Friday, 30 September 2016

John Simons - Best of British Button-Down

You'll Struggle to Find Better
If you want the very best of British button-down shirts then let me point you in the direction of John Simons, the traditional men's outfitters close to Baker Street in London. It's been a while since we covered them. I think the last mention was when they were collaborating with Aertex.

John Simons was established in 1955 by the actual John Simons, and is currently run by John and son Paul. The clothes they stock have never wavered from the timeless British, Anglo-American and classic continental clobber that you and I are drawn to. It was John who gave the name 'Harrington' to the Baracuta G9 jackets he was selling. He named the jacket after the Rodney Harrington character, played by Ryan O'Neal, in Peyton Place. Harrington wore a Baracuta jacket. Now that's how we all refer to them.

John Simons' own-brand Oxford cloth button-down shirts are second-to-none. As you may be able to discern from these photographs of my striped John Simons shirt — made in London. The unlined collar has what shirt scientists call a perfect roll, and a depth that gives a first-rate fit, even around my puny 15" neck. They know what we're after with this type of shirt; nothing too tight, no trendy touches to draw attention (in the wrong way), but you do get a buttoned breast pocket and box pleat at the back — which all adds up to the sort of dependable shirt you can always reach for.

As John Simons say of these shirts, they're 'the result of 60 years' experience in the menswear industry'. They also go on to say: 'You'll struggle to find better.' 

They're right, you know.

John Simons - A Modernist
If you're unfamiliar with the influence of John Simons on the modernist look, allow adherents Kevin Rowland, Paul Weller and Paul Smith to provide a little background in this video, though you might think Robert Elms gets a bit carried away with the sociological import.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Dark Nights - Original BTC Lighting

A Light on Tweed Towers
Today I'm going to let a little light in upon the magic of Tweed Towers. Lights to be precise. Both models you see here ensconced in shady corners of the Towers are from Original BTC Lighting.

The shade from the Circle Line wall light above is made from bone china and based on the old lights you used to see on London's underground. BTC do a lovely range of lights in the Circle Line range, including wall, ceiling and free-standing options. (The paint colour is by Farrow & Ball — I think it's Oxford Stone)

BTC are committed to local manufacturing. The bone china shades for the lights are produced in Stoke-on-Trent. The metal parts for their lighting products are manufactured in Birmingham. Original BTC acquired English Antique Glass in 2011, which specialises in producing highly labour-intensive mouth-blown flat glass using 12th century techniques. This incredible glass — also used for the stained-glass panes at York Minster and Buckingham Palace — is also used in Original BTC's light fittings. I suggest you take a look at the website of English Antique Glass, as they have some very nice tableware including this elegant carafe in ocean blue.

I don't think photographs can do justice to the heft and quality of this glass; and into the bargain you're taking possession of a little bit of ancient English history.

Okay, let's get back to the lights at Tweed Towers.

Original BTC's Hector Bibendum (below) is the latest addition to Tweed Towers (wall colour F&B's Pitch Blue).

The Hector Bibendum (Michelin man) lamp was designed by Sir Terence Conran. Once again the shade is made from bone china. The flex is available in red, blue and yellow. Both the Circle Line and Hector Bibendum produce a nice light, but this one has more of a glow and the Circle Line is more directional, if that's the term.

I couldn't reproduce a good photograph  — try as I might — with either of them switched on.  In fact, the photo of the Hector Bibendum is not good at all. I think you'll need to look at Original BTC's website to appreciate this one.

(N.B. I can't tell you anything about the miniature portrait in the ivory frame you see in the picture.)

There we have it. It was good to get that off my chest. I think we know each other a bit better now. Did I overshare? And they say I value my privacy too much in this age of exposure.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Jerkin and the Hedgerow

Elysium Britannicum
The hedgerows that crisscross the British landscape, line its B-roads and surround its houses perform numerous useful functions — providing privacy, keeping out riffraff, marking boundaries, attracting wildlife, absorbing sounds and forming a natural (and pliant) break from the elements. A fence, by comparison, can only be justified by the impatient.

You can read all about the hedgerow and many other things in the delightful Little History of British Gardening, an 'account of  a national obsession', by Jenny Uglow.

The dense, slow-growing yew hedge is naturally perceived as the king of formal hedges, but a privet or mixed hedge of native plants has much to admire. If you will permit me, I can never get used to hedges grown from laurel — I find the leaves too big to form that compact wall of green expected from a hedge, and the shade of green can be somewhat glaring.

Watch good old Dyton in the public information film below (from the BFI archives) showing how to train an unruly hedge, pipe in mouth, by proper laying (or plashing).

Get the Dyton Look
Having watched the video, I'm sure you're now keen to have a bash at hedge laying. If you don't have a hedge yourself, a local volunteer group — or a body like the RSPB — could put you to use in developing your country skills. Who knows, it might open a whole new world of possibilities and get you out of your (assumed) rut, as well as making the landscape more lovely when I drive past.

Obviously, you will need a protective leather jerkin like Dyton, something like the one in the top picture, which is from Bradley's the Shropshire tannery. The tan Heritage Leather Jerkin is handmade at Bradley's tannery and is inspired by gardener Montagu 'Monty' Don. Bradley's say the jerkin will get better with age and I believe them.  Built to last, treat it with some kind of leather balm every now and then and you'll be leaving it in your will. If you live in the country, it wouldn't look out of place at your local pub with a tattersall shirt underneath. I'm pretty sure Dyton would be wearing his when ordering a half of bitter and a ploughman's lunch at The Rose and Crown.

You should also think about Bradley's Heritage Anti-Bramble Gauntlets (below) with saddle leather cuffs before you start hacking away. Again I have to agree with Bradley's when they say: 'There may be cheaper gardening gloves on the market, but none with such superb handmade quality, value and durability as these.'

I like to think Dyton would nod his non-verbal approval at a pair of these beauties.

Hedges by Post
PS: Buckingham Nurseries have some good hedging options and a hedge planting distance calculator.

Friday, 23 September 2016

British Beard and Moustache Championships

British Beard and Moustache Championships
What's all this about the British Beard and Moustache Championships, Tweedy? Well, its a bi-annual competition where beards and moustaches attached to people are judged in specific categories. This year it takes place in Liverpool on October the 16th at St George's Hall, hosted by Liverbeards, a Liverpool-based beard club affiliated  with the British Beard Club.

This year's event is sponsored by Woody's for Men, who sell an interesting-looking beard balm for conditioning and styling.

Beards and moustaches will be judged in categories based on shape and length. Beard categories include such partial beards as the Musketeer, and full beards are judged by length with or without a styled moustache (it gets complicated). Moustache categories include the English and Handlebar. Handlebar Club members are sure to be in attendance. Fun and frivolity guaranteed for pogonophiles, though I'm not sure including a fake beard category doesn't devalue the event a little. Keep it real.

The portraits of competitors from the 2014 event in Bath you see here (at the bottom) were taken by Lee Neil Photography. You can see further portraits from that event here.

And here's the Chap's very own Atters compering a previous event. He's normally involved with these things.

Good luck to all our hairy-faced readers.

Lots of beard and moustache-related posts here, including recommendations for smashing grooming products

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Drake & Hutch - Socks Appeal

Invest in Socks
Drake & Hutch of Manchester Brief fame are hoping to do a bigger bit for British manufacturing by expanding their range to include UK-made socks. They hope to bring bold coloured and patterned cotton socks — like the ones above — in chunky and fine-knit to market. And they want you to help by investing in this new line (and keeping banks out of the picture).

Founder Peter McGuinness (in a remarkable hat) makes a convincing case for your investment in the video below by reminding us of the incredible textile heritage of the UK.

Back the Socks Appeal Here
If you like what he says and you're ready to back the campaign and keep British sock-makers in honest employ go here.

Plymouth Pipe Man

Askwith Handmade Pipes
The English  pipe shapes — such as the bulldog and billiard - remain timeless. Over at Askwith Pipes, Chris Askwith of Plymouth, England, is bringing a freshness to these classic shapes through the materials used in his Askwith Handmade in England range.

The natural finish revealing the grain on the bowl and the amber stem of the Askwith Bulldog (above and below) gives this pipe a contemporary feel.

The youthful Askwith Billiard pipe  (below) is quite the statement piece with its heavily textured 'weathered bone finish'  and lilac stem — an unusual and visually striking pipe.

Introduce a pinch of Fox Squires ready rubbed to either of these pipes and you're fit to sit and contemplate anything, attaining a level of  concentration that can only be achieved with a pipe in the mouth.

Chris has been making pipes by hand since 2007 using the best and most complementary materials for the components of each pipe, working with woods such as briar, English morta (bog-wood preserved in peat bogs) and strawberry wood for the bowls, and adding stems made from lucite and horn.

If you would like to commission a pipe, Chris is able to discuss any particular needs in terms of shape and materials. And from the look of these examples, the possibilities are, well probably not quite endless, but you're going to be able to have something made that's really quite unique. That's the beauty of handmade.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

J. Keydge - Slack Jacket

To the student readers of The Tweed Pig, might I suggest a robust jacket that will not only hold your pens, pipe, mints, prayer book and spectacles, but endure the knocks and scrapes of academic life.

The J. Keydge Slack Jacket'devoid of any needless artificial features' and with an emphasis on 'flexibility, comfort and lightness', will see you through all scholastic situations — whether you intend to be protesting or procrastinating, this jacket will see you right.

J. Keydge is a Paris-based company that scored an instant hit with their Slack Jacket when it was originally brought to market in the early 1990s. The popularity of the jacket gained traction first in Italy and has acquired a loyal following in most well-dressed enclaves. I think the company started in the 1970s, but I'm not going to continue looking for a precise date, because we won't gain much from knowing will we?

Let's concentrate on the jackets themselves. J. Keydge (a pretend name concocted by the company's founder, François Ferdinand) produce summer and winter versions of the Slack Jacket; so called because of its casual Ivy appeal, with a soft-shouldered unstructured style and relaxed construction — jeans-like double-stitching and patch pockets.

Summer options might be released in Madras cotton or seersucker. Heavier and warmer fabrics come to the fore in winter, like the Ivy cord jacket in autumnal orange above and the lambswool Ivy below.

The Slack Jacket has never been made in France (origin is all-American, design is in accordance with French know-how), but if they're now made in China, that might be something actually worth protesting about.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Photographer - George Hoyningen-Huene

The Photographer
George Hoyningen-Huene worked as a fashion photographer for French Vogue and Harper's Bazaar in the 1920s and 1930s.

A contempory of Horst P. Horst and Cecil Beaton, he divided his time and work between England, France and the United States.

He was greatly admired for the lighting and shadows he brought to portraiture; and famous for his swimwear shoots.

More from the Photographer series


Frank Capra

Phillips Holmes

Gary Cooper

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Kray Triplets

The Respectable Gangster
How do British gangsters dress since the days of Harold Shand and the Kray twins? Is it all tracksuits like we see in The Sopranos and Gomorrah? I sincerely hope not. I don't know about you, but if I'm going to be extorted for a monkey or more, I'd much prefer the exchange were conducted by someone in a well-cut suit.

Watching the recent Krays film, Legend, I was impressed with its style and the incredible acting from Tom Hardy playing both twins. The man's talent seems limitless. (And he doesn't get on his soapbox like that windbag Cumerbatch has of late.) The twins' dress in the film was impeccable. Looking at old photos of the original Krays, I would venture to say that Hardy's Krays were slightly better-dressed than the originals. If that's okay?

No doubt about it though, the Krays had verve and charisma — and their allure seems undiminished. I like, for instance, the fact (or legend) that they had their hair cut every day. Attention to detail and trying to look your best was the Kray way.

We can discern from photos of the Krays that they seemed to settle on single-breasted suits. I'm not sure I've seen them in a double-breasted suit like in the film. Reggie also appears to favour a spearpoint collar shirt most of the time. The Krays certainly wanted to look respectable and didn't experiment too far from the constraints of conventional modes of male dress.

Joining the Firm
If the Krays were around today, and you wanted to ingratiate yourself into their gang to keep the East End of London safe and sound, I would focus on details that might impress.

For example, I might wear this DAKS suit which has a sixties feel to it in terms of the boxy cut and striped cloth. The trousers have turn-ups, which Ronnie and Reggie seemed keen on.

I would also wear my antique jade pin, a touch that might just clinch it.

Before long, we'd be drinking 'Luger and lime' in the Blind Beggar and they'd be treating me as if I were their long lost brother — the Kray triplet —and Ronnie would be wearing my jade pin and I'd never see it again.

Tweedy's Request: If you consider yourself a dapper underworld character, get in touch and we can add you to the Pin Up wall. Say, don't worry, we can cover your mug so that the rozzers don't get no ideas. See?  

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Scottish Tea Best in World

Wee Tea Company
News is out. Or at least it was a couple of years ago. (Time moves very slowly at Tweed Towers.) Apparently, for some time now Scottish tea has been producing world-beating tea.

The Wee Tea Company continues to garner all kinds of accolades for their Dalreoch Smoked White Tea.

Dalreoch tea is (most certainly) grown in 'the foothills of the Scottish Highlands' in Perthshire. The Wee Tea Company says that because 'the plants are under stress for the majority of the harvesting period they naturally produce a finer leaf quality.'  I picture serried ranks of shivering tea plants.

A delicate smokiness is added to the Dalreoch Smoked White Tea using local beech wood to 'complement the natural sweetness of the tea'.

Scottish Tea Plantations
Dalreoch tea isn't the only tea grown in Scotland. The Wee Tea Company has become something of a hub for Scottish tea plantations scattered over the highlands, lowlands and islands, creating an informal cooperative that self-sustains and assists — a business model that always creates the best products for the consumer, and in this case brings sublime top-end loose-leaf tea-tasting experiences to the market.

Scottish teas also available through TWTC:
  • Garrocher Grey grown at Garrocher Market Garden in the Scottish Lowlands, Dumfries in Galloway.
  • Scottish Antlers stem tea grown on the Isle of Mull by husband and wife team Martyn and Reverend Liz Gibson.
More in Tea News
Fortnum's have remained true to tea like no other company, but they should also be acknowledged for their continuously loyal support of British food suppliers and manufacturers for the several hundred years they've been in existence (and inventing the scotch egg).

True to form, Fortnum's stock teas from The Wee Tea Company. They also provide the best English china from which to appreciate them, giving you more than enough reason to set aside time from the demands of your day to take tea properly.

Note that on taste alone tea should never be drunk from anything other than fine china. I'm sure you're patently aware of the conclusive research behind this fact. 

Fortnum's exclusive Camellia tea service is made in the Staffordshire Potteries. Camellia Sinensis is the Latin name given to the tea plant, which is represented in the pattern.

The design of the Camellia range is inspired by the colours used on the interior of Fortnum's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon — designed by David Collins Studio —  and, in particular, the hand-painted wallpaper with its splendid little bluebirds who look like they're eyeing up your Battenburg cake ready to swoop.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Crombie Single-Breasted Wrap Front Coat

It's a Wrap
Classic good looks and erstwhile wearability bring this coat from Crombie to the pages of The Tweed Pig. The coat is constructed in a navy wool and cashmere cloth with a three-button closure.

I like how it's been teamed with flannel trousers and suede double-monk shoes below. I also like how the coat flares out a little when open. Very elegant. Top marks, Crombie.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Best of Britten by Bostridge

One for the Funeral?
I really don't think it's possible to find more English-sounding classical music than Benjamin Britten's Serenade. (If there is, then tell me.) Written in 1944 towards the end of the Second World War, Britten set English verse — from the likes of Blake, Keats, and Tennyson  — to horn and strings. The music engages the melancholy, sometimes weary, mood of the verse (and England at that time) to perfection.

You can find a documentary and performance of the piece here.

Below you can see the brilliant tenor Ian Bostridge performing the Pastoral from Serenade, introduced in Prologue by Radovan Vlatkovic on horn. Note that the horn is played without using valves to get that wonderfully eery sound that sends you straight into the correct mood to listen to the rest of the piece.

Imagine having this piece played at your funeral — fabulous stuff.

I've seen Ian in concert a couple of times and he never disappoints. Be sure to delve into his magnificent English Songbook.

Ian also has a new release out on Warner Music this month. Shakespeare Songs with the ebullient Antonio Pappano contains musical settings of Shakespeare's verse. Your Where the Bee Sucks and Pretty Ring Time are present, natch. When I was a Little Tiny Boy — also present — has always been a favourite of mine. (Spiers & Boden do a cracking version of that song.)

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Cleeve Shirts via Drake's

Shirt Tales
A timely video from Drake's London for this time of year. A chap comes into Drake's dressed in the summer fashion and leaves in wintry attire.

We say it time and again, but it needs to be more widely understood how much effort goes into making something of quality, and with provenance, that will last. You get what you pay for, buy cheap and you buy twice and so on and so forth.

Cleeve shirts are now part of Drake's, so they can measure you up and get a custom-made flannel shirt on your back before you can say winter is coming.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Tequila Herradura 1870

Hold the Salt and Lime
How are you meant to drink tequila? Most people see the spirit as a shortcut to oblivion, downed in a quick succession of shots with salt and lime. That's fine for the misto tequilas that aren't made from pure agave pulp (from the blue agave tequilana plant), though you'll get an absolute howler of a hangover from the added cane sugar. Aged tequilas deserve a little more respect, and can be treated and drunk in the same way as a decent whisky — sipped and savoured.

The golden bottle of tequila you see here is a Seleccion Suprema - Extra Añejo by Herradura, a tequila distillery and hacienda based in Amatitán, Jalisco, Mexico. Herradura (or 'Horseshoe') was a family concern for over a century, but was taken into Anglo-American ownership in 2007. The new owners have preserved the original estate and approach to distilling, using only the best estate grown agave. Herradura's Extra Añejo is an award-winning select tequila that has been aged for four years in oak barrels. The taste is of a smooth tequila with oak and caramel — something like a good cognac — very pleasant.

In Herradura's words: 'Leave behind the social accessory of a cocktail and let this drink rest on its own gravitas.' They also say it's good with pudding after a meal.

A Glass of Its Own
I have to mention the glass you see in the photos. The Ouverture is designed and made in machine-blown crystal glass by Riedel (1756) —they do hand-blown too — specifically for drinking decent tequila. Does it make a difference? I'm highly credulous, so for me certainly. If Riedel's glassware experts are willing to spend months searching the right shape, width and stem of a glass to get the most from a type of drink, I'm happy to follow their lead.

Four Inches of Fun
I must also mention the cigars in the photos, although I think I've mentioned them before. (Was I busy in the duty-free shop after the hols!) Vegafina's Perlas are one of the smaller handmade cigars at around four inches. The cigars are made at the famous Tabacalera de Garcia in the Dominican Republic, and the end-product is a mild cigar with a creamy, spicy taste and a good even burn — a nice cigar for after dinner with a coffee, I'd say. 

VegaFina is one of the premium cigar brands owned by Altadis whose parent company is our very own Imperial Tobacco. How the world turns.    

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Burtonwode Boxer Shorts Bear Fruit

To Autumn
Underwear often makes me think of poetry — sometimes a limerick. For the fine Fruit Boxer shorts you see above — made in London, England by Burtonwode — it was the first stanza of Keat's immortal To Autumn that popped into the old noggin, and that description of an abundant and maturing harvest period.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!  
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;  
Conspiring with him how to load and bless  
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;  
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,          
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;  
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells  
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,  
And still more, later flowers for the bees,  
Until they think warm days will never cease,   
  For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

The boxer shorts are in Burtonwode's Classic Cut style, with a five-panel construction designed so they stay in place. The cotton is printed in Carlisle using custom dyes, then finished to a plush, softened handlle.

The print on these shorts has a certain something about it that draws the eye.  I could see Bertie Wooster wearing these under his jazzy suits —  to Jeeves' disapproval —  though he'd be unlikely to be reciting Keats.

We have to say something about the packaging from Burtonwode. The shorts are presented in the lovely book-like box (with a magnetic fastener) that you see below. I'm sure you could think of multiple secondary uses for such a fine box; answers below if you feel so inclined.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Hockney Reproduction

Hockney in The Elegant Male
David Hockney has now been added to the The Elegant Male. Some may think him to be less meticulous in his dress than other incumbents; true, but blimey does he have a great sense of style — and it's all his own, which is more than can be said for the plethora of 'men's style' bloggers pompously regurgitating each other's words and delivering sermons on what it means to be well-dressed to an echo chamber of entrenched ideas.

Case in point is the wonderful photo of Hockney with Cecil Beaton above, taken by Hockney's special friend Peter Schlesinger.

Beaton's looking pretty dapper too.  I suppose we ought to add him to the roll call, too. The Would-be-Goods would approve.

Monday, 5 September 2016

September's Here Again

Hello and let me extend a handshake to you. It seems like centuries since we chewed a bun together. I hope you've kept the country in good order since I've been away? Ready to return to the coalface? I know the feeling.

So, the House of Commons adjourned on the 21st of July for summer recess and returns to sit again today. (No doubt they'll be working hard to achieve all that we ask of them.) It's still warmish here in Somerset, so I'd recommend something like the three-piece wool fresco pinstripe suit from The English Cut (above) for our local MP's return today.  The English Cut was founded by former Anderson & Sheppard cutter Thomas Mahon. Looking at his website — Do all MPs have websites now? — our MP doesn't appear to wear ties much, so the suit might be of more interest to Jacob Rees-Mogg over in neighbouring North Somerset. He's quite fogeyish — and they're saying that fogeydom is once more in the ascendancy in the UK. Is that an effect of the post-Brexit 'Brenaissance'?

Whilst out of the country, it's been too hot to wear anything. Numb with gin most of the time, I've become dewy-eyed with a hankering for the odd thing from home on occasion — most notably this silk tie from Cordings.

They say this tie with the Cordings crest personifies 'inimitable British style' and it's hard to disagree.

It's good to be back, gents.

The Cloud Appreciation Society
Don't hack away at your inbox like a loon when you return to work. Pace yourself and allow time to disengage from the sturm und drang of corporate life.  Why not head out into the park this lunchtime with your cheese and pickle sandwich and follow the advice of The Cloud Appreciation Society — look up.

The society believes that we should fight the 'banality of "blue sky" thinking' and live life with our head in the clouds. This advice reminds me of Room with a View and George Emerson's reflection: 'My father says there is only one perfect view, and that's the view of the sky over our heads.'

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