A Tweedy Trend

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tweedy-trend

One of the most gratifying things about reviewing menswear is that the ‘finger on the pulse’, ‘trend alert’, ‘this year’s MUST have’ nonsense that womenswear requires is unnecessary. Reviewing menswear is not about ‘IT’ bags or ‘HOT heels’; it is, broadly speaking, about style and individual taste. Whereas women tend to be led, men tend to choose. Men might wear a fashion ‘thing’ of the moment because their “mate had it and looked pretty cool”, but they won’t prostrate themselves at the altar of fashion for the sake of it.

However, there was a recent trend report which caught my eye. It pointed to the increase in sales of Harris Tweed, the famous Scottish fabric most associated with the country dress of British aristocrats. Business is currently booming for the Isle of Harris which sold 630 metres of tweed fabric this year – a massive 40% increase on last year’s sales. And according to the report, demand is even building beyond British borders from Germany to Japan.

Why the demand?

The report made the tired and predictable stab at the origins and traditional uses of Harris Tweed; the word “staid” was mentioned, and there were some naïve undertones of criticism of its “associations with the landed gentry” as if this has been anything but a boon to the economics of demand. The real point is, people are connecting with their environment more and are looking to traditions in a time of great uncertainty. Harris Tweed is a high quality fabric that is made in Scotland using traditional methods.

What are they making?

Apparently, there’s been a great demand for tweed suits. Now, we all know someone with a tweed jacket. A tweed jacket is expected and is a certain staple of any self-respecting modern gentleman’s wardrobe but a suit? A whole suit? A three-piece? I can’t remember the last time I saw a gentleman below seventy in a tweed suit. To many, they are the uniform of the House of Lords, although it seems they might now be worn by members of that House as a proverbial ‘middle-finger’ to Government by the hereditary peers who disapprove of the recent measures to remove fellow Lairds, Dukes and Earls from the crimson benches.

Whatever the reason, tweed suits are being seen more and more in town. The strict town/country rules are fading quickly, despite the admirable efforts of traditionalists to uphold them.

What kind of tweed?

Tweed is woven in many kinds of colours and patterns but there are, essentially, three common ‘types.’ The first type is a plain coloured weave, often herringbone, in various tones of rust and green. The second common type is a plain weave with a coloured window-check pattern again in various tones of rust and green; my own tweed jacket is pale green with a sky blue window-check. The third common type is a houndstooth tweed, which sometimes has an overcheck but often does not, and has always been known to me as ‘teacher’s tweed’ due to the fact that it was commonly worn by school teachers. This is generally a light brown/dark brown houndstooth combination.

There is no ‘definitive’ tweed although the plain coloured herringbone option is far more subtle and less outré than a loud window-check. For those that want something in between the dull plain weave and the terrifying window-check, the herringbone is probably the ideal compromise.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Simon Beauvoir says:

    Your use of a comparison between the roles of men and women, “Whereas women tend to be led, men tend to choose,” suggest patriarchal binary thought; you associate women and “womanish behavior” with being led, or being dominated. Men, however, have to the power of choice in this relationship. You also use a ridiculing voice, “…but they [men] won’t prostrate themselves at the altar of fashion for the sake of it.” Your suggestion is that women are more susceptible to domination because of their lack of rationality and intelligence, while men are too savvy to be taken in by such a ruse. Your use of phallogocentric language betrays your innate sexism. It is merely the socially constructed gender role of women that obligates them to be fashion conscious and up to date with trends. “Peacockery” and an interest in clothing is “womanish” for a man, a gender role that you yourself struggle against and often transgress. Are opera pumps with jeans an example of classic men’s style? Or is that an altar I see behind you?

  2. Kurt N says:

    So then what’s the latest on the industry? I recently saw that 3-part documentary made a while back. Has Brian Haggas finally unloaded all those jackets? But at a minimum I guess his mill must be back in operation.

  3. Alton Busterton says:

    Simon Beauvoir,

    I must admit to some skepticism regarding your name. Methinks it a bit too close to the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, author of course of “The Second Sex,” a foundational feminist text if ever there was one, to be an accident. But my sentence runs on, and as we all know proper commenting on a blog demands succinctness.

    My question for you dear sir, then, is this: what are you afraid of? Admitting that females, as part and parcel to their fairness, are more sheeplike? Or is it that you are afraid to accept your role as the superior (in the original meaning of the word) ape? My advice my friend is this: embrace boldly your masculinity, your sword of discrimination, your natural proclivity towards choosing. Do not prostrate yourself to the fashionable altar of politically correct feminism, or its facsimile. Stand up, my good man.

  4. Hilton says:

    Sir, once again I must commend you on another find article. I would counsel you to ignore the little man that would find fault with it.

    I have been in search of the real McCoy, i.e. , not made in China or Haiti, and have not been able to turn anything up in the States.

    Here is an example of a pathetic imitation (with made in Haiti on the label) : http://www.josbank.com/menswear/shop/Product_11001_10050_101654

    Would you kindly advise me as to where I may procure a tweed jacket finished in Scotland?

  5. Kai says:

    Relax folks, and please easy with those isms and psychoanalysis. I hope Mr. Chesterfield will not respond in the same tone.

  6. Peter van der Zwan says:

    As someone who wears tweed jackets regularly I would argue the close connection of tweed to a certain class of people has done damage, certainly in this country. I have gotten quite a few disparaging comments over the years to this effect so it must have some truth.

    Regarding a separate item of dress, but related are brogues. I have recently met a die hard environmentalist friend whom I hadn’t seen for quite a while. She made a jibe to the effect ‘Oh, I see you’re still wearing your borgues’ as if I was David Cameron himself. I responded jokingly that one of the many benefits of a well made pair of English shoes was their longevity. She said she would rather buy some Chinese plastic slip ons than run the risk!

  7. Alton Busterton says:

    Perhaps my previous post was a bit obtuse; I mean my questions for the commenter calling himself “Simon Beauvoir,” and not the author of the post, one Mr. Winston Chesterfield. I assure you, Mr. Kai and Mr. Hilton, we are of a piece, and quite so. Bests to you, gents.

  8. Laura says:

    As a woman, I was very disappointed by the attitude expressed in this post. I am interested in menswear precisely for one of the reasons you touched on: it tends to be decidedly less “trend” focused than womenswear and often values personal style over blind consumption of the latest this or that. That is not to say that certain sectors of the menswear industry don’t also operate on hype and the “it” whatever, but I tend to agree that the “trend of the moment” attitude is much more dominant in womenswear.

    However, when you jump from womenswear to women’s nature, you very much lost my support. How is it, exactly, that women inherently “tend to be led” and men inherently “tend to choose”? As a woman, am I blindly led towards the latest trend? Do I not also make choices regarding fashion? You really need to make a distinction between the values expressed by the womenswear/menswear and how women/men, “tend” to be. Why can’t this be left as an issue of menswear vs. womenswear rather than men vs. women?

    As for some of the other comments: Is it really necessary to prop up your own masculinity by asserting your superiority to women? “Embrace boldly your masculinity, your sword of discrimination, your natural proclivity towards choosing.” Seriously?

  9. Dear Laura and Simon,

    “Whereas women tend to be led, men tend to choose.”

    This seems to be the section which is causing particular problems and one which, unfortunately, is being rated in isolation.

    The markets for womenswear and menswear respond to market demand – otherwise, those in charge of corporations in such industries would be very poor business people indeed.
    I did not suggest all women or all men – hence my inclusion of the word ‘tend.’ If women and men had the same demands of clothing, the demand for bespoke women’s clothing and tailoring would be equal to that of men but it is not. Women also spend far more money on designer, fashion-inspired clothing than men.

    And many would assert that there is nothing wrong with being ‘led’ in fashion terms. After all, being guided by fashion has given women an advantage in a heightened sense of aesthetics.

    I myself have referred to women’s superiority in dress, bemoaning the safe, boring and artless tendencies of men (see article link below);

    What is wrong with men

  10. Hilton,

    Harris Tweed Scotland

    They are reputable but it is not clear where their jackets are made.
    The references to the Scottish isles are in the production of the Harris Tweed used for the jackets but there is no evidence that suggests the jackets are made in Scotland.

    The only certainty would be to visit a tailor in Scotland having picked up some tweed from the isle of Harris yourself!

  11. ray castro says:

    Harris Tweed Scotland Limited is, I believe, selling Harris Tweed jackets made in Scotland. They are available on the company’s website, and I can buy one from my shop in little old Mansfield, Ohio. The company is making a push to sell their products in the US. Does that help?

  12. Sal says:

    Dear Winston

    I (mostly) like your articles, but I think you are sometime too verbose and flowery. Your comments about the difference between men’s and women’s fashion are kind of silly. The chap who bought something because “their mate had it and looked pretty cool” is prostrating at the altar of fashion, whether you agree or not. In fact, that first paragraph is completely superfluous to the topic of tweed. Just saying.

  13. deborah says:

    One word Mr Chesterfield – Winkers! Resort shoes that is – see Wolf & Badger – now in Harris Herringbone and Check and British made.

  14. Alton Busterton says:

    Mr. Sal,

    I must disagree with your assessment. One can be too verbose and flowery, perhaps, but our dear Mr. Winston has not even begun to broach the extremes of these measures. You must tend toward homophobia.

    And Laura, my dear. “Seriously?” Yes, never not. Serious that is. I don’t think I’m “propping up my masculinity,” though I am do tend to assert it, sure. Masculinity does not need propping, nor does femininity, so long as the truth is assessed with a keenly objective, non-menstrual tending eye. I do admire your spunk, but perhaps a menswear blog is best left tended by men.

  15. Ryan says:

    Your attitude is objectionable but even worse is writing “non-menstrual tending” and “spunk” in the same line.

  16. Chris says:

    Busterton,
    And what about when the truth is assessed with an ejaculatory-tending eye? It’s disappointing that you go from suggesting we search for the truth (of things as arbitrary as masculinity) to suggesting that a menswear blog is best tended by men. Is discouraging dissenting opinions really a legitimate way to increase objectivity?

  17. Kyl says:

    Busterton, Blusterton. Excuse others for disapproving of your extraordinarily sexist opinions.

    This whole site is about what us traditionally-inclined consumers believe to be fashionable. The argument of style-vs-fashion is ridiculous. The argument should be more about what is trendy-vs-traditional.

  18. Victoria says:

    Some of you people are precisely the reason why I would never call myself a feminist. You blow things out of proportion, constantly on the look-out for something to moan about and it is just tiring. You seem to know him very well I must say, you even put a boring, bogus psychological label on him. I have been going out with Winston for more than four years, and believe me, I would never ever even look at a guy who has some kind of ‘inner sexism.’ Let this site be about style and clothing and nothing as tiring and tedious as ‘Society and Gender’. And bear in mind, there are far more important things to be upset about.

  19. Sal says:

    Alton Busterton, are you being inadvertently obtuse or do you do it on purpose? How do I tend to homophobia? Because I used the word flowery? I guess your English isn’t very good.

    Here’s a couple of definitions:

    Verbose (adj): Using or containing a great and usually an excessive number of words; wordy.

    Flowery (adj): 1. Of, relating to, or suggestive of flowers. 2. Abounding in or covered with flowers. 3. Full of ornate or grandiloquent expressions; highly embellished

    So clearly I was referring to Winston’s long winded posts (i.e. too many words). Stop projecting your prejudices and insecurities onto other people.

  20. Michael says:

    I borrowed one of My Grandfather’s Tweed overcoats to keep me warm on my trip back to my final year at boarding school. He never got it back. I still wear it, along with the other Tweed jackets and trousers I’ve accumulated over the last ten years.

    Well said Victoria! I think Alton B has been shaking the tree to see what would fall out and he will not be disappointed with the results.

  21. Jim says:

    Anyone who has read Winston’s blog knows he’s a good-hearted guy. If you want to criticise something he’s written, do so with love not vitriol…

  22. FG says:

    Winston I for one have been following this site as well as your commentary for some time now. You are well read, written and entertaining in a way sadly lacking in most others IMHO (except the other writers of course on this site).

    I have a strong interest in clothes for men and enjoy a website dedicated as such.

    keep it up and I for one look for forward to your next article with much anticipation.

    Cheers
    FG