Saturday, 26 March 2016
I am in Spain.
One thing I especially like about being in Spain at Easter is the traditional holy week celebrations. One of the most spectacular is probably the procession of the Christ of the Good Death, a sculpture of the cross which is carried by Spanish legionnaires in Malaga.
Stationed in North Africa, the Spanish Foreign Legion travel by ship to Malaga every Easter to carry the cross, their patron.
Note a uniform suited to the climate in which they operate.
The tradition of carrying the cross dates back to the reconquest. Unusually, to show their strength these Spanish hard cases lift the cross rather than using their shoulders as they sing their anthem, Bridegroom of Death. (Starts at about 14' in the video below.)
It really is quite spectacular.
However you are spending your time this week, I wish you a Happy Easter.
Sargent Shoes for Strolling
For a stroll around the Salamanca Square, Madrid, this Easter I have chosen the Alfred Sargent bench-made Double Monk Strap shoes in chestnut leather as my companions.
Alfred Sargent was established in 1899 by Alfred and his sons in Northampton. The company is now on the fourth generation of Sargents, and located in Rushden in the same site since 1915. Long may they continue.
This version of the style was made on an 87 last for J. Crew, who tell us that the shoes undertake a process 'that takes eight weeks per pair and involves over 200 separate steps'. I wanted this colour and shape, but if you prefer a darker brown, Herring Shoes has Sargent's Ramsey, which is made on the slightly pointier 99 last (below).
Herring Shoes provides an excellent service and will treat you very well, guaranteed.
Ties and socks below are from Paul Smith and made in the UK. I've been picking up quite a few top-notch UK-made accessories from Paul Smith recently, so it is unfair to think of them as a pile-em-high retailer of could-be-from-anywhere Chinese-made goods. Delve in and you can find some gems. Paul Smith also has the bespoke tailoring operation at Westbourne House in Notting Hill, London.
The spotted green tie (with the spots getting smaller higher up) is a classic, and is an excellent 'folder'. Do you find that? Some ties just fold so well and make great knots.
Hope you like the photos? I think the photography is slowly improving on The Tweed Pig, admittedly from a very low base. Considering I was holding a cigar in my left hand as I took them, I think they capture the shoes well.
Real Stars are Rare
Following on from his experience with DAKS, Paul Weller has ventured deeply into clothes design in collaboration with Phil Bickley of Tonic, London.
For their label, Real Stars are Rare (too true), Paul designs the clothes and Phil puts the designs into production. Their design vision is to create 'small collections of classic, timeless pieces with a focus on top quality materials, all based on a loosely modernist aesthetic.'
This is a serious commitment on Paul's part, not to be compared with the vanity projects of coddled pop stars. We know Paul is mad about clothes (like any true mod), and gives everything he wears very careful consideration indeed (like we all should).
Fox Brothers Three-Piece Suit
One of the latest items out by Real Stars are Rare is their first three-piece suit. The suit has a two-button jacket and is half-canvassed. The trousers have a parallel cut.
It is constructed from a very fine Prince of Wales cloth supplied by dear friends Fox Brothers.
Friday, 25 March 2016
Intel from Vicar
I don't have accurate figures on the ecclesiastical readership of The Tweed Pig. I can tell you that most of our readers are based in the UK, US and Germany. I can also tell you that our most popular post ever is the delightful The Singing Chelsea Pensioner. The number of vicars that read us? Again — no idea.
However, one of our tunnel-collared readers got in touch recently after reading the post on eminent gownmaker Daniel Hanson and the mention of chasubles and copes.
Were we aware, our vicar asked, of Hayes and Fitch, a fourth-generation business that was established in 1882 and over the last 130 years or so has served the liturgical needs of the church by manufacturing and supplying church furnishings? No, we were not. They also offer renovation services to the church. Our vicar thinks they are a splendid lot.
He also mentioned the equally splendid Vanpoulles. A hundred-year-old company supplying ecclesiastical requisites. That's one of the chasubles they supply above. Hand-embroidered with a 'Four Evangelists design on red velvet banding', and made from cantate fabric (99% wool, with 1% gold thread). Below we have the All Seasons Venetian Tapestry Cope with 'with hood and orphreys in rich red velvet, edged with dice braid' and 'embroidered motif on hood'. Absolutely stunning. Such craftsmanship always deserves a mention. (It might be enough for some of our readers to consider taking the cloth.)
I thought Easter might be an appropriate period to mention these companies. And also wish any passing vicars a happy Easter at this busy time.
Tweedy's Thought: If your profession has its own specialist outfitters that have been around for some time, do let me know.
Light and Breezy Knitwear
I'm rather taken with the featherweight summer cashmere cable ribbed sweater towards the end of the jolly little video by Johnston's of Elgin below.
No need to replace everything with cotton in spring and summer, just go a bit lighter with the fabrics. This sweater would be perfect for the city (Madrid) or the beach (Llanes) during my usual Spanish Easter break.
I have to put a collar underneath or a silk scarf cravat-style around my neck with a sweater. I can't wear them 'loose'. I have a nice Madras check scarf that would go well with this sweater. But Johnston's also have some cracking check scarves for this season, like the lightweight Merino Cruise Check Scarf below, which is built for summer cruising with a smooth handle and a lightness created by 'spinning, custom scouring and air blasting' no less.
All woven in Elgin, Scotland.
Sad News: Incidentally, it was disappointing to hear that Hawick Knitwear went into administration this year. Whatever the cause, if we don't support our manufacturers, disappear they will, along with the heritage, know-how and craftsmanship. I mean, look at the quality of the stuff we make. A Hong Kong-based buyer (Artwell) bought the name and the intellectual property of Hawick last week. Sounds like asset stripping and appropriation of a brand name to me. I'm not entirely convinced this is any real reason for our Scottish brethren to celebrate. What are your thoughts?
Wednesday, 23 March 2016
Ties Make You a Better Person
We edge into spring with a vibrant take on the striped club tie by E. Tautz, which is tamed by the Moss Stitch Shawl Collar Cardigan by Alan Paine.
The stripes run the British way from the left shoulder.
The tie may no longer be a sign of social conformity, in fact quite the opposite away from work, but no one can tell us a shirt looks better or smarter with an open neck. Some will say, 'Well then let's lose the shirt too.' — Thus the path to barbarousness presents itself.
I read someone describing ties as having no purpose the other day. Poppycock. And couldn't that indictment be aimed at most items of clothing? We could go back to wearing caveman furs. My own take is that the best clothing combinations for men, particularly the shirt, suit and tie represent the zenith of dressing; Beau Brummell initiated the template, which was tweaked and perfected. Much like the Georgians perfecting the town house, everything else afterwards has been fine-tuning (or downright vandalism). We mustn't allow billionaire Silicon valley anoraks and talentless scruffbag entertainers to become the taste-makers.
A well-chosen tie offers a sign of civility and respect, with added smartness and colour. Ties make you appear to be hard-working and conscientious. (Bow ties lift the wearer to empyrean heights of elegance.) Ties also keep you a couple of degrees warmer in winter and make you appear attractively unflappable and impervious to heat in summer. Nowhere is inappropriate for a tie. I exaggerate, but only for the purpose of resistance to trends.
We have to mention attractiveness too, even though it might make us a little uncomfortable. Let's not forget that the majority of ties for men are bought as gifts by their loved ones. People like to see their man in a tie. They like removing the man's tie. And one thing leads to another and whatnot. Close the curtains for heaven's sake.
Tuesday, 22 March 2016
Wool as Furniture
The last time we mentioned Cumbria's native Herdwick sheep it was to discuss wearing the British Isles on your head courtesy of excellent friends Cherchbi.
Well there's no keeping a good sheep down, only you might not believe the use of their wool this time. Wool is amazing, and time and again it proves to be an excellent material for almost anything you can imagine. I guess we'll never see cotton fields in the Lake District, but we can be self-sustained in wool from that location, and should use it at every opportunity. The value of the strong and wiry wool from the proud Herdwick (and the livelihoods of those that shepherd them) should be recognised and put to use. And opportunity knocks this time in the form of SolidWool of Windy Corner, Rattery, Devon, England. The name may be giving it away, but SolidWool take the Herdwick wool and make furniture from it. How so? Solidwool (their product) is a composite made from wool and a bio-resin that creates a quite unique material that the company wishes to be 'considered as a sustainable alternative to today's petrochemical based structural reinforced plastics.'
Look at it used on the Hembury chair (above and below). It looks very definitely woolly and natural, the nature of the wool undiminished and wild looking, with dark grey and lighter fibres, yet locked in.The chair is based on the timeless Eames fibreglass chair.
And other British artisans are recognising the versatility of solidwool.
Blok Knives - English Handmade Knives
Derbyshire artisan Ben Edmonds of Blok Knives makes kitchen knives by hand. He is so successful that there's a waiting list as long as his tattooed arm. Keen to try the material, Ben produced a Woollen Edition knife with a solidwool handle and matt blade patina. Beautiful-looking thing. (Daniel Dytrych took the photo of the knife above.)
Fan Optics Sunglasses
Guillaume Furminger's Fan Optics (whom we featured last summer) design their sunglasses in Amsterdam (see Tweedy's notes on the city) and manufacture in England. Last summer they used solidwool for the frames of a range of sunglasses, with Carl Zeiss lenses. They look great.
I hope we see yet more innovative uses for this versatile material.
Monday, 21 March 2016
Make Hair Great Again with Murdock Shampoo
With the continuing cold weather, I have been giving a pass to the clippers at my barbershop and keeping the hair longer than usual, moving away from my usual fading at the back and sides and settling on something a little more grown-out (more grown-up even).
The aim is to steer away from the Prussian style, something between David Farrar's haircut from Black Narcissus as shown in the still below, and Bowie's neat-and-tidy version of this sweptback style from his Thin White Duke period. It's not coming anywhere close, but the intention is there.
This is all about scissor work and keeping the hair in prime condition. A good comb is essential (likely from Kent Brushes). Comb conditioner through the hair after a hair-wash, taking care to wash it all out afterwards. And every now and again indulge in a little hair therapy courtesy of Murdock London. You don't want your hair becoming anxious on you, feeling on edge and irritable — resulting in a 'mad hair day'.
Murdock's Therapeutic Scalp Shampoo — shown in the top photo with Penhaligon's Juniper Sling and Wilde & Harte Osterley Safety Razor, all made in England — combines natural oils, including 'high-altitude lavender, rosemary, tea tree and [more] juniper', and also natural sugars to improve the overall condition of your hair and scalp. Success depends on preparation. And with Murdock's shampoo you can aim for healthy-looking hair that remains sensible.
Friday, 18 March 2016
Loose Leaf Spree
Over the past few years our national drink seemed to be in retreat as coffee waged a hostile takeover. Coffee presses and houses, it appeared, were replacing teapots and tea rooms in the nation's affections. The humble British cuppa could not hold back the global advance of a smirking George Clooney and his encircling cohort of Nespresso pods laying waste to our traditions.
Tea was starting to develop an image problem. This wasn't helped by the general standard of tea on offer in supermarkets - 'fannings' of the lowest grade tea dust hidden in tea bags being the general order of the day. By comparison, coffee had upped its marketing game and it became easy to obtain quality products, load up on designer paraphernalia and find niche suppliers.
Tea needed new champions who could enthuse about the best of what tea could offer — its incredible variety, the history and the romance of the old tea estates, the rituals of its preparation. People like our chums at the UK Loose Leaf Tea Company.
Loose Leaf source teas from all over the world, including smaller estates, with many limited and seasonal batches. Dear chum Martin from Loose Leaf recently sent over a few samples for us to try at Tweed Towers. Look at the quality of the leafage in the photo below. Excellent tea.
This called for a mini Tea Festival. I bought some shortbread and invited a couple of tea-loving friends over to offer their opinions. (Apologies to any professional tea tasters if our observations make little sense.)
The teas we sampled from UK Loose Leaf were:
- Green Keemum Congou
- Badamtam First Flush
- Assam Bari
We weren't sure of the best order to try these teas, but we thought we would try the Green Keemum Congou tea first, which is described as a 'rediscovered exclusive rare tea' from China. Once served — brewing time 2-3 mins — Oscar thought this had the colour of quince. I suggested the colour khaki. The smell was like peachy bread with vanilla. Surprisingly, for a green tea, there was little bitterness in the taste. We tasted a virtuous fusion of citrus and orange, with watermelon and hint of bubblegum. 'Whiffy' (well-travelled as he is) also tasted prickly pear. A good tea to cleanse the palate.
Next up was the Badamtam First Flush from the Badamtam estate in Darjeeling, India. The tea produced a lovely golden colour on brewing (3-4 mins). The smell of this one was totally unexpected and a delight, with pineapple, lemongrass and kiwi. The taste was like a tropical punch with a slight bitter finish to remind you that you are drinking tea. I started to sing Underneath the Mango Tree as I sipped on this wonderful tea. Oscar joined in, but Whiffy didn't, though we all agreed this was a spirit-lifter, and had a great pick-me-up effect.
Finally, we tried the Assam Bari. Assam in India is well-known for the black tea that is typically used in breakfast blends. But not all black tea from Assam is created equal. This brewed into a very clean-looking brown hue, if that makes sense? Tannic, as expected, but with a fresh, invigorating taste that had a slightly sweet maltiness. Oscar detected a mild mushroom flavour, which he found agreeable. We thought he was being silly. We noted that Assam Bari is an excellent all-rounder for any time of the day, not just breakfast.
What conclusions did we draw? First of all, why not hold a Tea Festival yourself? All you need is a teapot. Secondly, tea has nothing to worry about from coffee if it can get the message out about its incredible variety in flavour. There is a tea for every mood and period in the day, for every season and everybody. Go discover yours.
If you are in need of a teapot, then why not consider the classic Brown Betty? The Brown Betty shape is famed for its ability to allow the tea leaves to swirl properly and give a better brew. The Brown Betty is (thankfully) still being produced in Stoke-on-Trent by Cauldon Ceramics (see top photo) and Adderley Ceramics — without the promotion of George Clooney.
Thursday, 17 March 2016
A Stout Donegal Tweed for Saint Patrick
Happy Saint Patrick's Day to all our Irish readers, including those attending the Cheltenham Festival this week. Cheltenham must be the epicentre of global stout consumption right now.
Don't get too sentimental about the Emerald Isle today, a shamrock tattoo really isn't advisable. However, if your runners and riders are behaving as planned, why not consider splashing out your winnings on a few yards of True Donegal tweed from our Irish chums (ár gcairde go maith) Magee (1866) of Ireland. An Irish clothing company of great heritage, Magee has remained in the Temple family since 1900.
The True Donegal above and below is designed and woven in Magee's Donegal mill, the raw material washed in the river Eske — begorrah — which helps to give the lambswool a silky soft handle. True Donegal tweed has the flecked pattern we all know and love, reflecting the natural landscape of the area. The navy and cream pattern above is the first image of Donegal tweed that will come to mind, but wow is that lilac version below rather super.
You will probably need about four yards of this 13oz cloth to have enough for a suit and two pairs of trousers or three-piece suit with weskit. Oh go on then, have a little green shamrock sewn into the lining on the jacket.
To complete the picture, simply add a pint of stout. Something like O' Hara's Awarding Winning Irish Stout (top) from the Carlow Craft Brewery in County Carlow, Ireland. Carlow is committed to traditional brewing methods. They say that a combination of stout hops and roast barley gives their stout the coffee and liquorice zap we stout lovers crave. Don't worry if you get a drop on the tweed. Though soft, it is robust enough enough to take a spill. (Tip: Quickly trying to suck split beer out of tweed is a natural reaction, though not advisable. Best to pat the spillage with a cloth.)
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
I found the latest James Bond film, Spectre, a little disappointing. Just because it's possible to do anything with CGI, it doesn't mean you should. The film relied far too heavily on these big budget pretend special effects for the action sequences. I watched The French Connection for the umpteenth time the other night and you forget how exhilarating it is to see real action with real noises on real streets.
Daniel Craig's Bond (good actor that he is) has become rather like an expressionless cyborg made from a nightclub bouncer that punches his way through a rather dull narrative. The highlight of the film was the use of Vivaldi's Nisi Dominus sung by Andreas Scholl - maximum impact with no special effects required.
The Game is On, a short film by Hackett (below), was shot by American fashion photographer Blair Getz Mezibov without cartoon rendering to showcase their summer collection. I think it actually gets closer to what we would like to see more of in a Bond film — suspense, jet-setting sophistication, style, sexiness, and an operative who obeys instructions — in fact, we want to see something more like a Bond film.
How will it end?
Monday, 14 March 2016
Art for Astonishingly Cultured Readership
I get more emails discussing art and music than anything else, so our astonishingly cultured readership may be interested to hear that Sotheby's is having a Made in Britain auction of pieces by 20th century British artists and designers on the 16th of this month.
Register quickly to express your interest in photography by the likes of Terence Donovan, Norman Parkinson and David Bailey and prints by David Hockney and Patrick Caufield.
I have picked out this chest of drawers by furniture designer T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, which was produced by Saridis of Athens in 1963.
A lovely piece of furniture. Above it could hang the 1966 portrait of Twiggy by Terrence Donovan. Twiggy epitomises the self-confidence of England in the '60s. Adjacent we could hang the 1933 portrait of Sir Noël Peirce Coward (signed) by Horst P. Horst. Noël epitomises the sophistication and elegance of England between the wars.
Favourite piece of all is Hyde Park below, a modernist linocut print by Sybil Andrews from 1931. Following a conversation from a reader, I have been meaning to feature the famously lovely Underground posters from around that period that were printed in a similar manner. I will get round to it. In the meantime I think we should all look out for good examples that come up for auction.
Friday, 11 March 2016
Cue Card for the Gold Cup
I went to great point-to-point last weekend, which put me in the mood for the Cheltenham Festival next week (15th - 18th).
Resulting from extensive conjecture, my tip for the Gold Cup is Cue Card following its win at the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park (which I didn't put a bet on). Cue Card is trained by Colin Tizzard of Dorset, and will be ridden by popular Irish jockey Paddy Brennan.
A sporting country look is the order of the day at Cheltenham (as opposed to, say, toppers at Royal Ascot). Something like the rig below will see you right. Just add decent binoculars for race viewing, a copy of the Racing Post and a pen to circle your winners, and you're good to go.
Brown Trilby in Sable from Christy's (available from Gunn Line)
You may wish to tuck the race meeting badge in the hat band.
Double-Breasted Tweed Overcoat from Oliver Brown
Balmoral Suede Loafer from Fairfax & Favor
Racing Green Silk Knitted Tie by Gunn Line
Wednesday, 9 March 2016
Let's Put on a Show
God Help the Girl is the directorial film début of Stuart Murdoch of the Scottish band Belle and Sebastian. The film is based on Stuart's off-shoot musical project that featured all-female singers and resulted in an album called God Help the Girl. The film also resulted in a soundtrack album, only this time sung by the actors in the film. So, trying not to confuse, God Help the Girl the original album begot God Help the Girl the film begot God Help the Girl the soundtrack album. Got that?
The film was shot in Glasgow and centres on a young woman called Eve played by Emily Browning — a native Melbournian, Australian chums. Eve is a beautiful catastrophe who is struggling with an eating disorder and finds solace in music as an aspiring songwriter. As new relationships develop one summer, she joins a band and seeks to abandon the problems of her past and find a rosier path towards the future.
If this sounds in any way heavy, it's the failing of my poor synopsis. The film is actually an engaging and whimsical musical adventure that is infused with eccentricity and dialogue that expresses the innocent knowingness of youth; and where the characters will suddenly burst into song and dance. I suppose it's like an old-fashioned Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musical of the 'Hey, let's put on a show' variety, but with a dash of low-key indie — something that will appeal to fogeys and hip young things alike.
My favourite song from the film would have to be the rather pleasant Pretty Eve in the Tub. If you like this video, you will like the film.
There are minor off-key moments and gaps in the plot, but the overall charm of the film entirely wins out and outweighs any weaknesses. Don't expect high-budget production values or the hyper-confidence and sexuality in Hollywood's youth-oriented output. This is a British independent film through-and-through.
The film reminded me in some ways of Georgy Girl —a perennial favourite at Tweed Towers — both films portraying a voyage of self-discovery for a young woman.
Nice Tweeds and Sweaters
Eve's friends in the film, James and Cassie, are engagingly played by Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray. Olly's character was decked out in some smashing kit: the tweed suits and jackets you see above — Is that a Walker Slater suit? — and the Aran sweater below.
If you fancy getting hold of a similar sweater, Peregrine Clothing do a nice chunky, limited-edition Aran in a textured yarn. You will still get mileage out of it in a British summer, particularly in Scotland (as James does in the film).
Monday, 7 March 2016
Incident on 57th Street
A rough calculation on the back of my hand tells me that 60% of Huntsman's customers come from the other side of the Atlantic, so it makes total sense for Huntsman to establish an outpost in the former British colonies.
Huntsman opened the doors to their New York gaff last month (130 West 57th Street, 7th floor). Pierre Lagrange, Huntsman's owner and chairman does not think the opening compromises Huntsman's Savile Row reputation. After all, most Savile Row tailors organise trunk shows around the world. This just offers Huntsman's American customers a permanent address to gravitate towards, and a corner of a foreign field that is forever Huntsman showcasing the best of British. Being on the 7th floor, it's a fairly discreet base (they are certainly not aiming to compete with the footfall at nearby Nike Town). As Pierre says of the opening:
'In a 167 year old business, there are traditions to nurture and others to challenge. While making garments by hand in a similar was as they were in 1849 ensures a quality rarely equaled with modern techniques, in today’s world, I felt we should be closer and able to better serve our clients in America, where the largest Huntsman client base lives and works. A New York presence was a logical next step, and with our pied-a-terre we’re able to bring a little bit of our iconic Savile Row environment to the U.S.'
What matters here is that there will be no change to the tailoring traditions of Huntsman. This extends to the ready-to-wear collection. This spring and summer, the tailoring uses hopsack and lightweight wool suitings that are 'hand-cut and sewn entirely in England' and accessories that are made entirely in the British Isles. For the shirts, Huntsman has collaborated with famed Jermyn Street shirtmaker Emma Willis. The shirts are traditionally made at her Gloucestershire workshop, cut to a silhouette exclusive to Huntsman that is designed to sit well under Huntsman’s (signature) one-button suit coat.
I am rather drawn to the Huntsman blazer and cream trouser combination in the photo at the top — not to mention the rather snazzy pool table, though it should be a snooker table by rights (harumph).
I don't see the blazer in the ready-to-wear collection (what a lovely blue), though similar cotton trousers are available as I write.
The Ecru Cotton Trousers trousers are made from a cotton and cashmere twill, and have slanted frogmouth front pockets.
Also from the ready-to-wear, the Mid Grey Fresco Suit (below) would cut quite a dash in the warmer months Classic one-button Huntsman cut in light and breezy Fresco cloth (Which they say is a delight to tailor).
Note that the ready-to-wear jackets and trousers are basted and unfinished at cuff and hem for alteration in shop.
Perfectly tempting for a sultry summer in New York.
'What's the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don't yield to them?'
Saturday, 5 March 2016
Dress Like a Man in Red Trousers
I possess red trousers ranging from Nantucket pink to something like the scarlet worn by cavalry officers (let's remember their military tradition). Come this spring they will be out again regardless of the tedious social categorisation that appears to have been applied to them. If observers feel the need to use them to rank and stratify, I will not be kowtowed into keeping them hidden. They do not deserve such treatment, and that is the coward's way not the British way — I am not prepared to give in to prevailing whims and fashions like a politician.
(Did I give up my covert coat when Nigel Farage was pictured in his? It is a classic coat, so I certainly did not. Actually, politics aside, one can admire Nigel's fogeyish dress sense against the social conformity of the plain blue suit in Westminster.)
They also say that hipster appropriation is killing the red trouser. Nonsense. 'Old Red' is an equal-opportunity trouser — it can make anyone look smarter. If social observers want to start criticising people for their style choices, I suggest they start with men who choose to dress like children: hooded sweatshirts, 'onesies', shorts, t-shirts with brainless pictures and logos, beanie hats and flip flops. What do social observers, let alone the psychoanalysts, say about that?
So the red trousers are here to stay, as are my summer trousers in orange, lilac, yellow and Madras check and so on and so forth.
Flora Watkins provides a sterling defence of the red trouser in Country Life. You should read the whole thing. It also has an excellent list of where you can obtain your red trousers and strike a blow for autonomy and freedom, even if we are all wearing them.
Incidentally, along with Tweed magazin, no reader of the Tweed Pig should be without the latest copy of Country Life on their tea trolley. I suppose one's choice of magazine signifies something too?