Monday, 29 February 2016

Nelson, Wellington and Tweed from Rampley & Co

Bob's Your Uncle
Take a look at this rather pleasant British-made pocket square in Harris tweed from new friends and pocket square specialists Rampley & Co of London. (Ignore Wellington above us for now.)

Don't be scared about having tweed in your pocket. Rampley & Co have given due consideration to the 'fit'. Unlike their hand-rolled silk pocket squares, the tweed pocket squares use overlock stitches because of the thickness of the fabric, which also means a reduced size so they don't bulge out too much.

I am loath to use the word 'transitional' — it's a word a pompous hack fashion writer  might use whilst pontificating drily on the shirring (pleats) and mappina (folded) sleeves of his Neapolitan jacket, whilst inferring that everyone else is clueless in this regard — but if you are thinking of putting your heaviest tweeds away as the worst of winter retreats, accessories are a way of bringing tweed into the warmer months.

Picture this square with a navy bird's eye jacket or with something like the jacket below — a green worsted twill? — and Bob's your uncle. (Bob's your uncle is a British expression for Et Voila!)

Rampley & Co was founded by Elliot Rampley and Simon Cranston. They started pitching their wares in 2013, I think. Well, their Facebook account starts on the 22nd of April, 2013. Pity — if they had left it a day later they could have started on Saint George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday. Maybe they did launch on the 23rd? I digress...

Rampley & Co are attempting to do for pocket squares what Hermès has done for silk scarves and ties, with clever limited-edition collections (printed in Macclesfield) such as a current set based on paintings from Audobon's famous Birds of America; and also paintings depicting historical events like Turner's The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory (below) and the Sir Thomas Lawrence's Wellington portrait (top), which are both now sold out. (Incidentally, ladies, have you seen the giant body-sized silk scarves by Hermès? Stunning for packing on a summer holiday , no?)

Do take look at Rampley & Co's instructions for all the folds you can adopt for your pocket square. The Puff Fold has always been a favourite with my clumsy fingers. They recommend flat and two-point folds (as above) for the Harris tweed squares.

Friday, 26 February 2016

The London Shoemaker

If you like the look of these shoes, you need to get in touch with The London Shoemaker — based in smalltown Boyce, Virginia, Unites States.

The London Shoemaker, Paul Davies — who was trained in London under the names of the best shoemakers around St James's — moved to the US and is now putting Boyce on the map with his vast experience of shoemaking, and his appreciation of the materials and time-honoured techniques required to make quality shoes. London Shoemaker shoes are made fully bespoke. Paul does the measuring and the carving of lasts by hand. He cuts the patterns and leathers, and constructs the shoes.

The London Shoemaker and Customer Store in Boyce also sells gents clothing and accessories.

As a parting shot, take a look at these alligator and calf shoes in black — rather bloody splendid.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Tweed TV - Opera Binge

Free Opera from the Comfort of Your Armchair
The Franco-German TV network arte is providing free HD operas recorded at the greatest European venues for us all to enjoy.

Click this link to watch Handel's Theodora in full HD recorded at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris without having to hop on the Eurotunnel. The opera was directed by William Christie (of Les Arts Florissants fame), and features acclaimed English soprano Katherine Watson and French counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky.

I watched it from the comfort of my armchair at Tweed Towers with a tumbler of whisky, and it was an absolutely splendid triple of hours showcasing the best of high European culture.

Things get better. The Opera Platform presents the European opera season online, for free, live and on-demand through partnership with European opera companies, festivals and venues. Right now you can watch and listen to Bizet's Carmen, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Verdi's Aida, Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and our very own Thomas Adès' Powder Her Face (the next one on my list).

If the EU is trying to persuade us to stay in the union with opera, it might just work.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Matching Scarf with Sky

Add a Splash of Summer to Your Winter Wardrobe
On a grey and dismal day, this British-made scarf by Paul Smith in 'David Icke' turquoise cuts through the grey gloom — and the grey of my dogstooth Mackintosh in Loro Piana storm system wool — like a streak of summer sky. Turquoise, like burgundy and the plummy end of purple, is made for grey. And we certainly have enough grey with the UK climate.

More colour from a limited edition English-made check shirt by Turnbull & Asser. For many years I was a white-or-blue-shirt-only kind of chap, but now I'm going through a patterned-shirt phase (mostly at the weekends) like there is no tomorrow. (Alan Whicker worked patterns so well and in such an English way.)

This is quite a dark shirt. I wouldn't normally consider such depth of colour at that layer — it limits the choice of neck ties and what comes on top — but you really have to touch the cloth on this one, it's incredibly soft. Softness matters.

Monday, 22 February 2016

A Chance to Meet and Dress like Oliver Reed

Oliver Reed - A Suitable Teen Idol
The photo above of Oliver Reed is from an 1960s annual aimed at teenage girls. Dear old Ollie looks dashing in blue v-neck sweater and red Bengal striped shirt with white collar. A timeless look that hasn't dated in the 50 years since the photo was published.

I think I have something similar of each item, but here are ways to replicate the look if you don't.

Denim Cashmere V-Neck Sweater - Scotweb Tartan Mill
Even with my glasses on, this Scottish cashmere sweater from Scotweb looks like quite a match.

Fine Red Bengal Stripe Shirt with White Collar - Hawes & Curtis
Bengal stripe shirts with fine stripes in red and with white collars are surprisingly thin on the ground for ready-to-wear. The Hawes & Curtis shirt below was as close as my army of researchers could find.

I recall a wide-striped navy Bengal shirt of mine from Hawes and Curtis' Jermyn Street shop. Made onshore, the stripes were as wide as you can get. It was in a heavy duty yet silky smooth cotton that washed and washed and just kept getting softer and easier to iron. It was an incredible shirt. I wish I knew who made that cloth. I wore it until it was frayed to buggery at collar and cuff, but at some stage you just have to let go. Grief is the price we pay for love.

Augustus Hare
We were never going to get a perfect match for the Ollie's tie, but this exquisite tie from very dear old chums the English necktie makers Augustus Hare — do see their Bow Tie Ballet — is a peerless substitute.

McLaren Blue is handmade in England with silk printed in the silk town of Macclesfield. See how the pattern picks out the blue of the sweater and the red in the shirt. It's almost as if I know what I'm talking about.

I think this combination holds up rather well against the scruffy yet methodically-composed styling of car thief asexuality applied to contemporary teen idols One Direction. 

This Charming Man
Considering the caricature that he helped to perpetuate in his later years, most would consider it remarkable to think that Oliver Reed would have been considered teen idol fodder.

As always, though, stepping behind the simplistic hero/villain pantomime narrative of the news media — which they rather scarily apply to everything including economics and geopolitics — it is clear that Oliver was an erudite, generous and quite charming man. Of course, he could be boorish, but my extensive academic research reveals that this was largely reserved for the pompous and the clamorous.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Cad & the Dandy - Tailors for the 21st Century

Drawn to the Visuals
I was drawn to this little film from Cad & the Dandy as soon as I saw the Land Rover. Thereon it's uninterrupted tweeds, braces, cutting and spaniels. Who needs a plot?

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Liam Nomnom - Welsh Chocolate Man

The Chocolate Man in the Smashing Cardigan
The chap in the photograph above is Liam Burgess. At the age of eighteen, he started his own small business, Nomnom chocolate (as featured with Tweed magazin recently). Nomnom chocolate launched in November 2011 with financial assistance from Prince Charles' Prince's Trust. It is not said enough how much help Prince Charles' trust gives to young British entrepreneurs. Get politicians out of the way and great things can be achieved.

Liam started the business in his kitchen in Carmarthenshire, Wales, using the best ingredients and Welsh inspiration. The business continues to grow — which has meant that Liam could employee local people from West Wales — and new and innovative lines continue to be added to the range of chocolate bars Nomnom Chocolate produce, such as Welsh Cake, made with, well, you guessed it.

You won't find the chocolate in supermarkets. Liam, as an independent producer, uses a network of independent shops to stock his bars —creating a virtuous circle of mutual support.

Liam also wears smashing cardigans like the one above. Very nice.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Bulletproof 32oz Tweed Jackets from Oliver Brown

Immortal Hacking Jackets
Wool is used for creating hard-wearing and insulating cloth in multitudes of colours and thickness in British mills. You can have cloth that runs from the fineness of Scabal's super 250 Summit to something as heavy-duty as these 32 oz keeper's tweed jackets from Oliver Brown.

I wouldn't like to try it, but I imagine the tweed on these jackets could stop a bullet. I think it is fair to say, though, that it would be nigh on impossible to wear the jackets out. Much like the 80-year-old hunting pink jacket featured recently, it's always a nice feeling to invest in an item of clothing that will be last longer than yourself.

The traditionally cut and rather smart Hunt Coat (above) has the added benefit of a wool Tattersall check lining. I can see Steed being happy to wear that on or off a horse with a pair of cream tapered trousers and a pair of Jodhpur boots by Horace Batten.

Real men wouldn't blanch at a 32 oz weight jacket. More 32 oz jackets for next winter please British manufacturers. Not much more weight than that though, otherwise we'll be walking around like Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. (And that's not the Wizard of Ounce.)

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Sword Play on St. Valentine's Day

Life Skill as Seduction Technique
No doubt you will have stocked up with world-beating English sparkling wine to enjoy with your loved one this Saint Valentine's Day. 'Shampagne' bottle in hand, you will be reasonably hard to resist in your Daniel Hanson gown as you recite Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How do I l love thee? — but think what would happen if you add a sword to the mix. As I've mentioned time and again, if there is one skill you need to add to your C.V. it's being adept in the art of sabrage — the removal of the top of a champagne bottle with a sabre.

The tradition of opening a champagne bottle with a sabre began in France during the Napoleonic era. The French Hussars were known to celebrate victories by guzzling gallons of champagne. Having a sabre at hand and wanting quick access to the bubbles a solution presented itself.

A sabre has a curved, single-edged blade. You may wish to acquire an 1803 Pattern British Infantry Sabre for a dash of added drama, but there are a surprising number of sabres available specifically made for opening champagne bottles. The blades on these sabres are blunt, as the technique is more of a pushing rather than slicing action. The angle and rotation of the bottle are important. The bottle needs to be hit at the seam.

My sword hand is drawn to the limited edition Mathusalem Damasco (above) by Viper of Maniago, Italy, a champagne sabre of the highest order that transforms — in Viper's words —  'a death instrument . . . into a convivial accessory'. Champagne Sabres call it the 'undisputed King of champagne sabres'. The sabre has a Damascus pattern-welded steel blade with a handle of cocobolo wood. The wooden box, which also serves as a display stand, may be engraved.

Fox Knives is also based in Maniago, and also produces champagne sabres. Maniago might just be the home of champagne sabres. Fox's stainless steel beauty below — also sold by Champagne Sabres — is designed for 'killing champagne bottles'.

Blade manufacturers Böker of Solingen, Germany — famous for their open razors — promote Viper and Fox sabres, so there is a commercial link between the three manufacturers. In the video by Böker below you will see the Fox sabre put through its paces.

Pay careful attention, you need to get this right if you want to impress, or it could all go disastrously wrong.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Tweed Magazin mit Der Tweed Pig

Page 113 of Tweed Magazin
The February edition of Tweed Magazin popped through the letterbox last week. I'm yet to find a better way of avoiding working than flicking trough the pages of Der Tweed. This month's edition features an excellent selection of reviews, articles and recommendations for the tweed-inclined. I flicked through a trouser special, a lengthy article on the timeless appeal of Steve McQueen's style, a useful guide to Zurich, advice on sampling rum, plus a rather excellent feature on traditional watchmakers.

Plenty of material to aid procrastination. But there came a tea-spilling moment when I reached page 113. I adjusted my reading glasses. Was this right? Yes  — The Tweed Pig was being featured in Tweed Magazin.

Naturally, I removed my corduroy trousers, my Alden All Weather Walker shoes — more on them later —  and my Burlington knee-length Argyle socks (licensed to Falke in Europe) to create a photo assemblage that properly captured the moment.

What does Tweed Magazin have to say about The Tweed Pig on that very special page 113? Well, it says that The Tweed Pig places its slightly eccentric focus on rarities rather than fashion trends. And will appeal to like-minded Anglophiles. That is entirely our aim.

Tasting Note: I paired Tweed Magazin with a white chocolate made with crushed cardamom pods by Nomnom Chocolate of Carmarthenshire, the aromatic spiciness of the cardamom and the creaminess of the chocolate complementing the male-focussed lifestyle articles perfectly.

More on Nomnom Chocolate shortly.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Button Queen

Are They or Aren't They?
You know how it is, you keep looking at the buttons on a jacket and thinking, 'Are they or aren't they?' I was never quite convinced that the buttons on my vintage glen check cashmere jacket were real horn. The doubt that they weren't was building and affecting my enjoyment of wearing it. I wasn't losing sleep exactly, but the jacket wasn't coming out of the wardrobe. I'm not against good acetate numbers, but this jacket demanded horn and I wasn't entirely satisfied it had horn.

What to do? It's not as easy as one might expect to know what material was used to make a button. If the swirls and colour variations on the buttons are uniform, then that tends to indicate that they are not horn. But acetate buttons can be manufactured to have uneven colours, and be lathed by hand like the best horn buttons. They also feel similar to the touch , though you might feel a graininess on horn buttons, and make a similar sound when tapping. Biting a button won't reveal much (unlike mother of pearl on shirt buttons, which feels harder and colder when nibbling than plastic). You might spot a seam on plastic buttons, but then again you might need a microscope to do this. Burning will reveal something: horn will smell and plastic will melt, but then you may ruin a perfectly decent button.

As there was no sure-fire way of knowing with the buttons I had, it was decided. I would buy horn buttons from a reputable button merchant and replace them. For the grey jacket, I chose polished four-hole hand-crafted suiting buttons in dark horn from The Button Queen of Marylebone, London.

You can also find good buttons at haberdashers MacCulloch & Wallis (1902).

I am very satisfied with the buttons. If I have a complaint, it is that the person who replaced the buttons on the jacket didn't quite shank them as I would have liked. They are slightly too tight to the jacket. Here we go again...

Monday, 8 February 2016

Year of the Monkey Tea from Mariage Frères

Beautiful Tea for Beautiful People
We tend to think of the French as inveterate swillers of coffee, dunking their croissants into thick, gravy-like breakfast coffee as they offer their first Gallic shrug for the day. It may surprise you to learn that they have a proud tea tradition with a long heritage that began in the 17th century.

For example, Mariage Frères — British outpost in Selfridges, London — a French tea company founded in 1854. Like we British, Mariage Frères has long recognised that tea offers a more sophisticated taste experience over coffee, with more variety, subtlety and richness in flavour. Mariage Frères has over six hundred blends to choose from, which coffee is going to struggle to match.

With typical French panache, the packaging of Mariage Frères lives up to the fineness of their tea blends. They've produced the blend (above) for the Year of the Monkey (or singe), which starts today. The blend is a white tea, with citrus notes of mandarin, clementine and orange, safflower and goji berries. Yum yum, it's a veritable salad sitting on the spoon there.

Note that the lacquered tin is silk-screened by hand.

At this stage I should make a monkey-related joke, like you should go bananas for this tea, but I will just leave you with this charming little film from great friends of The Tweed Pig, British Pathé (as ever) showing a chimps' tea party at London Zoo in the 1950s. Simpler times and excellent table manners from the dear old apes in the beer garden.

It's your year, chaps.

Fearless Collars from Edward Sexton

A Collar that Speaks Its Mind
Edward Sexton has given a lot of consideration to achieving as flattering an effect from their current line of ready-to-wear dress shirts as is possible. The collars are tall so that they sit elegantly around the neck well under a jacket. As any mod will tell you, deep collars are best. The points of the collars are deep too, recalling the shirting salad days of the thirties. These are bold shirt collars — don't be shy with your collars, gents. And the collars are built to give the tie pride of place with tabs and pins to help lift and separate, pushing the tie into magisterial prominence. These collars are designed to say, 'There is nothing casual about me. If you want casual I'm sure there's a shop in the high street that sells flip-flops and hoodies. Now clear off.' I like a collar that speaks its mind.

The seams of the shirt are single-stitched and have set-in sleeves that fit entirely smoothly against the body without puckers. As any tailor will tell you, a faultless finish on a set-in sleeve requires the process to be slowed down — it can't be rushed.

In blue and white combinations, my favourites are the Sky Blue Tab Collar (below) and the Mid-Blue Bengal Stripe Pin Collar (above). Imagine them with Thurston braces. For my grey suit, I would be happy to see either of these in red.

What are you waiting for? Go get 'em.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Photographer - Cecil Beaton

We've only mentioned society portraitist Cecil Beaton in passing so far. Cecil was born in 1904 and after a patchy education at Harrow and Cambridge expanded an interest in photography into a decades-long profession. He became well known for his portraits of the 'Bright Young Things' — like Stephen Tennant — in the 20s and 30s. He also worked for Vogue and Vanity Fair as a staff contributor. In 1931 he met fellow photographers George Hoyningen-Huene and Horst P. Horst, exchanging ideas that would set a sophisticated aesthetic for fashion photography that reverberates today.

As with Edward Steichen, our Photographer series introduces the photographer and a sample of their portraits from a male perspective. It does seem that every photographer worth their salt in the first half of the twentieth century took a portrait of Winston Churchill.

(Yes, that's Cecil Beaton walking along the street with Greta Garbo below.)


Stephen Tennant

Sir Winston Churchill

Gary Cooper

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Ugly Truth About Storing Pills

I'm sure you are the sort of person who needs an organ to fail before you will consider seeing a GP, and only then with profuse apologies for wasting their invaluable time. You understand that a dose of aspirin and a splash of whisky in your tea will see you through most ailments.

Rather than keeping those reliable little pills in a beaten-up old box and a blister pack, you might want to keep an eye on the better auction houses for a nice pill box to place about your person or keep on your bathroom shelf next to your lovely copper bath.

Who'd have thought pill-popping could be so refined?

Mussel Gold and Enamel Pill Box
Above you see a nice vintage mussel-shaped pill box from Tiffany in enamel and gold. I forget who auctioned one of these recently, but they're not hard to spot in a crowd.

Engine-Turned Georgian Pill Box
Here's a Georgian (1812) London-made pill box in engine-turned 18ct gold auctioned by Christie's (1766).

Gold and Opal Pill Box
Finally, a 1950 gold and opal pill box made by Cartier in 1953 auctioned by Sotheby's (1744).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Polo Neck and Blazer Mindset

Polo Neck Perfect for Chess
We see a classic and elegant combination of navy blazer and burgundy polo neck (US: turtleneck) from Dunhill above. Note that the polo neck is perfect for chess — keeping the neck warm and preventing it from stiffening from stooping over the board over a long period; it also means that there are no tie-dangling issues getting in the way of play (though a bow tie could also prevent this).

Polo neck sweaters have a long history in northern climes, because of the practicality of the funnel neck for keeping the wearer warm. Polo necks are most closely associated with the beatnik (black) and the submariner (white) in terms of archetypal wearers. (You can still get hold of a genuine British submariner polo neck.)

Colour Combinations
But you don't have to attend the Newport Jazz Festival or descend to 'crush depth' in an Astute-class submarine to enjoy the tie-free elegance of a polo neck. And you can add a bit more variety. Assuming we are wearing beige cavalry twill or grey flannel trousers with our blazer, burgundy is an excellent choice.

A cream roll neck may also be a good option as demonstrated by Roger Moore here.

Might I also suggest, navy blazer wearers, that a third classic choice would be yellow. This one depends on your own colouring. I have to wait until I get a bit of colour on my cheeks in Spring to consider this option, but the yellow polo neck and navy blazer combination is a golf and country club stalwart. The one below is a 2-ply made in Scotland number from dear friends Paul Stuart.

Whatever the colour of polo neck you choose, the wearing of a navy blazer and a polo neck will almost certainly put you in a certain mindset. For instance, you will want to listen to jazz on vinyl from the Three Blind Mice label, particularly Misty by the  Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio. You will also crave a a Bone Dry Martini made with a chicken bone dissolved in phosphoric acid at the White Lyon in Hoxton, London. That's the power of the polo neck.
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