brand.

The cigars are a medium strength. It was nice even burn and lasted about an hour, producing a smooth, sweet and spicy smoke. The cigar matched well with brandy. I must see if cigars work with teas. Could they? Lapsang souchong? It's all about leaves, isn't it?

Nicaragua has the climate and the soil to grow excellent tobacco, and after years of investment it now competes quite readily with brand Cuba.

I couldn't find much information on La Rica, though I believe they are an independent producer. I imagine it as a family-owned business, and picture men in white guayaberas, don't you?

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Unruffled Rolls Royce Serenity

The Serene Path
The roundheads who have been criticising the Phantom Serenity for its ostentation seem to have missed the point. The car — launched at the Geneva Motor Show recently — is designed for single customers. It's made bespoke. What the car exhibits is the high standard of British craftsmanship employed by Rolls Royce when building to a customer specification. We should be celebrating that we still have craftsmen involved in the car industry with the ability to create such a wonderful car. A puritanical streak still pervades the English psyche, it appears. I thought the worst offenders shipped out on the Mayflower.

The interior of the Serenity is what interests most, with the rear compartment upholstered in embroidered green silk; the colour of the silk and the cherry blossom embroidery tracing the ceiling and doors recalling turn-of-the-century japonisme. The door surrounds and dash are of bamboo and cherrywood inlaid with mother of pearl. It's a work of art, frankly — art you can sit in and move around.

Keep it in Britain
I formally begin the campaign to keep the Serenity in Britain. How wonderful it would be to get this car in a museum. If the roundheads have their way — and we can't let that happen — future generations will only be able to look back with envy at the quality of work being produced without compromise in British factories in 2015.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Three Horseshoes - Excellent Pork Pies

Stirring from Slumber
Tweedy is stirring sluggishly from the semi-hibernation triggered after the temperature went below 15°C — a good 7 months of the year in the British Isles. He may now be spotted more frequently in his natural habitat, the pub, building his strength.

A traditional inn with rooms, the The Three Horseshoes is located in the village of Batcombe (Saxon for Bat Valley), Somerset. This is very much a Barbour and wellies country pub, and is popular with walkers wearing the aforementioned. The pub stocks good beers — usually local, like Butcombe — and is recommended by CAMRA, so you can be assured the beer is kept well. The pub also offers food and accommodation. Having such a quiet spot in the village, next to the church and graveyard, you should expect an undisturbed night. There's likely the odd ghost to be found floating around the graveyard, but what would expect in Bat Valley?

Excellent Pork Pies
I was reminded of a Japanese reader at the pub. Pubs remind me of many things. He complains that good British pork pies are not readily available in Japan. (Pork pie makers of Great Britain take note.)

So, sir, the shot below is for you. Imagine yourself enjoying one of those delicious pork pies with a daub of piccalilli as you settle down with your pint by the fireplace. You will likely be visited by a dog who will sit patiently on the flagstone floor waiting for a crumb, swishing its tail slowly and staring with patient eyes to arouse affection. I'm now picturing this scene in the style of a manga comic and we come full circle.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Sock vs. Daffodil - The Rites of Spring

Daffodils are Ecstatic
The daffodils have risen with narcissistic elation. They now cover the grounds of Tweed Towers in observation of the rites of Spring.

When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Colour is returning to Nature, gentlemen, and we must respond accordingly. You don't need to add much to your person — think tie or sock. We can ramp up the colour in summer. As I've said before, we can't let Nature take all the glory. Clothes are our weapons. Let's face it, people look pretty dull — and often unpleasant — without them.

Brescani Socks - Don't Be Scared
Don't be scared of the latest range of socks from the Pope's sock-maker Bresciani below. You can do this. Just be careful about the clothes you combine. Given the right circumstances and attitude you could even wear the yellow ones with black shoes and a blue suit. In fact, as I have some Bresciani socks similar to that colour I have attempted to prove this above. Dear Bertie is fond of purple.

Purists will bore on that socks should graduate in colour and tone between the trouser and shoe or, oddly, match with their tie. But we want vibrancy here. The aim is to put daffodils in their place — the bloody show offs.

Incidentally, Paul Weller made me buy those trousers as part of a suit. With his promotion of DAKS, I couldn't help trying their new range. If I remember, I will give more info on the suit after I've worn it a while. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Field Coat Tips

Cherry Tree Clothing
Our new Welsh friends at Cherry Tree Country Clothing thought this graphic would be useful for any readers who are looking for a field coat or shooting jacket. They provide a useful checklist if you are in the market for this type of coat.

We pass on this information as part of our commitment to public service. I think all the features are there, but this might the forum to consider what else you would like to see on this type of coat.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Penhaligon's Bayolea - A Scent of Good Pedigree

Polite Perfume
Penhaligon's, one of our dearest British perfumeries, launched a new men's fragrance and grooming range last year. Bayolea is described as their first ever complete grooming range aimed at the modern gentleman. I'm not sure how a modern gentleman differs from a bygone gentleman — I put that to you — but I think Mr Gentleman of Yore will feel quite at home with this reformulation from Penhaligon's archive. He would also nod his approval at the  packaging. There is an echo of the Victorian dispensing chemist about it, which is a distinct positive to my eyes. I really want to see this stuff on the bathroom shelf next to my shaving kit. It would sit there politely, and do its job splendidly, like a well-trained attendant.

When they say complete grooming range, they mean it. Included in the range is moustache wax and beard and shave oil — something for every male fizzog.

Notes: Bayolea opens with refreshing mandarin, and lemongrass, giving way to an invigorating and warming heart of cardamom, black pepper and lavender, and resting on a resolutely masculine base of cedar, sandalwood, musk and moss.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Heschung - Gentleman's Hiking Boot

Heschung (1934) of Alsace
You wait five years for hiking boots to be featured and then a second pair comes along almost straight after the first. No doubt you will have ordered the Fracap boots for your Everest expedition, but do consider these for the K2 trip you will make soon after.

They are made exclusively for Manufactum by Alsatian shoemakers Heschung (1934). Dear, dear Manufactum — strolling around their shop in Munich is one of life's pleasures — each item they stock is rigorously selected for provenance, quality, craftsmanship and materials.

Manufactum take John Ruskin's observation to heart: 'There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper.'  They hope — as we all do — that we can return to a time when competition is based on quality rather than the marketing or pricing of inferior imitations.

The Heschung boot, which is described plainly as a High Cut Gentleman's Shoe, but looks distinctly like a hiking boot to me, is made from aniline-dyed full-grain calfskin, with obligatory vibram sole and a double-stitched storm welt.

The ankle strap is designed to fix the boot snugly around the ankle, so that you can eat up those miles in comfort as you make your ascent.

If one were to cavil, it would be that the laces could be in traditional red. A feature easily remedied. A reader recently told me that the use of red laces for hiking boots might have started because manufacturers used parachute cord for its strength, and the cord tended to be red. This makes sense to me, but I also never want to break with tradition — so red it must be.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Bryan Ferry the Mod

Too Cool to Speak?
Can you spot Bryan Ferry in the photo above? He was a mod in his early days everyone. We shall be running a clothumentary on Bryan soon. (We haven't had one since Dirk Bogarde.) You thought Bryan was too 'cool' to speak? Not so.

In the meantime, at Tweed Towers we've been enjoying the track Loop De Li  [Amazon] from his latest album AvonmoreThe song has the classic Ferry sound (created by the best musicians) that seems to lift the level of sophistication in your surroundings as it plays — like a Gibson martini for the ears.

The equally-sophisticated video for the song was shot by Aoife McArdle and shows a gilded British youth murdering all of his friends. How we've all wanted to do that at some stage.

Bryan Likes Jazz
The recordings from Bryan's side-project the Bryan Ferry Orchestra are well worth a listen. The orchestra released The Jazz Age [Amazon] in 2012, which features Bryan's songs recorded in the style of 1920s jazz; the type of music he enjoyed as a boy.

In the clip below the Bryan Ferry Orchestra do an interesting live cover of Black to Black.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Happy St Patrick's Day - Green Spot Whiskey

Celebrate with a Green Spot
A Happy St Patrick's Day to all our Irish readers. There’s no need to don an oversized sponge hat in the shape of a pint of Guinness or to daub shamrocks on your cheeks. Just settle back with a nice measure of Green Spot Irish whiskey and a copy of Joyce's Ulysses. You don't need to read Ulysses; just settle back with it.

Green Spot is a well-regarded pot still whiskey that is bottled in small quantities at the New Midleton Distillery (owned by Pernod Ricard), County Cork, until we start drinking more.

Sláinte laddies.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Reader's Tweeds - A Phillips & Piper in Sweden

Thrilling New Series
We're starting a new series called Reader's Tweeds. We begin with a fine vintage jacket worn by a reader from Sweden, paired neatly with a green club-style tie and brown cord trousers.

What do we know of this jacket?

The jacket itself tells us that it was first sold by Simpsons Bros. of Penzance (still a going concern) and was made by Phillips & Piper. This is why good labelling is important.

Our reader thinks that Philips & Piper, an Ipswich-based clothes maker and retailer, existed until the 80s. It appears that Lambourne was their tweed range, and from a quick search they may have supplied Swaine Adeney Brigg with tweeds.

The jacket has now taken on a new life in Sweden. Note the sunlit Swedish countryside in the background (below). Our reader may have some adjustments made to the jacket at some stage, as it still has plenty of life left in it. They say the good tweeds never die.

Can anyone add to our knowledge of this jacket?

Your Clothes Want to be Heard
What we show in Reader's Tweeds next is up to you. If you have a choice piece from a bygone maker, a suit cut from an incredible piece of cloth (it need not be tweed) or have an example of great tailoring detail in your wardrobe, take a few pics and send in. Let your clothes be heard.

While we are on the subject, it would be good to have an interesting background on your photograph — a tea room, a museum, a beach, local flavour (as with Sweden above) — somewhere nice that our kind of people would appreciate.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Letter from Melbourne - Hooray for Sloane Ranger Style

Tamp your pipe, stir your tea and settle down for more Anglo-Australian observations from Bertie of Melbourne.

This time our intrepid Bertie considers recent comments by the dapper and impeccably-eyebrowed Peter York (above) on the subject of tweed pastiche. Peter has a point. However, at Tweed Towers we try to filter out the bogus British heritage passengers — and Bertie might be reporting on 'tweedwash' soon  — from the genuine, honest brands. What's more, with the vast array of tweed patterns available, tweed is a cloth almost singularly disposed to originality.

Here Bertie defends the Sloane Ranger style, so wittily documented in Peter's Sloane Ranger Handbook [Amazon], and picks out some authentic pieces to create the look.

The Letter

My dear Tweed

I’ve been ABsolutely absorbed reading Peter York’s The Fall of the Sloane Rangers in this month’s Prospect. As I read it, my inner voice kept exclaiming ‘absoLOOTly!’ Well, that was until I got to this sentence:
The Sloane tragedy returns as farce, as pastiche, as tweed-themed menswear brands. Or those couth actors and stand-up comedians—Jack Whitehall, Armstrong and Miller and Marcus Brigstocke have all made a go of it. Daniel Smith, lecturer in sociology at Canterbury Christchurch University, earned his PhD with an analysis of Jack Wills, the clothing brand which trades as “Fabulously British” and “outfitters to the gentry” supplying “British heritage-inspired goods to the university crowd.” (Jack Wills doesn’t look that British to me, it’s more like the American brands Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister or Tommy Hilfiger.)
Pastiche? Tweed-themed menswear brands? Karl Marx?

That Mr York - who’s normally very solid – has gone too far!

I thought it’s time that you and all your readers fightback and show Mr York that he’s wrong. Let’s show him that tweed remains perfectly contemporary and never pastiche. To this day, I still look to the illustrations in the Sloane Ranger Handbook for inspiration.

The outfit below Rus in Urbe or the BBC of good dress - Barbour, Brogues & Cords – remains as classic as ever.

Illustration: Natacha Letwidge from the Sloane Ranger Handbook

Let’s begin with the Jacket. I suggest Barbour’s tweed Sapper jacket which contains a touch of cashmere. The Sapper Jacket seems most appropriate given we’re trying to diffuse the bomb which Mr York has lobbed at tweed-themed menswear.

Secondly, the Brogues.

I like all brogues – and given the SR style is that of the Field Officer & not the Major-General – I suggest Loake’s Chester brogues in calf leather. Simple, sturdy & well-made. (Also available from Herring Shoes.)

Lastly, the Cords.

Regrettably, Beale & Inman is no longer with us, so I’ve plumped for some British cords from Cordings. The cords are a good weight and very comfortable with a tapered cut for a contemporary feel.

All this outfit needs is a viyella shirt, socks in a defiant colour and the vigour to rise to the occasion.

After all, the Decline of a Tribe and their traditional dress is something that should never be taken lightly – it should be honoured in a filmic trilogy à la Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan, Barcelona & The Last Days of Disco.

And where is the British Whit Stillman?

Hopefully, he’s reading this blog now and is inspired to write (or direct) a roman-fleuve on tweed-inspired menswear, its evolution (& not revolution) and its durability both to fickle fashion and the changing fortunes of Britain’s tribes.

Bertie Davies


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Climbing Mount Everest #4 - Fracap Hiking Boot

Have You Gone Yet?

I was wondering if you had embarked on your Everest expedition yet? If not, I've had a rethink on the footwear you are taking. Stick with the Margaret Howell boots, but hang these around your neck by the bootlaces as an alternative.

These handsome hiking boots — the Fracap Scarponcino (Boot) — are hand-made in leather, with a Vibram sole, by the Cappello family in Lecce, Italy.

The family-owned business was founded in 1908 by Antonio Capello. The name of the business became Fracap in the 40s — an agglutination of 'FRAtello (Brothers) CAPpello —  when Antonio's sons Alfredo and Giovanni took over. Fracap footwear has been used militarily in Italy, and is something of a cult brand in Japan.

Tweedy's Question: Does anyone know why many hiking boots have red laces?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Timothy Foxx - The Tweed Belt

Tweed Belt from Timothy Foxx
I know you would never overdo the tweed, but you can scale right back with these belts from Timothy Foxx and still say that you are part of the tribe. Flash for entry into the right circles.

These belts are also a way you can still wear a little bit of tweed as you transition into the warmer months. They are made of nubuck leather and tweed with a brass buckle.

You have the Foxglove tweed belt above and the Amber tweed belt below. The belts are made in collaboration with British belt makers Mackenzie and George (who we will have to feature properly. Get in touch M & G.)

Timothy Foxx will be at the Cheltenham Festival this week. Do drop by to doff your trilby and pick up one these 'belters'.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Holland Cooper - British Made Excellence

Breeks from Holland Cooper
Hand cut breeks in wool with silk trim by Holland Cooper. I have had my eyes on these British-made marvels for a while. You can order them with a waterproof Goretex lining depending on your level of outdoorsy-ness.

Holland Cooper will be attending Cheltenham Festival this week, so shake their hands and order a pair directly.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Cheltenham Festival - Trilby a Dead Cert

It's the Cheltenham Festival this week and up until today I was attending Gold Cup day. I shan't burden you with the reasons as to why this isn't now possible, suffice to say that a certain someone's wife is now very happy and a certain pig not so much.

I think you should try and attend one of the days though.

Tweedy's Picks
From the look of this video clip, Sire de Grugy trained by Gary Moore in Sussex, England, looks to be 'in the zone' for the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday. The horse has been described as the Usain Bolt of racing. (Someone who runs fast?) I suggest you re-mortgage and bet the house on this horse. Buy plane tickets to Thailand in case it doesn't work out.

If you are looking for a double, my tip for the Gold Cup would be the attractive Don Poli (below) trained by Willie Mullins (top) in County Carlow, Ireland. I'll be having a five pence each-way double bet on those two horses — the nerves, the excitement. Good luck to everyone.

Like Willie, you should really be wearing a brown Trilby if you are attending. Why not the Haydock from Lock and Co.? created from unlined sporting felt — a stylish dead cert.

Note: If you see a very pleased looking lady at the Gold Cup, that should have been me.
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