Saturday, 31 October 2015

I Came to Your Halloween Party Dressed as a Shadow

Piano Magic
If you are going to a Halloween Party this evening, why not go as a shadow? Piano Magic will explain the hows and whys with the excellent I Came to Your Party Dressed as a Shadow [Amazon], originally released in 2001 and put to video here by Davide Crespo.

Quite Spooky Song

Piano Magic formed as a musical collective in 1996 and has gone through a few personnel changes since then. The current line-up contains a single original member in Glen Johnson, with the four other full-time members you see above and below — looking winningly smart, yet strange and Gothic.

It is wholly insufficient to say that I Came to Your Party Dressed as a Shadow is indicative of their sound, which is musically shape-shifting, blending genres that might be said to intersect somewhere between intelligent indie electronica and dark-baroque pop if that was not too narrow (or confusing) a description. They have also been described as 'English radiophonic soundscapers', which might be getting nearer to a definition.

I tend to enjoy listening to them late at night when I'm cleaning surgical implements, if that helps.

Battle of Britain at 75

Monument to the Few
The Battle of Britain, lasting three months and three weeks, ended this day in 1940. Acknowledged as a turning point in the Second World War, and one of the most significant moments in modern British history, the 75th anniversary of the event has been commemorated this year with fly-pasts and concerts.

I've always been rather impressed by the National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne on the white cliffs of Dover, Kent — a memorial that feels right in situation and sentiment. The location offers a place for quiet reflection on the sacrifices made to safeguard the future of Britain. The figure of a seated pilot looking out to sea, by artist Harry Gray, watches over a vista that the Battle of Britain pilots would have known very well.

The memorial was opened by the Queen Mother in 1993, and this year the Queen opened a new visitor centre in the shape of a Spitfire wing.

Let us raise a tumbler of whisky to the The Few tonight.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Greatest Motorway Service Station in Britain

A Cathedral for the Motorist
Following the signs on a British motorway you might be tempted to ignore those for motorway service stations, unappealing places as they tend to be. Glorious exceptions are those run by the Westmoreland family. As is usual, family-owned businesses do it better.

When I first stopped at their Gloucester Services on the M5, I was quite taken aback by its attractiveness; it was quiet and spacious. From the outside the services appear to be buried into the landscape. When you enter the space opens up like a cathedral. Inside you can enjoy great food and drink from the kitchen. A well-stocked farm shop sells local seasonal produce. An air of hushed and professional service permeates from the engaged staff. Why couldn't all service stations be made this way?  If I was capable of anger I would have punched something — for the years I have had to endure the risible alternatives. Instead I finished my English breakfast — excellent Gloucester Old Spot bacon — placed my knife and fork together, and ordered another pot of the delicious tea on offer.

I now stop at no other services and look for excuses to travel along the M5 to visit again.

The Westmoreland Services
The Westmoreland family established Tebay Services in Cumbria in 1972 with a mission to serve local food and a 'fierce passion for, and a pride in, our landscape, our people, our environment and its products'.

Just over 40 years later — Why rush? — the family opened Gloucester Services in the West Country. The opportunity arose through an enlightened partnership with The Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, a charity set up to support local food and craft producers (and reject the fast-food chain approach applied at other services that do little for local producers or the community at large). Gloucester Services is a community-wide resource, not just in the jobs created and the producers supported, but also because a percentage of the income generated in sales is donated to the trust to support local community initiatives.

Everything about the arrangement is right, which makes that tea taste even sweeter.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Photographer - Edward Steichen

I think we may run a few posts on famous photographers who have influenced fashion photography. Basically, I've been looking to improve the appalling photos I take for The Tweed Pig, so why not look at how the greats did it? I will throw in a few examples of styles and attitudes caught in their lens along the way. I learn, we all learn — MOOC I think they call it.

Edward Steichen was born in Luxembourg in 1879, but settled with his family as a child in the US. He is regarded as a pioneer, nay inventor, of fashion photography, particularly for his work with Art et Décoration that began in 1911. The work he did to capture the Art Deco designs from houses like Chanel and Lanvin still stand up today.

As we don't feature women's clothes on these pages, I've hunted out a few of the portraits Steichen did of chaps for magazines like Vanity Fair. We need to maintain a modicum of coherence on these pages.


Winston Churchill

Conrad Veidt

Rudolf Valentino

Friday, 23 October 2015

Huntsman - Savile Row Tweeds

Huntsman in Savile Row
A line of communication has now fully opened up between Tweed Towers and the Savile Row tailoring establishment of Huntsman (1849). Huntsman has the number of the red telephone at Tweed Towers and it has been ringing non-stop. Gratitude being the lively expectation of favours yet to come — as François de La Rochefoucauld would have it — I'm extremely grateful.

What can I tell you? Quite a lot as it happens. Not wishing to overstimulate you, I'm going to feed the gen out in dribs.

Let's talk about their famous shop on Savile Row first of all, which has been refurbished with what we might call a fresh yet traditional look. The interior is light and airy, but with the elements you might expect in a tailor's shop — Huntsman in particular — with the wood, the leather, the bolts of cloth, the stag's heads and the saddles.

So far, so reassuring —  a contemporary take on the Huntsman tradition. But Huntsman is moving forward with some nice new touches. The cutting area is in the centre of the shop with cutters at hand ready to advise, and there is a bar at the back stocked with fine wines to lubricate the decision-making process.

Huntsman has also introduced art works to the space that speak of the industry, like the delightful Bespoke Merino of Savile Row (below) made by artist Joy Pitts from Huntsman labels and dressmaker pins.

Walking in to the shop you can understand the company has a history, but it's not shut in the past. (Why are you looking at me?) It whispers good service, that they are going to take good care with your inside leg measurement.

Window on the Tweed
Huntsman releases a new range of tweeds in February next year. I hope to be able to keep you informed of that. Meanwhile, the current shop window display represents country and shooting styles of jackets and trousers constructed from in-house tweeds produced over the last ten years.

Huntsman is justifiably famous for the recognisably big and bold windowpane house checks used in its tweeds. Knowledgeable Huntsman fans can recognise them when they see them. All tweeds are produced in limited quantities and collected with a fervour by some — Gregory Peck for one, of which more later. As expected, the checks are always matched perfectly across chest and sleeve (see below). Three to four colourways tend to be used with each design. The tailoring team draw on Huntsman's archive and customer preferences to feed back to a small mill on the Inner Hebrides that produces their tweed.

The tweed is generally produced at a 15/16oz weight. Being a small and experienced outfit, the mill is agile enough to offer lighter or heavier weight fabrics; and can also accommodate a bespoke tweed-making service for Huntsman's customers, producing a single tweed in a half-piece (of 30m) should there be such a requirement.

The team at Huntsman will take the tweed and through a skilled and laborious process, with over 80 hours of workmanship, produce a suit which will last its owner more than one lifetime.

More on Huntsman to follow, gents. If you are interested, do stay tuned.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Quiggleys - Pushing No Boundaries and Redefining Nothing

Scapa - True Shetland
I do like the tag line for QuiggleysPushing No boundaries and Redefining Nothing. It says it all.

They're not trying to change the world of sweaters by introducing a third sleeve or a sling to carry bananas in. They simply produce honest-to-goodness British sweatering that can be worn from one decade to the next — and without attracting the gaze of passers-by for being 'too stiff, too tight or too fashionable' as Beau Brummel had it.

Let us remind ourselves of the Devonshire Cashmere sweater they produced for The Merchant Fox? It might be fair to say that that sweater did actually redefine what we expect from a British sweater in terms of provenance. But the tag line stands as a mission statement.

In the spirit of true provenance, they now give us the Scapa Grey you see here. Scapa is made from Voe True Shetland wool — a hand-graded natural and undyed virgin Shetland lambswool. Voe refers to the coastal cliffs that the sheep live upon, scoffing seaweed in the ebb tide. Quiggleys tell us that sweaters made from this wool were worn by Sir Edmund Hilary, who appreciated its supreme lightness and warmth. Suffice it to say that he probably knew a thing or two about sweaters.

Well done Quiggleys for their commitment to British sweater tradition. The Scapa is just the sort of thing we love to feature.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Your Personal Barber - Learn to Love Shaving

Purveyors of Handsome Living
What an absolutely splendid idea from our spanking new friend Bradley at The Personal Barber. It's always rather thrilling to receive a parcel in the post (unless it's ticking goes the old joke). Sign up with the The Personal Barber and they will dispatch a box of shaving products to your door each month.

For the the first month The Personal Barber sets up with everything you need to get started. For the months that follow each box contains a new set of grooming products to keep your facial hair interested and the skin below in tip-top condition.

So you get a traditional three-part safety razor and a shaving brush in you first box, along with blades and soap, and — my favourite element — mystery products. If you're new to safety razor shaving, he also provides instructions with the first box. If you already have a favourite razor and brush, and don't require another, they are swapped with other items.

The mystery deepens with each subsequent box. Bradley knows the shaving world inside-out and scours the globe for the best in grooming products that might include aftershave balms, colognes, alum, pre-shave oil — all manner of man-face merchandise.

From the box you see here — which I served to myself on a silver salver to heighten the ritual — we have a rather excellent shaving towel from Mühle of Germany. This was a revelation in itself. I've long used flat, non-fluffy towels in my grooming rituals as you can soak them in hot water and press them over your beard pre-shave, and they don't leave bits of towel on your face when drying post-shave. This MÜHLE towel has a waffle-like texture that makes it slightly spongy and totally fit for purpose. Excellent.

Bradley chose the shaving brush as it has a softness between boar and badger hair. I'm used to badger hair, but found the brush lathered and held the soap well. It was nice to see Simpson's represented in the box. A combination of their pre-shave oil and the MÜHLE Sea Buckthorn shaving soap applied to the fizzog delivered the smoothest of scrapes with the blades provided.

This is a great way of trying the widest selection of grooming products —  like having a personal barber in your home, as the name suggests. You just need to add your own conciliatory responses to the conversation.

Tweedy's Thoughts: Perhaps members could purchase additional boxes as presents to introduce family and friends. And maybe there could be a turbo-charged initial option with a choice of razor, such as an Osterley, and grades of badger brushes.   

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Road to Everywhere

British Road Signs - 50th Anniversary
Before the introduction of the motorway system in Britain, signage was inconsistent and often overlooked and ineffective. The birth of standardisation in modern British road signs began with cycling clubs erecting their own warnings. With the advent of the motoring age, standardisation was piecemeal until the early 60s when it was perfected by typographers and graphic designers Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert. The work they did on creating a coherent visual language could not be improved, and has been in use (and repeated in other countries) for the last fifty years.

Information Architects Design Classics
Jock and Margaret became involved in the development of a British road signage system when the first motorway — the M1 — was being built in 1957. Simple, effective and engaging, their designs were adopted countrywide from 1965.

In order to work and to stand the test of time, the designers developed a whole system of communication that could be immediately understood by motorists. New fonts — Transport and Motorway — were developed to convey a harmonious message. Upper case letters were deemed unfriendly to the British eye, so lower case was used.

Pictograms — as with Queues Likely above — were created to convey information to the driver. Colour combinations were introduced to delineate types of road. The sign below shows primary routes, which are always yellow on green.

Thanks to their work we can now jump in our cars and take the road to everywhere.

Design Museum Exhibition
The work of Jock and Margaret is currently being exhibited at the Design Museum in London as part of the British Road Sign Project. The exhibition includes reinterpretations of the classic signs by designers. The jazzy numbers below are by Sir Peter Blake.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A Spanish Wedding - Santamaria Bespoke

Spanish Wedding Shirt
I'm attending a wedding in Spain next month and I'm very much looking forward to it. The ceremony will take place in soft and undulating Green Spain in the north, precisely the Celtic Asturian region — a region with its own language of Bable and a proud cider pouring tradition. The region is also fiercely proud of its role in the reconquest of Spain from the Moors starting with a historic first victory in the Battle of Covadonga in 722 led by Don Pelayo, who founded the Kingdom of Asturias. Do read up on Pelayo. He was quite the chap.

Okay — enough of the history. We're here to talk about shirts. I thought that as I was attending a Spanish wedding I would blend a little bit of Spain into my attire. Arbitrarily, I decided it would be a shirt.

Santamaria Come up Trumps
So I needed a shirtmaker and remembered a friend mentioning Santamaria. Santamaria Bespoke is a family-owned business based in Madrid that has been tailoring for thirty years. They have recently launched an online operation in which a shirtless gent can invest in their shirtmaking expertise from the comfort of his own home.

How It's Done
You supply the gen via the website on your upper bod measurements and the type of shirt you're looking for, and Santamaria do the rest. I though I'd give it a whirl.

From the website you can choose from over 350 shirt fabrics, including delectable offerings from Canclini (1925).  I chose a blue Canclini poplin cloth, slim fit with a high Italian collar and buttoned cuffs (sorry Francis).

All shirts are hand-cut and sewn in their own factory. Santamaria is committed to providing unsurpassed comfort and fit, and I think they achieved it here.

By the cripes, this is one comfortable shirt. It's an absolute delight to wear. The cloth is incredibly light and soft. You are going to get creases with it, but so you should — this isn't cloth of the non-iron formaldehyde-laden variety. The fit is great — the collar fits well and the cut across the shoulders is just right for me. The sleeves have a proper length, although the watch seems to be getting in the way on the photos. The cuffs are adjustable, so I can remedy that. All things considered — jolly pleased.

Of course a monogram — counter-cultural writers are never afraid to appear bourgeois in this topsy-turvy world. Let those billionaire social media entrepreneurs in Palo Alto dress like children off to play ten pin bowls at the local shopping mall. We dress like men. Right chaps?

I wanted a big collar as I'm wearing a wide-lapel suit to the wedding, which also means an unskinny tie too. It won't be this tweed one, so I'm now on the look out for a suitable tie. Poor me.

Tweedy's Thought: As I'm representing Great Britain at the wedding, ideas for a suitably British gift most welcome. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Sanders Shoes News

Tweed Pig in Shoe Praise Deluge
Inundated. That's the only word to describe the number of emails we've received praising Sanders. These emails were not referring to Bernie Sanders — nor George or Colonel Sanders for that matter — but the chukka boots by Sanders Shoes mentioned on the Tweed TV episode with Steve McQueen. Keen for a chance to improve the viewing figures, here comes a little bit of background on Sanders Shoes that's been sitting on my infamous pile of  'to do' notes for quite some time. We get there in the end.

About Sanders Shoes
My notes tell me that Henry Sanders the Managing Director was away when I made them, but that tells us that the company is still family-owned  — something that always gives us confidence in products: skin in the game.

What else? Well, Sanders & Sanders Ltd was established in 1873 by brothers William Sanders and Thomas Sanders of Rushden, Northamptonshire (shoe capital of Great Britain and where Sanders still manufacture). Their initial vision was to offer outstanding quality footwear (firstly, boots) to discerning members of the public throughout England using the finest English hides and the best local oak-bark tanned soles.

The initial vision of the company remains with the company and the fourth generation of Sanders in charge, but the traditional skills to produce the quality footwear are now supplemented by modern production machinery and advanced computer control systems. Expanding considerably out of their UK base, Sanders now exports footwear directly to over thirty countries.

Current Sanders styles include the elegant Diplomats Collection represented by the London full brogue in calf leather here:

Most of Sanders' footwear is made using the Goodyear welted construction method, where the upper, insole, welt and sole and entirely stitched together, though they may be most famous for the Chukka — an absolute timeless classic built on a gloriously thick crepe rubber sole — green being the colour option of choice for old Tweedy.

I do apologise, but you have no option — you positively must include a pair of these in your classic wardrobe and that's the end of it.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Trafalgar Day at Truefitt & Hill

Truefitt & Hill
I've enjoyed a terrific snip each time I've visited Truefitt & Hill, though it isn't my regular barbershop. My usual man has commented favourably at the results. He knows I have the occasional flings at other establishments. We 've been through many hairstyles together. Would I ever consider leaving him for good? Well he is surly and bad-tempered. If Truefitt & Hill opened a branch in deepest Somerset, he might be on borrowed time.

Truefitt's kit is pretty damn excellent too. Who amongst us hasn't enjoyed the sublime scent of their West Indian Limes on a summer's day?

210 Years — 25% Saving
T&H are 210 this year. How a company survives so long deserves a round of applause from all of us. This veritable British company started in the same year as the Battle of Trafalgar. The year a battle changed the course of British history, a barbershop changed the grooming rituals of British men — and we could smell nice. If memory serves well, Truefitt and Hill were court wig makers at that time.

To commemorate this auspicious date, T&H are offering a generous 25% off their (fresh and oceanic) 1805 and (spicy wood) Trafalgar ranges until midnight on October the 21st — Trafalgar Day.

Use these discount codes gents:
  • For the 1805 range: 18052015
  • For the Trafalgar range: TRAF2015
If you are near one of their branches on the 21st, do pop in as T&H will be celebrating with champagne and truffles.

England expects that every man will do his duty.

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