Monday, 29 June 2015
Congratulations to Joe Holgrove of Denman Goddard tailors on winning the Golden Shears. The Golden Shears is a bi-annual tailoring competition supported by the Merchant Taylors' Company — one of London's ancient Guilds.
Joe is a traditional tailor, so designing something that was more catwalk-friendly yet showed off his tailoring skills was a challenge. He plumped for a half-shooting jacket in contrasting colours and with traditional tailoring flourishes.
Find Joe at Denham Goddard (1858), Hanover Square, London — incorporating Hicks & Sons (1767) — where the knowledgeable and experienced staff can advise on two- to eight-piece suits or full dress military uniforms. Denman Goddard has a distinguished background in supplying military clothing and livery to the Royal Household.
Saturday, 27 June 2015
Walker Slater has teamed up with The Chap magazine to create summer staples for your wardrobe in mill-washed cream linen, that wondrous, easily-rumpled cloth so beloved of Foreign Office officials and MCC members. If you are rumple-averse, perhaps Fresco is for you, but squatting on a picnic blanket and doing lazy summer things is frankly asking for cream linen (and a little less fastidiousness, tsk-tsk).
Pair Jamie with Edward
Jamie is the relaxed-fit jacket of the collection (above) and Edward is the pair of trousers, part-lined with fishtail back to take your braces (below).
Add Francis to the Mix
Francis is a buff double-breasted weskit that will sit well under Jamie to add a bit of contrast.
Well done to Walker Slater and The Chap. So taken was I with this collection that when I learned of it I had to put my tea to one side and tap out this piece without taking another sip. The tea was bordering on cold when I lifted the saucer again, so I had to boil another kettle. And then could I find the biscuits? This is real tales of duty and sacrifice stuff.
Thursday, 25 June 2015
In 1964 they decide to make a light-hearted spoof spy film starring Dirk Bogarde, directed by Carry On films director Ralph Thomas, with support from Robert Morley, Leo McKern and John le Mesurier, and accompanied by the music of spaghetti western and sword-and-sandal composer Angelo Francesco Lavagnino.
That's a very attractive set of ingredients. But how did the 'cake' turn out? Hot Enough for June (Agent 8¾ in the US) [Amazon] is not bad at all, as it happens. Of course, you need to like the ingredients to begin with.
Bogarde's character, Nicholas Whistler, is an unemployed writer (with pretensions) who speaks Czech. He is offered work by Colonel Cunliffe (played by Robert Morley) to collect something from Prague, becoming an unwitting agent for British intelligence in the process. Whistler's contact password is Hot enough for June.
Whistler falls in love with a beautiful agent working for the other side. He then gets himself into a sticky situation — as you might predict — and needs to escape the Iron Curtain. Along the way, he finds out that he is actually rather good at the line of work he has stumbled into.
The film has a 60s British whimsy to it, with a silly, fun plot that has elements of cold war suspense and romantic comedy. Everyone is spying on everyone else it seems. And it looks attractive, with good colour and some nice period locations and outdoor shots. The film was shot in Padua, Italy, which doubled for Prague — the Iron Curtain very much drawn tight in 1964, lest we forget.
File this under 'afternoon tea and biscuits films'.
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Here Comes Summer, There Goes Summer
As the life-giving sunbeams have started to break through for summer, one of our readers sent me a photo of the hats he was readying (below) from Lock & Co and Christy's. He now has a narrow window to enjoy such headwear before the cool breezes start to arrive in August. (Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but tempus fugit.)
Boater and Blazer - Classic Anglicana
The straw boater is considered a more formal alternative to the Panama hat as summer headwear, but it really deserves more than the once-a-year outing at Edwardian-flavoured Henley Regatta or term-time at any of the Harrow school outlets now scattered around the globe.
How to wear one without looking like you are wearing a costume? Everything we wear is a costume, so you are asking the wrong question, dear reader. How best to bring out the beauty of the boater? That's a better question.
Start by wearing it with maximum devil-may-care jaunt like the chap at the top attending Henley. And don't fight the rowing connotations. Match with a navy hopsack blazer and cream flannels, and you probably can't go wrong.
If I know you though, and I think I do by now, you won't want to do things by half-measures. You will be looking for a more colourful boating blazer.
Before we know it, you will have joined a historic rowing club — they are bound to let you in — and ordered your club blazer from Collier and Robinson of Henley. Good for you.
Walter's of Oxford, who supply boating blazers for the Oxford clubs, suggest oarsmen 'follow the tradition of preserving the grime and stains accumulated during a rowing career as badges of honour'. So no cleaning required for the blazer, which makes life a little easier.
They also say that the classic boating blazer should be three-button single-breasted, with patch pockets, no vents and a single-button cuff.
Blazer fact: The word 'blazer' was first coined to describe the jackets of the Lady Margaret Boat Club in Cambridge in 1852 — as they are blazingly bright red.
Go It Alone - Jack Wills UK-Made Boating Blazer
If, like Sherlock Holmes, you loathe all forms of society and wish to go your own way on the blazer front, you can dispense with the club badge on the breast pocket and head to Jack Wills. Wills is currently supplying a couple of boating blazers — patch pocket, no vents — that are made in the UK of British cloth.
The Ordway blazer (below) is available in blue stripe or cream flannel. I think either of those could work with a boater at your next summer picnic.
Sunday, 21 June 2015
I Know a Bank Near Tweed Towers
It is midsummer's night and something is stirring in the woods near to the grounds of Tweed Towers. Not wishing to be a stickybeak, but I think we need to take a torch and have a look-see. I'm going out in my Derek Rose Amalfi short pyjamas, but I'm putting my (old Scottish-made) Hunters on as it's a bit overgrown and muddy out there. You need to be quiet and walk in single file. We don't want to disturb the proceedings.
Why, it is Oberon the King of the Faeries! He is instructing Puck to bring him a flower — specifically the viola tricolor or 'come-and-cuddle-me' — with properties in its 'juice' to induce love at first sight. Let's see what he has to say:
In Britten's 1960 opera of Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer's Night Dream, the faeries — Oberon in particular — are given fittingly ethereal musical accompaniment; Oberon with celeste (or celesta) and harp in a role that was originally created for Alfred Deller.
In the clip above, David Daniels plays Oberon in an enchanting 2005 performance in Barcelona. The opera is staged rather sweetly on a charmingly-lit set that resembles a large, welcoming bed. This dreamily imaginative opera production by Opéra National de Lyon is available on DVD [Amazon].
Let the music flow over you, gin and viola tricolor juice in hand, on a sultry summer night.
You don't hear it used often in popular music, but I associate summer with the soft chime-bar sound of a celeste thanks to Britten's opera. But what do we know of this instrument? Let's ask Elizabeth Burley of London's Philharmonica Orchestra to explain:
I think we learned something there. And they say The Tweed Pig is just an organ of inconsequential persiflage.
Saturday, 20 June 2015
Following the piece on Burgos of Madrid, Spanish reader and Teba jacket enthusiast Francisco has provided a few helpful recommendations for those wishing to obtain a Teba. Thanks Francisco.
Justo Gimeno of Zaragoza
Francisco regards Justo Gimeno of Zaragoza as a very traditional place for Tebas. He believes Justo is a 'friend and collaborator' of Burgos, Madrid.
It just so happens that Justo Gimeno produce the woollen navy Teba jackets sold by Last of England (top).
Bel y Cia (1842) of Barcelona
Francisco also recommends Bel y Cia of Barcelona. You see a summer-style Teba of theirs in the picture above.
Francisco has been in possession of a couple of their Teba jackets for over ten years, and they are still in great condition.
Though he regards the quality on a par, he feels there are subtle differences between the Barcelona style of Teba from Bel Y Cia and the Madrid style from Burgos. The Barcelona style is more cardigan-like. (Or is it more jacket-like?) Best try one of each.
Thursday, 18 June 2015
200th Anniversary of Waterloo
There is almost too much to celebrate at the moment.
We had National Beer Day on the same day as the 800th anniversary of the hugely important Magna Carta (commemorated by the Royal Mint on a two-pound coin) — the link between the two being that the Magna Carta enshrined the right to have your ale served in a standard measure. Quite right.
And today it's the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Royal Mail has brought out a spiffin' ten-stamp collection to commemorate the event that ushered in the century of Pax Britannica. You can see a couple of the stamps here. That's a 92nd Gordon Highlander stamp above. The stamp below has the scene of a French assault.
Letters from 1815
As part of the promotion, Royal Mail has also published an interesting collection of letters sent home from the front.
They say the art of letter writing is dead, but even in 1815, and in the middle of one of this country's most significant events, there was tweet-like terseness:
The fight is over, I am safe. Napoleon beaten with loss of 40,000, all his baggage and artillery; 3 days fighting, half the cavalry on our side destroyed, and the infantry and artillery suffered immense. Love to all, yours always JCC
Cellular Cotton Shirts
The Old Town short- and long-sleeved Slimmer Shirt (above) is made out of cellular cotton — a splendid Victorian innovation.
Cellular cotton (invented by Aertex of Bolton in 1888) was used extensively by the British military in warm and tropical climates, because of its breathable nature; likewise it was a staple in school gym kits for the best part of a century before falling out of favour. Old Town, appreciating its history and properties, has adopted cellular cotton into its range of traditional British workwear fabrics.
The shirts have a three-button opening, chest pocket and long tails designed to be worn out of trousers for added breeziness. The shirt makes for an excellent summer sporting option, and is representative of Old Town's simple style.
Inspiring Old Town
Old Town, the Norfolk-based micro clothing company, has perfected its time and place aesthetic in the twenty-five years since husband-and-wife team Will Brown and Marie Willy started the company.
Everything you want to know about the strength of the identity they have created is in full evidence in this video by Matt Hind, which is accompanied by finely-chosen music from East Anglia Sings:
Nice Old Town
The size of Old Town means that it can caper nimbly on a terrain that it is hostile — in terms of scale, ethos and customer service — to a multi-national conglomerate or a corner-cutting sweat shop.
As you can see from the video below, Old Town was not built by faceless, profit-hungry institutional investors looking to build a brand and then sell it to the highest bidder, but by pleasant, courteous people who care about each of the around seventy items they produce a week.
This is an exchange of goods built on niceness, and is why Old Town has a very loyal band of customers. I encourage you to join them.
Monday, 15 June 2015
The Lucky Weskit
I like to think I can recognise a lucky weskit when I see one, and this double-breasted number from Oliver Brown looks heavily lucky to me.
Featuring a shawl collar and made from seasonal Irish linen, the weskit has a cream satin back with adjusters and cream piping.
Wear this with your morningwear for the Royal enclosure at Ascot this week and it will be like your winners were picking themselves.
I'm going to withdraw my pension pot — as we are now allowed to do so — and put it all on Vent de Force (above) in the Gold Cup at Ascot. I invite you to join me, though my recent tips have been far from impressive — basically, I know nothing.
What an intelligent-looking horse. Those ears clearly portend success, as only ears can.
Trained by Berkshire-based Hughie Morrison (pictured below with his previous Ascot winner Sagramor), the price of the increasingly-fancied Vent de Force is plummeting following a recent win at Sandown Park.
Saturday, 13 June 2015
Friday, 12 June 2015
A Rainy Mid-Morning in Brussels
I had a few hours to enjoy in the old centre of Brussels recently, and I'm always glad of it. Why was I in Brussels? Because I try to avoid the purgatory of London airports at any cost, and was using Brussels Airport as a hub. The centre of Brussels is fifteen minutes from the airport by train.
Of course, I didn't venture much further than Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, with its lovely selection of shops, cafés and restaurants. Actually, I went absolutely no further as it was conveniently tipping down with rain. A few hours in rainy Brussels — perfect.
Since 1847, Les Galeries has provided a retail experience under cover, and might be considered a forerunner to the modern shopping mall, much like Burlington Arcade in London and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.
I took a few (not very good) photos (above) to capture the old-world European ambience.
Eat Belgian Food
The arcade has a nicely restrained and civilised atmosphere. Assuming you are there for a few hours, you have traditional Belgian dining choices, such as Ogenblik and the Art Deco La Taverne du Passage (above); once popular, they say, with surrealist painter René Magritte. (Surreal joke: What's red and invisible? This tomato.)
Buy Belgian Things
After you have eaten, treat yourself to the following:
Newspaper bag from Delvaux (1829), reputed to be the world's oldest name in leather goods.
Now stuff your Delvaux newspaper bag full of Belgian chocolate from Mary (1919) and Neuhaus (1857); and also Meert (1761), though Meert was founded in Lille and is not strictly Belgian — but we like their chocolate and the age of the company — it is timeless, endless Europa.
A few hours in Les Galeries is infinitely more preferable than waiting for a connection in the ghastly confinement of a London airport let me tell you. In fact, if you choose this route out of Blighty, make sure you get the longest connection waiting time you can.
Mary Rosine Rose chocolates:
Neuhaus Haute Pâtisserie Collection:
Wednesday, 10 June 2015
Public Service Broadcasting at Green Man
Are you going to the Green Man Festival this year? (That's him above.) I thought about it — the Brecon Beacons of Wales is a nice part of the world — but it's sold out now. I'm not sure I would have got further than thinking about it anyway. You know how I am.
If I were to attend, I would be first in the queue to watch Public Service Broadcasting. We have been enjoying their War Room E.P. at Tweed Towers, particularly the stirring tracks Spitfire and London Can Take It.
PSB — The Personnel
London-based J. Willgoose (above) and Wrigglesworth are the musical duo behind Public Service Broadcasting. Both multi-instrumentalists and documentary enthusiasts, their aim is to 'teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future'.
They layer samples of public information and archive films over their percussive arrangements to quite dramatic effect. I believe the BFI helped out with some of the archive footage they have used. The result is music that is infectious, innovative and informative — all the 'i's. If we can't call it Krautrock, perhaps Tommyrock?
(Have they used any samples from The London Nobody Knows in their recordings?)
London Can Take It
Tip: If the music makes you feel a little peevish, and it's possible, why not work off some steam with a spot of gardening?
Monday, 8 June 2015
Fresco cloth was first developed in 1907 by Martin Sons & Company — based in Huddersfield and now part of Huddersfield Fine Worsteds — specifically to be worn in hot climates. Fresco is a lightweight and open high-twist plain woollen weave, sometimes with an added dash of mohair. The open weave nature of the cloth is such that it doesn't impede any welcoming breeze on a boiling hot day; it also remains crisp and crease-free.
The Fresco range from Huddersfield Fine Worsteds is available in different weights and thicknesses, and is now marketed under the famous Minnis brand name.
You will come across Fresco in the best tailors as a summer suiting option, but Dashing Tweeds has worked its creative magic and worked this wonder sunshine cloth into a pair of summer shorts. The shorts are based on British military —Desert Rat-style — cargo shorts with thigh pocket. They have side adjusters rather than belt hoops, so you don't need to be weighed down by a belt when it swelters. The Fresco used is of 70% wool and 30% mohair, and cunningly resembles denim in appearance.
What a wonderful swing and swagger these shorts have. And just think of the wow factor at your local summer fête this year.
Friday, 5 June 2015
Alfred Brown - Establish 1915, Yorkshire, England
Alfred Brown (Worsted Mills), the Yorkshire cloth maker, celebrates its centenary this year. Come on, let's all blow a party horn in unison. After three. One, two, three...hoot.
Happy birthday, Alfred Brown.
Herbert Brown initially founded Brown & Sons in 1915 — in Bramley, Yorkshire (and they are still there) — to produce cloths for the military, police and fire services. So many British mills started this way — so many wars to fight, I suppose.
Though Alfred Brown still produce fabrics for uniforms, they tend to be for corporations nowadays. The core of the business is in suiting, with a traditional tailoring collection created each season. From a traditional tailoring perspective, they are perhaps best known for their blazering and cavalry twill fabrics — the cloths of the Englishman at his leisure.
The fourth-generation family business changed its name to Alfred Brown in 1955, and has become a celebrated mainstay of the English textile industry. Alfred Brown has kept ahead by constantly innovating — it was the first British mill to introduce a computer system — and never compromising on its reputation for supplying quality fabrics with that key Made in Britain label.
Alfred Brown is involved in each aspect of the textile production process, from design to finishing using the 'soft water from the surrounding hills in West Yorkshire, which has characterised for centuries cloth finished in Yorkshire'. The mill weaves on 30 looms, which are able to produce 30, 000 metres of cloth a week. The fabrics range from suiting and tailoring cloths in summer and winter weights — tropicals at 7.5 ounces, and winter woollens at 12 ounces.
As they say: 'Fabric with the selvedge "Woven in England by Alfred Brown" is the mark of quality and prestige and is sought after by retailers, cloth merchants and tailors worldwide.'
Alfred Brown 'Panama' for Summer
Looking to wear something lighter this summer? Alfred Brown's 'Panama' fabrics are designed for freshness in the heat. They are a lightweight suiting cloth in a fine, plain weave. The cloth is woven in a variety of shades — as seen below — in wool or wool with a dash of mohair to give sheen and a dry handle in.
Wednesday, 3 June 2015
Gary McCann - Set and Costume Designer
Lumme, a pin-up. It's been a while, I know, but patience is amply rewarded here. Dear new friend Gary McCann has gone the extra mile in providing us with three photos, background into his fascinating profession, and a few excellent shopping tips into the bargain. If I wasn't so mysteriously reclusive, Gary would very nearly have almost earned himself a slap-up afternoon tea at Tweed Towers, with the best china and a choice of preserves no less. Thanks for your efforts Gary. (Oh, go on, come round for a scone if you're ever in the West Country.)
Gary works as a set and costume designer for opera, musicals, and theatre productions. Originally from Northern Ireland, he is now based in Greenwich, London. His designs have been produced on Broadway, in the West End, at the National Theatre, and at major opera houses all over the world. His work will be on display this summer at the V&A museum as part of the MAKE/BELIEVE exhibition, and his art installations in 18th century follies can be seen at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire until November. He recently designed the 50th anniversary tour of The Sound of Music, which is currently on tour in the UK.
A Little Bit About Gary and His Design Work
Before we get to know Gary a bit more through his photos, here he explains his work as a theatre designer:
'Theatre designers are true magpies, our eyes are trained to focus in on small, significant aspects of the world that no-one else may notice - I never feel I'm truly "off duty" and am constantly absorbing the environment and people around me for inspiration.
'I spend an enormous amount of my time obsessing over little details - the patina of a button, the exact length of a hem, the colour of thread on some topstitching, pattern-matching, finding the perfect fabric or vintage accessory. Every detail works cumulatively, fleshing out the universe I am creating for the audience, this greatly assists the performers in generating their characterisations.
'At any given point I can be working on five or more productions at the same time. Currently I am designing Madam Butterfly for the Nederlandse Reisopera in Holland, which has an avant-garde timeless look with neoprene and felt kimonos, Macbeth for the Vienna State Opera, which has a Brutalist aesthetic within which I have created a new set of totalitarian uniforms which combine American, North Korean, and Soviet details, Becoming Santa Claus, a new family opera for Dallas Opera which has a fantastical Elven style which is partly rooted in Belgian Belle Epoque, and La Traviata for Philadelphia opera, which celebrates the golden age of 1950s fashion within a gilded Baroque set: it looks a bit like a Cecil Beaton photograph.'
And here Gary explains his look:
'It's hardly surprising my own style can be somewhat eclectic. Getting dressed can be a little like creating a character in one of my productions - my look varies greatly on a day to day basis. As on stage, in day-to-day life clothes without doubt can make you feel different: and they tangibly change how you are perceived and treated by other people. I like to surprise and entertain with some of the choices I make, and being "well dressed" goes a long way in convincing those with whom I'm working that I know what I'm doing! My standard look centres around an off-duty George V or perhaps an Edwardian professor, I have a bit of a collection of three piece Harris tweed suits, hats, caps, pocket watches and brogues: but regularly I gravitate towards other sorts of looks - edging towards Rockabilly, fairground carny, or even 1930's despatch rider. Deep down I think dressing in a traditional or old-fashioned manner can be pretty rebellious - in this way I identify with the delicious irony within Anarcho-Dandyist ideology.'
About Photo 1 (top)
Yours truly with some of the costumes I designed for The Barber of Seville in the Netherlands in 2013. The look combined eighteenth century details with modern fashions, and as the opera had a tonsorial subject matter everyone had marvellous, rather ridiculous wigs which were painstakingly hand-made and dyed to the correct colour before styling.
About Photo 2
A day at Sandown races. Being a "friend" (ex-member due to beard growth) of the Handlebar Club, there are lots of opportunities for dressing up with like-minded folk.
About Photo 3
Some publicity shots I had taken in Newcastle's Literary and Philosophical Society building by the photographer Topher McGrillis. The suit is from Walker Slater in Edinburgh.
Finally, ever generous Gary offers some tips for achieving that 'Gary look'.
The best all-round menswear shop in London. I've got my eye on their tartan Blackwatch suit for my Macbeth premiere in October
For Holding Up The Trousers
Morten Vestergaard makes beautiful bespoke braces in Copenhagen
My charming friend Tommy who sells the best men's vintage clothing in Amsterdam
A staple of mine - where else can you buy a decent three piece tweed suit for around £450? The huge branch in Edinburgh is well worth a visit if in Scotland
Old Town Clothing
Well worth the wait once the order has been placed
Used by everyone in the industry, they sell great knitwear, detachable collars and all sorts of useful bits and pieces
Prison Blues Jeans
Fantastic, robust vintage-style jeans made by prisoners.
Available to buy online in the UK and in shops in Hastings and Brighton
Excellent vintage store in London
What Price Glory - Reproduction Millitaria
Based in the United Arab Emirates, they ship globally. Communication is very good and delivery is surprisingly fast. Most recently I bought a reproduction RAF Irvin sheepskin jacket from them and was thrilled with it when it arrived.