Letter from Melbourne - Hooray for Sloane Ranger Style

Tamp your pipe, stir your tea and settle down for more Anglo-Australian observations from Bertie of Melbourne. This time our intrepid Bertie considers recent comments by the dapper and impeccably-eyebrowed Peter York (above) on the subject of tweed pastiche. Peter has a point. However, at Tweed Towers we try to filter out the bogus British heritage passengers — and Bertie might be reporting on 'tweedwash' soon  — from the genuine, honest brands. What's more, with the vast array of tweed patterns available, tweed is a cloth almost singularly disposed to originality.

Here Bertie defends the Sloane Ranger style, so wittily documented in Peter's Sloane Ranger Handbook [Amazon], and picks out some authentic pieces to create the look.

The Letter

My dear Tweed

I’ve been ABsolutely absorbed reading Peter York’s The Fall of the Sloane Rangers in this month’s Prospect. As I read it, my inner voice kept exclaiming ‘absoLOOTly!’ Well, that was until I got to this sentence:

The Sloane tragedy returns as farce, as pastiche, as tweed-themed menswear brands. Or those couth actors and stand-up comedians—Jack Whitehall, Armstrong and Miller and Marcus Brigstocke have all made a go of it. Daniel Smith, lecturer in sociology at Canterbury Christchurch University, earned his PhD with an analysis of Jack Wills, the clothing brand which trades as “Fabulously British” and “outfitters to the gentry” supplying “British heritage-inspired goods to the university crowd.” (Jack Wills doesn’t look that British to me, it’s more like the American brands Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister or Tommy Hilfiger.)

Pastiche? Tweed-themed menswear brands? Karl Marx?

That Mr York - who’s normally very solid – has gone too far!

I thought it’s time that you and all your readers fightback and show Mr York that he’s wrong. Let’s show him that tweed remains perfectly contemporary and never pastiche. To this day, I still look to the illustrations in the Sloane Ranger Handbook for inspiration.

The outfit below Rus in Urbe or the BBC of good dress - Barbour, Brogues & Cords – remains as classic as ever.

Illustration: Natacha Letwidge from the Sloane Ranger Handbook

Sapper jacket
Let’s begin with the Jacket. I suggest Barbour’s tweed Sapper jacket which contains a touch of cashmere. The Sapper Jacket seems most appropriate given we’re trying to diffuse the bomb which Mr York has lobbed at tweed-themed menswear.

All brogues
Secondly, the Brogues.

I like all brogues – and given the SR style is that of the Field Officer & not the Major-General – I suggest Loake’s Chester brogues in calf leather. Simple, sturdy & well-made. (Also available from Herring Shoes.)

Cordings cords
Lastly, the Cords.

Regrettably, Beale & Inman is no longer with us, so I’ve plumped for some British cords from Cordings. The cords are a good weight and very comfortable with a tapered cut for a contemporary feel.

Where is the British Whit Stillman?
All this outfit needs is a viyella shirt, socks in a defiant colour and the vigour to rise to the occasion. After all, the Decline of a Tribe and their traditional dress is something that should never be taken lightly – it should be honoured in a filmic trilogy à la Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan, Barcelona & The Last Days of Disco. And where is the British Whit Stillman? Hopefully, he’s reading this blog now and is inspired to write (or direct) a roman-fleuve on tweed-inspired menswear, its evolution (& not revolution) and its durability both to fickle fashion and the changing fortunes of Britain’s tribes.

Bertie Davies



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