Saturday, 28 January 2017
Arran Sweater Kind of Place
I'm not a fan of crowded places, unless they're pubs — pubs can be packed to the rafters, as long as it's with the right kind of people making the right kind of uproar. You get the right kind of people crammed into The Pandora Inn, a 13th century pub at Mylor Bridge, near Falmouth, Cornwall. I spotted quite a bit of waxed-cotton and an Arran sweater when I visited, but, sadly, I didn't see a single Cornish fisherman's smock.
The Pandora Inn is good for bitter and real ale drinkers, which is something else that inspires confidence when choosing a pub. I enjoyed a delicious pint of Trelawny Ale from local St Austell Brewery, a bitter blended from English and South Australian hops. I look forward to trying their Cornish stout, Mena Dhu.
The inn passes the essential winter check, with real fires warming the unadulterated rooms. Photo taken before the lunchtime drinkers descended.
The upstairs eating area of The Pandora has the feel of an old (non-celebrity) gentleman's club. The menu emphasises local produce, and being on the estuary of the River Fal flowing into the English Channel you can expect lots of fish and seafood to be available.
Trelawny Ale is named after Sir Jonathan Trelawny, Bishop of Bristol, Exeter and Winchester, who is mentioned (or possibly his father) in the Cornish anthem The Song of the Western Men.
Cornwall's Man Engine has a go at the anthem below. The tune sounds a bit like The Ground Old Duke of York to me.
Friday, 27 January 2017
Worthy of Preservation
Let's hit the ground running this year and fight the good fight to preserve things worth preserving. A reader put me on to Voices of Music, an early music ensemble based in San Francisco in the US who perform pre-1800 Renaissance and Baroque music.
Voices of Music are creating a 'worldwide digital library of music videos and recordings, free for anyone in the world'. That's a very generous ambition, and one we should really get behind: donate here. If you're in two minds, compare their efforts to keep the music of some of our greatest composers alive with the contribution of Victoria Beckham to our culture. Victoria bafflingly received an OBE in the New Year's Honours list. Nice as she undoubtedly is, one can't help feeling that there's something rotten in the state of Denmark.
Voices of Music perform on original instruments 'from the time of the composer' for studied authenticity. From their website, you can watch heading towards two hundred performances in ultra-high definition.
Here we see the ensemble perform Sento Brillar from Handel's Il Pastor Fido with counter-tenor Christopher Lowrey.
Here soprano Anna Dennis joins to perform the delightful Love's Constancy, Thomas Lanier's setting of words by the Cavalier poet Thomas Carew.
Anna Dennis again with Purcell's incredible Dido's Lament. No playlist should be without it.
Bravo to Voices of Music. I could keep adding their videos here, but go and take a look at their website and indulge yourself for a bit. If anything, it will take your mind off Victoria Beckham's award for 'services to fashion'.
Thursday, 26 January 2017
L' Artisan Parfumeur
Paris-based French perfume house L' Artisan Parfumeur was established in 1976 by Jean Laporte to specialise in unusual scents. The house was acquired by Bacelona-based perfume group Puig — a third-generation family business — in 2015. Puig also acquired the wonderful Penhaligon's at the same time from a US private equity firm who owned both brands.
Caveat emptor — it's good to be under no illusions as to the companies who are behind the brands we love, but all things considered, I think these brands will be safer in the hands of Puig than a bunch of faceless investors who might not care the way we do about preserving things.
Anyway, back to L' Artisan Parfumeur. They produce great scents. As you can see from the top photo, I'm quite a fan. I'm happy that Puig have promised not to discontinue their classics, although I see a couple of names missing from the current line-up. Perhaps they will re-introduce and rest scents, like most perfume houses do, based on prevailing trends.
If I were to choose, I guess Dzongkha would be a favourite from L' Artisan Parfumeur. The scent is herbal and leathery with floral notes of 'peonies, lychees and iris'.
Tea for Two might run second. It is presented as smoky tea perfume, which initially blasts you with an intense tobacco smell, then settles down into a warm, woody and spicy evocation. You can wear this, probably more for the evening than day, all year round.
I find both of these fragrances last forever on my skin.
Lost Their Bottle
One thing that has changed over at L' Artisan Parfumeur is the look of the bottles. The heptagonal shape of the bottle and lid remain, but they've gone for a black lid instead of the gilt and a smoky glass instead of clear glass. The labels are now all-white. I prefer the older style of bottle, and I think they look better in my bathroom, but then I hate change.
One thing to say about the bottles and lids — and I believe this has been retained — is that they're supremely solid and heavy. Seriously, you could do someone in with one of these bottles, which could be an idea if you're thinking of writing a whodunit.
In all reverence, I say Heaven bless the whodunit, the soothing balm on the wound, the cooling hand on the brow, the opiate of the people.
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Active Duty Jacket
I couldn't tell you the name of this model of waxed cotton jacket from Private White VC, and I don't think it's available right now, but I find it a perfect choice when worn with a thick sweater when I'm on active duty yomping 'cross country or along the coast. I can get away with not wearing an overcoat that I'd be wanting to take off all the time. The two billows pockets at the hip compensate somewhat for the loss of storage from jettisoning a coat.
A thick Guernsey sweater offers a perfect middle layer. There really is no warmer sweater than one of these woollen 'chain mail' jobs.
Like any waxed cotton clothes, you can also use the jacket to sit on and enjoy an impromptu picnic or cigar without getting your seat damp. Intended for outdoor pursuits, as the jacket fades, discolours and stains — cigar ash marks already provided by yours truly — it will only get better looking.
A silk cravat can be tucked into the opening of the shirt or tied under the collar.
Because of the waxed cotton, the jacket also offers some protection from the wind; and if the clouds move and rain is likely, part of me will stay dry. I'm not a sugar lump, so rain isn't a major concern; although I try and keep a brolly handy at all times.
As it's a four-button jacket, for movement (biking, hill climbing, donkey-back on the beach) I'm prone to button in the Edwardian hacking style: top button only.
Like the painting of his brother by English classicist painter Arthur Hacker here:
Sidney Hacker had some swagger by the looks of it. And magnificent red hair.
At The Tweed Pig we're highly supportive of British manufacturing and in particular its contribution to the heritage of traditional men's clothing. Private White does so much in this respect: they manufacture their own label clothes from their factory in Manchester and they also promote and sell the best British heritage brands. Naturally, we've covered them extensively at The Tweed Pig.
Sunday, 22 January 2017
Suits Made for Dancing
At Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row, as Managing Director John Hitchcock kindly explains in this video, eighteen measurements are taken to cut a pattern. The measurements are marked in freehand on paper, like a drawing —with templates for single and double-breasted suits.
Fred Astaire was insistent that his jacket didn't budge from his neck when dancing, so the key, says John, is to incorporate a small armhole with bigger sleeve in the cut; and to sew the sleeves by hand so they have sufficient give and movement.
Fancy the idea of becoming a tailor's cutter? Well it can take as long as ten years to master, which is longer than training to be a GP or a dentist. I have utmost respect for the tailoring profession — or any master craftsmen for that matter — but even more so when considering the level of commitment undertaken.
Pursuing such a lifelong vocation is akin to entering a monastery. You need to think long and hard about whether it is the life for you. (For a postulant of the English Benedictine tradition, it might be four years plus before making the solemn vows and becoming a fully-fledged monk.)
If it is your calling, then patience is the greatest of all virtues.
Saturday, 21 January 2017
Britain's Best Undiscovered Pop Star
It's impossible not to like a singer who sacked his drummer for having curly hair. With such dedication to his craft, it's clear that Lawrence, of Felt and Denim, and latterly of Go-Kart Mozart, could only ever devote his life to the art of pop music.
Yet the accolades fall on, well, never mind. Here at The Tweed Pig we seek out products and creations that have stood the test of time — the local survivors who stay true to what they do and don't bend with the wind to please current sensibilities, be that a restaurant in Budapest since 1877, a manufacturer of fishing flies since 1863, or a fey singer from the English Midlands since the 1980s.
Felt's Primitive Painters [Amazon], which we add to the Music to Button a Cardigan By collection, was released as a single in 1985. The song was produced by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, with the Cocteau's Elizabeth Fraser singing backing vocals to great effect — incredible singer. Primitive Painters is included as track on Felt's Ignite the Seven Cannons (on Cherry Red), an album produced by Robin and released in the same year.
Find yourself a decent cardigan to put on and listen to this on good equipment, and listen loud.
Neatly, Lawrence — once described as 'Britain's Best Undiscovered Pop Star' — is also a fan of cardigans (and hats).
Nice Breton stripes under the cardie here.
I think I will look into the Saturno style of hat for summer. Thanks Lawrence.
Friday, 20 January 2017
One for the Sporran
Dalvey (1897) of Ross-shire, Scotland, were reinvigorated by current director Sir Patrick Alexander Benedict Grant in 1988. They started out as a bagpipe manufacturer, and under Sir Patrick's stewardship have expanded into men's clothes and accessories, most famously the Dalvey Flask — a round-bottomed flask designed to fit conveniently in your sporran. You don't wear a sporran all the time? The hip pocket of you Barbour wax jacket will do just fine.
A Dalvey innovation is the patented Dalvey Flask with Cup. I'm always attracted to gadgets and accessories that have a whiff of Q Division about them, and this flask is no exception. (Note: Q Division, as depicted in the Bond film franchise, hasn't been the same since they decided Q should be an 'anorak' like Ben Whishaw's character.)
The patented design of the stainless steel flask, slim and tactile like all Dalvey flasks, rather ingeniously incorporates a telescopic cup into the back so that you can dispense a libation to the vicar and not have him suffer the indignity of glugging straight from the flask.
Thursday, 19 January 2017
Lord Lucan Hairstyle
I declare 2017 the year of the Lord Lucan hairstyle. Association with a grisly murder aside, Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, infamous member of the Clermont Set, was once seen as telegenic enough, so rumour has it, to have been considered for the role of James Bond. I think the hair has a lot to do with this. The Lord Lucan 'do mustn't be confused with the slicked-back 'hair hat' beloved of Wall Street villains, though it's quite easy to do so.
The basics are quite straightforward. You need a mid-length haircut with the ears uncovered, not too short at the back and sides, and a bit longer on top, with no layers. You can have a little growth that flicks out at the nape of the neck, which is popular in Madrid for styles like this.
You're going to apply hair products, but not on wet hair. I've been experimenting for you and I've found the following formula works best. My barber doesn't agree — he thinks it's overly complicated and tospy-turvy — but see what you think.
Stage one: Comb the hair into place when wet and leave until it is almost dry, but not totally. Make sure the parting is totally straight, no dog's hind leg. Now take some pomade or Yardley brilliantine, no bigger than half to a whole thumbnail. Rub it into your hands and then vigorously into the roots of the hair — really work it in. Comb the hair back into place.
Note: I haven't been able to condense this into a single-product operation for my fine, golden tresses, but I'm sure it's doable on other hair types. Or maybe Trumper's new Lime Gel Pomade will be the answer. I'll try it out at some stage.
Stage two: Now take a dollop of decent hair fixative. Supple Hair Fixative from Roger & Gallet (1862) was terrific, with its natural gum, but I don't think they make it anymore. (I mention here in the hope that this is rectified.) I would also recommend Crystal Hair Cream by D. R. Harris — non-sticky.
Spread your fixative lightly over the hair, don't rub in. Comb into place again. Now take your Kent MHS18 to brush lightly over the hair, removing the comb lines and putting every hair where it should be without flattening the hair to the scalp.
It's important that you don't stick the hair down too much. You don't want to look like you've just stepped out of the shower. And it's okay if it drops a little through the day, perhaps not so much as to achieve James Bond's famous comma of hair above his right eyebrow from the Fleming novels.
And there you have it. The Lord Lucan. Don't you look smart and well-ordered? People will automatically assume that you are a focused and driven individual, which can be a very useful smokescreen when you're shirking.
And if it all goes pear-shaped, simply cover over with a flat cap.
Stay tuned for the Aubrey Beardsley, chaps.
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Avoid Accusations of Treason
I'm sure you would consider yourself a reasonable fellow, but you also have to acknowledge that a wardrobe without a classic English blazer is tantamount to an act of treason. By proper, I mean the blazer should have an English fit, single or double-breasted — double-breasted earns double points — and it must — it simply has to — have gold blazer buttons. (Prince Philip's Royal Navy button mash-up was an excellent touch to his blazer.) If you belong to a suitable club or association, go the full nine yards with a blazer badge too. It is impossible to swill gin-and-tonics at your club or pub in anything else.
There's no need for panic if you don't have a blazer. The tailors and gentlemen's outfitters, Benson & Clegg — situated in the Piccadilly Arcade, London — can help avert any accusations of treachery. Benson & Clegg was founded in 1937 and moved to their current location in 1976. Dedicated to classic British style, the company earned Royal Warrants as tailors to King George VI and as suppliers of 'buttons, badges and military neckwear' to HRH The Prince of Wales.
Pleasingly, Benson & Clegg have introduced a ready-to-wear range that includes single and double-breasted blazers in merino wool with polished gilt blazer buttons. The jackets have a four-piece natural canvas. Smart. Very smart.
Excitingly, for me at least, Benson & Clegg offer a wide range of blazer buttons in classic designs — all made in England — in gilt mainly, but with enamel and leather options. They stock over one hundred and fifty different designs.
I think we'd better go with the Britannia buttons (top), hadn't we? Don't worry American chums, they also have an American Eagle design. All gilt buttons are created in time-honoured fashion and come with a presentation box. I know someone who collects old blazer buttons, like you would coins or stamps. I found her a lovely old button with an anchor design at the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum — wonderful museum if you have any budding engineers in your family. You can get up close and personal with old fighter planes and Concorde 002.
The nickel-mounted Wolf Head design has something about it.
So lovely, so traditional — I feel tempted to get hold of several designs and put the blighters on all of my jackets, but that would be silly.
Sunday, 15 January 2017
Skin in the Game
It's good to see the sheepskin coat making a comeback on the streets of Britain. This type of coat was a skinhead staple in the 1960s, which gives me a good excuse to include this photo.
David Niven was a keen wearer too. I never need an excuse to include David Niven.
Since reporting on the tragic demise of sheepskin coat maker Nursey — We Must Defend Our Sheepskin Coats — I've been vocal in my search for reasonable alternatives. Happily, my histrionics were a tad unwarranted: Nursey survives, but they're not making coats at the moment. Nursey's British-made sheepskin peaked cap looks interesting, by the way:
But my battle drum had resounded, and now we see designers introducing the classic sheepskin coat; and in a virtuous feedback loop, I can report on what's being produced. I communicated with someone in Italy about the difference between sheepskin and shearling, and we decided that the terms were used fairly interchangeable: for sheepskin tanned with the wool left on. Technically, shearling ought to be skin from a lamb.
Crombie Tan Shearling Coat
Ever dependable in the coat department, Crombie offers a great panelled shearling coat in guaranteed lambskin (proper shearling, as we defined above). The coat is made in Italy and features integrated pockets, horn buttons and the classic wool trims you want from a sheepskin, sorry shearling, coat.
A polo neck is a splendid item to wear underneath.
Friday, 13 January 2017
Dubonnet and gin — it's the Queen's favourite tipple. She enjoys a daily pre-lunch drink of two-parts Dubonnet and one-part gin with two cubes of ice and a slice of lemon (pips removed). It's a serious drink, though her mother enjoyed the same — but with a lemon slice slipped under the ice (a precise touch, if accounts are reliable).
Dubonnet was first produced in Paris by Joseph Dubonnet in 1846 as a drink to persuade French Foreign Legionnaires to take anti-malarial quinine. (Speaking of the French Foreign Legion, have you seen Beau Travail by Claire Denis? Excellent film.) The British approach was similar: we dosed up on gin and quinine-laden tonic whilst out in the tropics and India; and we still consume vast quantities of the stuff long after the empire rolled back.
Dubonnet is now owned by the French Ricard group who markets it as an aperitif wine. Dubonnet is a fortified wine made from red and white grape must that is blended with grain alcohol and a base white wine before ageing in oak vats for a year. After which the drink, as 14.9% alcohol, is charged with a secret blend of aromatic herbs. I like to drink it chilled and neat like a poor grappa. Dubonnet: one for your classic drinks cabinet.
The famous cubist Dubonnet man from their posters was created by A. M. Cassandre in 1932. The original triptych was designed to be seen from the side of a moving vehicle and work like an animation, as he fills up with the words 'it's nice', 'it's good', 'it's Dubonnet'.
Dubonnet and gin were mentioned in Noël Coward's high society rap I Went to a Marvellous Party, as you will recall, with Laura getting blind drunk on the stuff, then scratching her veneer with a Cartier pin. So very typical of Laura, don't you think?
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Happy as Larry
It's quite easy matching this vintage grey cashmere tweed jacket from Ballantyne with a suitable dog. First, I tried a border terrier — who was soon looking for something to chase and scrambled out of my hands — then I tried a grey and white phantom poodle. The poodle was as happy as Larry.
As well as being a good match with many dog breeds, the jacket has wonderfully thick cloth with a nubby texture, and self-faced panels on the inside make it doubly thick. It's heavy, no question. As the jacket is buggy-lined, it wraps a little around the form like a sweater. Dogs, and other animals, certainly enjoy nuzzling into it.
Tweedy's Note: The reason I'm 'trying dogs on' is that I'm between dogs at the moment and wondering what breed to go for. If you can see me well-matched with a particular breed, I'd be amused to know.
What to advise in terms of Ballantyne today? Well, Ballantyne's original weaving division morphed into the Robert Noble brand we know and love, who are owned by equally loveable Magee of Ireland. In terms of tweed, glen check, gun club check and herringbone, you're on safe ground. Incidentally, the name for Robert Noble derives from two businesses: George Roberts and George Scott Noble of Hawick. The Robert Noble logo keeps the Ballantyne family crest featuring a griffin.
Foxes and Intarsia Sweaters
The knitting division of Ballantyne, as well as the brand name, is now Italian-owned and concentrates on cashmere sweaters. The famed intarsia sweaters used to be made at Caerlee Mills in Innerleithen, Scotland, but I think the majority of their stuff is made in Italy now.
Can they offer anything for the traditional dresser? If you were to pop in to their shop in Via Bagutta, Milan, Italy, you might feel jolly pleased to leave with this cashmere intarsia sweater with argyle pattern and fox design from their winter collection.
The design saves you from having to carry an actual dog around with you.
Wednesday, 11 January 2017
Worthy Hobbies for the New Year
If you're looking to take up a weekend pastime this year, you can't go far wrong with the relaxation offered by pipe smoking and the fulfilling outdoor exercise and creativity provided by gardening. And it's so easy to combine the two.
Is there really any better way to spend time than sitting in your well-cultivated patch, tilled by your own hands (and suitably shielded from the outside world with a ruddy great hedge), drawing on a gently glowing bowl of aromatic leaf? Surveying your lands, satisfied by your efforts, you'll certainly look the part. Perception management they call it.
As our good friends at EA Carey once told me: 'A pipe held just so in the mouth qualifies the owner to be classed as an expert in any field.'
And if it looks like 'Western man' has finally 'decided to abolish himself' and 'educated himself into imbecility', as Malcolm Muggeridge once put it, it might be better to retreat from all the troubles of the world by absorbing yourself in such simple pleasures.
I'm not saying you should shirk from your daily dozen, mind. Mens sana in corpore sano and all that.
New to Pipe Smoking
If you're new to pipe smoking, EA Carey offer some great advice in this short video:
Starter Pipes for the Time Poor
How to choose your first pipe? You probably don't want something too big or that will take too much of your time to begin with.
The small and lightweight pipes from the Carey 10 Minute range, such as the Carey 10 Minute Quarter Bent Billiard (below), are good 'clenchers' and perfect for beginners and those wanting a short smoke.
Carey's Little Gem range, such as the Carey Little Gem Full Bent Apple (below), provides a similar service; but, as they are smaller, these pocket-sized pipes are handy for stowing in the patch pocket of your grey herringbone tweed jacket when you're on the move.
The 10 Minute and the Little Gem ranges are available in a number of shapes and finishes from EA Carey.
Friday, 6 January 2017
Vintage Winter Sports
If you have now parked your traditional bicycle for winter, you may feel inclined to put something else in your hands and seek out some vintage ski equipment for the annual Belle Époque Woche in Kandersteg, Switzerland (from the 22nd to the 29th of January).
For the Belle Époque Woche, skiers wear clothes from the Belle Époque era and use old equipment, such as open wooden skis for skiing in the Telemark style.
The epicentre of the event is the Hotel Victoria (1895) in Kandersteg, its name reflecting the origins of the British visitors who helped pioneer and popularise winter sports in the region. The hotel organises tea dances and dinners for the event, with local shops and bars also joining in with the genteel spirit of the occasion.
What a splendid excuse to don thick woollens, loden capes, melton coats and tweed everythings — leaving the tracksuit-clad world behind for a while.
You can head up to Oeschinensee to try the sled run or simply park your skies conspicuously in the snow outside a coffee shop — with Franzl Lang yodelling in the background — and enjoy hot toddies all day (no one being the wiser to your sloth).
Sunday, 1 January 2017
Out of England
Are you determined to travel more this year? Apply pressure on yourself by obtaining a travel journal and allow those blank pages to chastise you out of your geographical inertia. Choose your destinations carefully though. You shouldn't suffer hardships when you travel — avoid the recommendations of travel advisers who try and convince you that a vibrant and up-and-coming travel spot isn't actually a place of extreme wretchedness and squalor peopled by locals hostile to your presence. You don't get many days off, so why make it hard on yourself.
Remember that the term 'holiday-maker' shouldn't be a pejorative — making a holiday is a delightful thing to be able to make.
With the Panama Travel Journal from Smythson (1887) of Bond Street, London, you will feel obligated to add the names, addresses, itineraries and shopping lists of the brightest spots with well-their established charm and attractiveness. I'm sure you'll have a few anecdotes to note down too, knowing you. Don't forget to include the tweaks you would make on your return visit; and also leave space for new entries — and make sure to pack the journal in your Globe-Trotter each time you depart.
The Panama Travel Journal is made in England, and is bound in cross-grain lambskin. Inside, you can record your travel notes on the gilt-edged featherweight pages headed with lines for date and location (see top photo).
Don't Let the Past Be Everything You Failed to Do
If you're an incorrigible traveller, and fancy yourself as a latter-day Sir Richard Burton, you may feel the need to capture your thoughts whilst travelling each day. Don't feel tempted to share them on social media — a diary is intended as a private way to feed your egotism. No, record those thoughts in something like Smythson's Cosmic Travel Diary.
If each day is an anniversary of your life, it's up to you to fill the diary with interesting events. No pressure, but don't let the past be everything you failed to do.
The travel diary is bound in calf leather with a perforated map design, which makes it lighter. Inside, you have a page a day layout to capture your musings on the life essential.