Saturday, 30 April 2016

Happy Walpurgis Night

Some Nudity
Wishing our many readers in northern European countries — we're very popular in Germany — a super Walpurgis Night, which is a night of celebration named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga — the date of her canonization occurring on the 1st of May. This is very much a a celebration about the rites of spring and related to May Day —translation: drunken revelry, singing and public gatherings and perhaps a bonfire or two — sporadic nudity (being the continent). Who doesn't like a good singsong and a bonfire? Lighter nights and warmer temperatures are perfectly valid reasons to celebrate here in northern Europe. Long live Walpurgis Night.

Note to revellers: If you have photos of your local celebrations, you could share them on our Facebook page

Sweden in particular loves its Valborg, according to a reader over there. And the tradition is particularly strong in the university cities of Uppsala and Lund. That's a photo from the Walpurgis Night celebrations in Uppsala above. Apparently the students ceremoniously switch from black winter caps to their white summer caps; a bit like the British dusting off their Panama hats for summer.

Sweden's Savile Row

If you wish to make a great Swedish impression on Walpurgis Night next year (and keep your clothes on), why not consider an appointment at A. W. Bauer of Stockholm. One of the owners is Savile Row-trained Frederik Anderson, which is another way of saying they know their onions — making great stuff with great materials with 'Savile Rowlian' attention to detail and lots of great British cloths and accessories.

I know you like this suit in a 9 oz wool cloth from Holland & Sherry, but you probably want to dress a little more casually when you're holding your plastic beer cup in the street; and maybe dress a little warmer as it's not quite summer.

Perhaps something like this Harris tweed jacket. If you wear a cardigan underneath, as in the photo, you can always take your jacket off if the sun comes out. Or is it too wintry? You don't want to bake. Come on, make your mind up. Why not check the weather and give yourself some options.

Trevlig Valborg

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

How to make an Italian

The Good Italian
The video from Caruso (below) appears to be making a (good) Italian out of an Englishman. On a cycling trip, William and his girlfriend stumble on a humble-looking farmhouse in Soragna (home of Caruso and an artisanal hotbed) that hides a palazzo. Once inside, the host — accustomed to strangers arriving unannounced — lays on a feast of Italian ham, fetches wine from the cellar and provides a suit for a grateful William. Now that's what I call hospitality.  But why does he want William in particular to stay? It's all getting a bit Patricia Highsmith. Perhaps it's good that the film ends where it does.

The Bad Italian
The film is entitled The Good Italian. If that's how a good Italian dresses, how about a bad Italian? Perhaps we need to consider Accattone.

Vice Versa
Note that the transformation can go both ways. Centuries ago, or so it feels, we demonstrated how an Italian can become an Englishman from the film Smoke over London.

About Caruso
You may have a Caruso suit or jacket in your wardrobe and not know about it. How so? If it has a high level of handwork in the stitching, uses excellent materials and was made in Italy, then it could well have come out of the factory of Fabbrica Sartoriale Italiana.

FSI is a Parma-based clothing factory that was established in 1958 and makes white-label high-end men's clothing for clients who add their own branding. Since ex-Brioni chief Umberto Angeloni took over the helm at FSI, he has been building their own brand Caruso, which is named after one of the factory's founders Raffaele Caruso. Caruso is a brand worthy of the Made in Italy label, as opposed to something that comes out of the illegal fast fashion sweatshops of Prato. Know your labels, know your materials, know how your clothes are made — it's important.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The World's Finest Belts - Equus Leather of County Durham

Insist on an Equus
I won't beat around the bush. The belts available from Equus Leather are world-beating. They're the best. You can search high and low (and I have), but you will not find better belts. What we have with the belts crafted —handmade and handstitched — by Equus is a complete synthesis of all the essential elements demanded of a belt. Equus know belts inside and out.

What's more, you can design your own belt, from the choice of leather colour and width to the type of buckle and its finish and the colour of thread. But don't go crazy with your combinations, these belts need to work hard to complement your wardrobe.

Equus belts are made to your size to fit at the centre hole to give room for adjustment either way. Hard-wearing waxed bridle leather is used for the strap, which will look better and better as it ages. Brass and nickel buckle options vary and come in a choice of finishes: polished, satin or palladium-plated.

Three were delivered to Tweed Towers in smart and considerate packaging; a delightful box, separate storage bags for each belt, and each buckle wrapped in acid-free jewellers tissue to protect them in transit.

The Kensington
The belt above and below is a Kensington with a solid brass square-shouldered buckle. The London Tan leather is first selection bridle butt from J.E. Sedgewick of Walsall — a vegetable-tanned leather from the best cut of a hide with a uniform appearance and thickness that will give years of service. Equus Leather's solid metal buckles are also made in Walsall.

West End #1
The West End is the biggest seller, with the widest flexibility in the choice of design. The one below has a solid brass D-shaped buckle. The leather, bridle butt from Sedgewick again, comes in an Australian Nut leather colour.

West End #2
This version of the West End is in British Racing Green leather. It has a nickel buckle and is finished with yellow Lin Cable, a hard wearing and high quality waxed linen thread sought out in the best leatherwork.

This might be my favourite belt of the three. Actually, who am I kidding? I love them all equally.

Insist on an Equus
Equus Leather is run by Charlie and Dawn Trevor. With Equus, they strive to 'make products that fit with the values of a now past generation of craftsmen', and place utmost importance on the materials used to build longevity into the construction. They also want to keep alive 'the skills and expertise of centuries-old English traditions'. Let's help them do that.

Equus are a small operation. If you value quality and wish to support local craftsmen, gentleman, put the word out today. Let's make County Durham as synonymous with belts as Northampton is with shoes. Insist on an Equus.

Top of the Range is Lined and Raised
If you want to go for the ultimate Equus belt, take a look at the video below showing the construction of a belt from their Lined and Raised range. Compared to the unlined belts that use a single strip of leather, these belts use three strips: a second, lining the belt with leather matching the quality on the outside; a third narrower strip is used inside the belt to create a raised area. The strips can be in any combination of colours. Equus regard these belts as equivalent to the 'best quality harness work of the 19th century'. Music to our timeless classically-inclined ears, gents.

Belts from this range take approximately eight weeks to deliver from the order. During which time you will be able to get rid of your under performing belts (as I did), yet unable to contain your excitement at the belts coming your way.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Happy Saint George's Day

Celebrate with English Whisky
Happy Saint George's Day to all our English readers near and far. We won't make a fuss — we never do — but let's celebrate with a healthy measure of English whisky. You read the previous sentence correctly — English whisky, which is made in Norfolk by The English Whisky Company at The Saint George's distillery in Roudham. The distillery was built precisely at this particular location because of its proximity to Norfolk's superb quality barley, and to access the pure water of the Breckland aquifer.

The whisky is aged naturally in oak casks with no chill filtration. The casks may have previously matured bourbon, sherry or other wines. The whiskies are denominated in 'chapters', which gives an idea of their maturity, and also positions them within the history of the company. The English Whisky Company's biggest seller is Chapter 6 — their second release — a 'gentle, unpeated, graceful' single malt, which has a delicate, smooth smell with fruit and spice and 'fresh cut grassy notes'. The taste is citrussy with vanilla from the cask.

Naturally, we shall choose the special Saint George's Day edition today (with the post box label above). It's a Chapter 13, which has the following tasting notes:

Orchard fruits, think stewed apples and pears. Cereal, hints of crushed digestive biscuits and porridge. Notes of toffee, honey and beeswax. A waft of rich fruit cake.

Creamy mouth feel; the cereal comes through along with the toffee and honey. Again, orchard fruits. Sweet, spicy and oaky. A very long malty, dry finish.

Sound like the cup that clears today of past regrets and future fears.

Add a loyal toast as you see fit. It's the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death today, and it was also the Queen's 90th birthday this week. You might want to incorporate those events in whatever you conjure up.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Tweed TV - The English Longbow

Dregs of Humanity
Mikes Loades, military historian, fight director, weapons expert and horse archer, tells us in his excellent history of the longbow (video below) that the English were once seen on the continent as the 'dregs of humanity, brutish and ignoble'. Perhaps that view remains if you consider English Square in Benidorm, but mastery of the longbow (along with the Welsh), 'the honest weapon of the common man', enabled the English to change the course of European history at the battles of Crécy and Agincourt. The English had arrived — 'Brentry' rather than 'Brexit'.

Practice Makes Deadly
Our skill with the longbow was the result of lots and lots of practice, which was mandated by law for Englishmen so that we always had a ready number of proficient archers to defend our isles. Practice makes deadly.

You may want to brush up on your longbow skills for the next meeting of the Fraternity of Saint George (1509), an archery club that organises events and all types of shoots for longbows here and in France.

If you don't have a longbow, and you're eager to loose off a few arrows, then The Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers and Fletchers might be able to help.

The bows in the top picture are highly regarded Bickerstaffe Longbows available from The Longbow Shop, which has an excellent selection of British-made longbows.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Dugdale Bros & Co - 120 Years of Yorkshire Clothmaking

Dugdale Bros & Co. 1896
Dugdale Brothers, the Huddersfield clothmaker and merchant, is celebrating its 120th year in business with the release of the 1896 cloth, a worsted designed to reflect 'Dugdale’s heritage, but also the unique history of luxury cloth making in Huddersfield, an industry for which the town is globally renowned'.  I'll see if I can find out a bit more about the 1896 — sounds promising. If they are excited about it, then we should be too.

Dugdale Brothers are also relaunching their famous Pageant range. Pageant was first introduced in 1966 as an open weave 9oz gabardine cloth suitable for warm weather with a 'unique matt appearance and dry handle with incredible crease shedding capabilities'. Dugdale has used W.T. Johnson's VV (high-press) finish to give the 'weave a little more openness and a kinder handle without compromising the wonderful crease resistant properties present in New Fine Worsted'.  Perfect for a travel suit for the tropics. Or Bridlington on a good day. (See the top photo for the bold colour range.)

The History of Dugdale Bros & Co.
Dugdale Brothers was established by Henry Percy and Frederick Herbert Dugdale in 1896. Passing from the Dugdale family to the Charnock family in the 1970s, the firm remains an independent family firm with deep roots in Yorkshire.

The company is known for supplying cloths, linings and trimmings to the best tailors in the world. The cloths range from heavy-duty coating fabric, Yorkshire tweeds and twills, classic English worsteds to specialist fine grade weaves (in the super 120-160 bracket) using cashmere and kid mohair. Dugdale also has a tremendous reputation for producing cloths for formal events, including barathea cloths that are popular for dress suits, coats and tails.

The current chairman,  Robert Charnock, gave a little background on popularity of their cloth.

'In terms of cloths, for warm weather our most popular is New Fine Worsted. We have carefully followed a recipe forged by my Grandfather who was making this cloth 60 years ago at Learoyd`s Mill in Huddersfield. Then it was considered almost a paperweight at 280/310 gms or 8/9 ozs in those days. Now this is considered a little heavy for the tropics, as technology has allowed us to produce much lighter versions that will also resist wrinkles yet still hold a nice crease in the front of the trouser, such as Luxury Lightweight, and when blended with a noble fibre such as mohair, as with Cape Breeze you achieve optimum performance.

'Our most popular winter cloths are the White Rose Saxony cloths, our coatings, the Caldonaire Yorkshire tweeds and twills, and the Legendary Dugdale English and Town Classics, which have been marketed by the company for around 60-70 years.

'I am a traditionalist, so New Fine Worsted is my personal favourite as it is with bespoke tailors worldwide.'

Tweedy's Note: The White Rose range of 'Caldonaire' Yorkshire tweeds and twills were first launched in 1911. The 'Caldonaire' name is derived from the rivers Calder, Don and Aire, which have been crucial to the Yorkshire textile industry.

Dugdale's main market has always been the UK (and Savile Row), but they also supply the finest tailors and couturiers in Paris, Milan, Naples, Madrid and Berlin. The range of cloths that Dugdale produce means that they can make inroads into any markets. As Robert says: 'We are doing better in the USA and elsewhere as we have many lighter weight cloths on offer. Japan is moderate. China is growing each year as is the rest of Asia and Australia. India is showing a greater interest.'

How has Dugdale managed to survive since 1896, preserving their heritage yet continuing to innovate? Robert believes the biggest advantage has been their location, as they are 'surrounded by the designers who design our cloths and the craftsmen who spin our yarn and weave and finish our cloth. Therefore we are quick to respond to change and turn pieces round.'

Dugdale Advertisements from Tailor and Cutter Magazine in 1928
The illustrations below show a Dugdale advertisement from Tailor and Cutter magazine from 1928. The illustrations that follow show British liveries and military uniforms, the patterns of which would have made much use of Dugdale's famous serge and barathea.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Death of a Cyclist

Death of a Cyclist
I can be a bit distracted when I am cycling on my Pashley Roadster. If I see an old church (brass rubbing) or an interesting pub (pint of bitter), I certainly won't be looking where I'm going. And the signs. I have a troubling habit of needing to read every sign I cycle past big and small. I know I'm not the only one. But if the story related in Death of a Cyclist is anything to go by, I need to take a bit more care when trundling over the potholes of Somerset.

Death of a Cyclist - available through Criterion - was released in 1955 as Muerte de un ciclista, and was written and directed by Juan Antonio Bardem, the uncle of actor Javier Bardem. It's worth saying a little about Criterion. The film distribution company is based in New York. Founded in 1984, Criterion does incredible work in making classic (often criminally forgotten) films available. Not only that but publishing them in the best quality editions, with involvement in cleaning and restoration, in a format that is 'uncut, in its original aspect ratio, as its maker intended it to be seen'. Criterion Collection: Death of a Cyclist has a high definition transfer and improved English translation.

Death of a Cyclist has elements of Hitchcock-like suspense and film noir fatalism. To begin the story, a cyclist is knocked down accidentally on a seemingly empty road by the car of a couple who are having an affair. The car is being driven by wealthy socialite (and femme fatale) Maria, played by the elegantly beautiful Lucia Bose. Together with her distinguished university professor lover Juan, played by Alberto Closas, they decide not to seek help for the dying cyclist rather than risk social opprobrium and damage to their reputations by exposing their affair.

A fatal error? After the cyclist's death is reported in the newspapers, the psychological tension starts to build. Juan cannot escape his conscience. Maria struggles to confront her sense of moral responsibility in protecting her own well-being. They risk losing everything, but can and should they continue as if nothing has happened?

The wonderful black and white cinematography projects a stark and sinister Spain in neo-realist style, reflective of the theme and the Franco era in which it was filmed. It's a beautiful-looking film.

A similar tale of unintended consequences pivoting on a poor chap being knocked off his bike is explored and updated for the Great Recession era in the decent Italian film Human Capital, which was released in 2013. I am sure director Paolo Virzi and writer Stephen Amidon must have been aware of Bardem's film, but it was interesting to see how the premise was shifted to a contemporary Italy with the backdrop of globalisation.

In short: despite any change to the political or social climate, people don't change.

Staying Alive (Or My Fear of Being Hit by Spanish Adulterers)
Concern for being hit by the speeding car of an adulterous Spanish couple compelled me to add this rather bright Mackintosh raincoat to my collection. They should be able to avoid me now.

Unlined and super lightweight, the mid-length, relaxed fit raincoat is handmade in Scotland using Loro Piana's patented 'Storm System' cloth, which has been treated with a special waterproof membrane. So, hopefully, it will be good for the spring and summer months whatever the chance of rain. Though I tend not to cycle if the clouds are too bunched up and angry-looking. I watch old films about cyclists being knocked down instead.

I bang on about this, but every traditionally-inclined Brit should have several raincoats and macs in their timeless collection at various lengths and thickness for all-year-round utility.

If I had a choice with this one, and I suppose I do, I would replace the buttons with some plain grey horn numbers. Time will tell if they stick out a little too much for my fastidious sensibility to bear.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Key Distinction

Key Case
I have been after a key case for quite some time after one that had been passed down to me had crumbled to leathery dust. It's an essential if you don't want a disorderly tangle of keys bulging out of your pocket or jangling like you're a prison warder. I found this one at Carolina Herrera in Calle Serrano in Madrid. I liked the materials, and the colour and feel of the leather, and I was happy to see it embossed with "Hecho en España", being as I was in Spain.

It's a good compact size, but covers my keys as it should. I even have space for a little LED torch, which is handy when I arrive at dimly-lit Tweed Towers. Let's hope the case lasts as long as the previous one.

Is there a British-made key case out there? I ask any British leatherworkers to let me know so that I can report back. Or maybe they can make a prototype to show off their skills. My keys will be happy to model it.

Speaking of British leatherworkers, secure your hosiery as I have a report soon on British-made belts that will almost certainly knock your socks off. Don't go away. . .

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Dashing Bikes

Brooks is 150
Brooks England is celebrating its 150th anniversary in a rather unique way. They have enlisted the support of some of the best bike builders in the British Isles and beyond to design a limited-edition Brooks cycle with a theme of copper. Copper because it 'is a versatile and elegant material with which to work, and has long played an integral role in Brooks products. The copper rivet on a Brooks England Saddle, for instance, is as iconic as any other single element of its, or any design.'

Dear, sweet Brompton is the first to collaborate with an S-Type model in moss green and ivory. The model — 150 have been made — has a Brooks B15 Swallow Saddle (patented 1937) in green, a copper bell and handle-grips in green.

The bikes are available from Brooks' B1866 shop in Covent Garden, London and Brompton Junction shops around the world.

B1866 is an attractive-looking shop inside and out. A shop in a human-scale building, like all good shops should be. The elegant grey works nicely with the London brick on the outside. The copper sign works very well, though I do love to see properly painted sign-writing too. The sort of shop we're quite willing to be seen entering and leaving.

An ugly shop-front using plastic or vinyl signage is like a poorly designed website, you don't want to hang around. Local councils should come down hard on the uglifiers of our high streets.

Look out for further Brooks at 150 British collaborations from Pashley, Condor and Moulton. Or if they let me know, I'll let you know. You know what my memory is like.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Stewart Christie (1720)

New (Safe) Hands at Stewart Christie (1720)
Stewart Christie and Co., Edinburgh, is Scotland's oldest tailor. Founded in 1720, it recently changed ownership. Designers Daniel Fearn and Vixy Rae are now proprietors of this historic business.

The new owners are committed to continuity. To quote: 'Our wish is to remain true to our heritage and loyal clientele, whilst introducing a new generation to the skills and craftsmanship of bespoke tailoring and quality products made in Scotland.'

With heritage companies that are still a living part of British cultural history, you have to see yourself as a custodian. Mess it up and hundreds of years of history are lost. Fragile is the word, gents - no pressure. We have to play our part by supporting them with our trade. (And keeping out of those fast fashion warehouses piled high with junk clothes.)

Head cutter Terence McLelland continues as director, with Stewart Christie offering off-the-peg, made-to-measure and bespoke jackets and suits in estate and family tweeds.

Stewart Christie's Military Connection
As with all British tailors of great age, Stewart Christie's archive is stuffed with military history and they still 'look after the garments and hold the trimmings for various upgrades and replacement uniforms as well as re-lining coats for the royal guards'.

Model Oliver Monckton looks rather dashing — with nice, sensible haircut —  in the photo above (by Colin Usher in his first fashion shoot in 20 years — excellent work Colin) from Stewart Christie's Master of Ceremony Shoot to celebrate Stewart Christie's connection to British military outfitting. Oliver's wearing, they believe, a Royal Artillery Trumpeter Uniform from 1900.

Take a look at the video below and you can see other uniforms used in the shoot, as well as a sound defence of the importance of supporting Scottish craftsmanship from a happy band of creative folk.

Whisky Man in a Cape

Stewart Christie tells me that they were recently involved in a photo shoot for Whiskeria magazine, which is a quarterly magazine about whisky and related things (such as tweed) produced by The Whisky Shop.

Stewart Christie provided outfits for a piece on Charlie MacLean, whisky expert and author. Charlie looks splendid in the photo above (by the talented Christina Kernohan); exactly how you want a whisky expert to look — and an author for that matter. Charlie has written ten books on whisky. Stewart Christie officially regards Charlie as a 'true gentleman, with enough charm to float a battle ship'.

Charlie wears an Inverness Cape supplied by Stewart Christie in the photo above; a coat style falsely associated with Sherlock Holmes, who favoured an Ulster. You too could have a cape made in your choice of tweed. And then go for a country walk with these happy people (who will want to try your cape on):

In all seriousness, any man who wears a cape or cape coat hybrid is a gentleman in our eyes — perhaps heroic. I once saw Manolo Blahnik walking around Bath (his home) in an amazing full black cape. I have had nothing but utmost respect for him ever since. Manolo used to write excellent film reviews for Harper's Bazaar, I think. Or was it Tatler? Anyway, they were jolly good. I remember he wrote well of The Innocents [1961], which is a stunningly good film. I hope he watches the films in his cape.

Whiskeria Spring Edition
On the pages of the spring edition of Whiskeria magazine, you can read an interview about Stewart Christie with Daniel and Vixy.

You can also read the wise words Charlie has to say on whisky, the drink and the industry, and catch him in a splendid Harris tweed jacket and weskit supplied by Stewart Christie.  I particularly liked Charlie's idea of making distilleries duty-free zones to stimulate 'sales, visits and employment'.  Great idea, Charlie.

Get it all here.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Grand National - The Dead Cert

Sweet, Boring England
Back in time from my Easter break for The Crabbie's Grand National today. England always feels so calm and civilised (London excepted) after being emerged in a noisier culture for a while — and I suppose a little boring, after the chaos and sunny invigoration of Spain. Boring is fine. If only certain other places in the world were as boring.

The hedgerows are bursting into growth and watery sunshine creates an impressionist scene out of the windows of my turret at Tweed Towers. I feel stupidly lucky today.

The sun is still out here in Somerset, though I think there is  a greater than 50% chance of a cats and dogs situation at Aintree today. Chilly with a chance of rain leads me to two conclusions.

Firstly, rain will be good for Goonyella, a 9-year-old horse trained by Jim Dreaper — Ireland's 'Mr National' who has trained 14 Irish Grand National winners — with good stamina and this year's Midlands Grand National winner. So I have placed an each-way ante-post flutter at 16/1. I have a really good feeling about this one, despite my 'inconsistent' record with horse racing tips.

I have also put a little side bet on Gallant Oscar, another 9-year-old horse who favours heavy going and has a smashing name.

Pray for rain, chaps.

My second conclusion is that if you are travelling to Aintree and you will be watching from the Aintree Mound in the Tattersalls enclosure, you may want to consider taking waterproofs. You should always take waterproofs in Britain, of course.

I'm worried about your shoes. I'm sure you've thought about raincoat (or field coat) and umbrella.

Swims' Olive Green Galoshes will slip nicely over the grain leather brogues you've just waxed in preparation. The shoes may take a shower, but it's the potential for mud we're concerned with here. You can remove the galoshes when you go into the Pavilion.

Or hurl them at a friend in frustration if your bets don't come off.

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