Tweed Guide

Tweed Guide – The Curiously Compelling Story of Tweed

Some view tweed as an itchy, stuffy, stodgy fabric only worn by aging northeastern college professors or by English gentry in the Scottish dells. However, check out the style icons who’ve worn tweed well:

Read on to discover the curiously compelling story of tweed and how to include tweed as part of your personal style.

Scottish landscape

Scottish landscape

The Origin of Tweed

It is commonly thought that tweed emerged in Scotland and Ireland as a way for the farmers there to battle the chilly, damp climate that characterizes those parts. Tweed began as a hand woven fabric.  The cloth was rough, thick, and felted and the colors were muted and earthy.  It was truly a working man’s cloth. As far as the name goes, there are a couple of theories.

  1. There is a River Tweed in Scotland and the cloth was made in the Tweed Valley, and some believe that is the origin of the word.
  2. A more popular legend has it that the name tweed is a twist on the Scottish word for “tweel” or twill in our parlance, which is the signature weave of the fabric.  It is said that in 1826, a London clerk accidentally transcribed an order to “tweel” and wrote “tweed” instead, and from there the name came into use.

Whatever the origin, tweed is a rugged fabric, resistant to wind and water with excellent insulating properties.

Tweed and the Hunt

Tweed and the Hunt

The Arrival of Gentleman’s Tweed

The wearing of tweed entered a new phase when in the first half of the nineteenth century many estates in Scotland were acquired by English noblemen wishing to expand their life of leisure. In 1848, Prince Albert ignited a rush on Scottish estates when he purchased Balmoral. Although the foundation of the castle wasn’t laid until September 28, 1853, he designed The Balmoral Tweed earlier. Blue with white sprinkles and crimson in color, it was no coincidence that it looks grey from afar resembling the granite mountains of Aberdeenshire around Balmoral, because it was designed for deer stalking in the area. As such, one of the first Estate Tweeds was born and subsequently it became all the rage among estate owners to commission their own special tweeds.

 

Difference between Clan Tartans & Estate Tweeds

Two of the main families of tweeds are Clan Tartan Tweeds and Estate Tweeds, but what’s the difference? Think of it this way:

  1. Tweed is the general category that includes both varieties.
  2. A Clan Tartan identified the members of the same family no matter where they live. (Family based)
  3. An Estate Tweed used to identify people who live and work in the same estate, regardless of whether they are related or not. (Location based)

Because the tradition of Tartan was limited mostly to British noblemen, the estate owners focused on both the distinctiveness and the practicality of their tweed pattern.  After all, the tweed needed to provide camouflage for hunting and deer stalking.  As such, the colors were derived from the land itself and even the brightest were designed to blend in with the heather, timber, and rocky terrain.  You can get an idea of the color variety from the picture of the Scottish landscape above.

The book Scottish Estate Tweeds (1995) cites Glenfeshie as the first estate tweed, commissioned around 1835 for the estate’s ghillies and keepers.  The Glenfeshie was modified from a basic black and white check worn by the estate’s shepherds overlaid with a red windowpane and is the early relative of the “gun club” pattern. 

In fact, in 1874, the New York Gun Club adopted the Coigach estate tweed as its official livery.  However, the Club modified the tweed using two alternating darker colors together with the white of the Shepherd check thereby templating what is now known as the Gun Club check.

Glenfeshie Estate Tweed

Glenfeshie Estate Tweed

The variety of patterns and colors of tweed found today owe much to the originality of those 19th century estate owners.  Although these patterns were once restricted only to family members and workers of the estate—much like the regimental tie or school crest—today anyone can wear them.

Tweed: The Gentleman’s Sporting Fabric

Tweed was the ideal sporting attire of the 19th and early 20th century gentleman and as such it was the performance fabric of its time. The English gentry quickly adopted tweed as the ideal outdoor cloth on their upcountry estates. Wearing tweed made hunting, shooting, and fishing comfortably enjoyable pastimes.

Tweed also became popular among the 19th century Victorian middle classes who associated it with the leisurely pursuits of the aristocracy.  It was worn for virtually every sporting and adventure endeavor including golf, cycling, tennis, motoring, and mountain climbing.

 

Early golfers such as Old Tom Morris only played in tweed “plus fours,” and the wear of tweed for golf was nearly ubiquitous up until the 1930’s when summer flannel pants and polos starting becoming more popular.  This photo of an Irish golfer from 1915 gives an idea of what it was like.

It is also a little known ironic fact of history that during the Boer War, the Boers, in fighting against the British in their desperate struggle, overwhelmingly clothed themselves in tweed!

Today, tweed is the fabric of choice for vintage bicyclists, especially a modern-day cycling Tweed Run. Tweed truly was the cloth for all things sports and outdoors back in the day.  It was perfectly adapted to country pursuits as opposed to the darker wool suits worn in the city. This distinction between the leisure-based, earthy colored tweed and business focused grey, dark blue, and black suits perhaps gave rise to the so-called “no brown in town” rule, which has largely gone by the wayside with the possible exception of London.

Types of Tweed

Types of Tweed

Types of Tweed

It’s easy to get confused about types of tweed.  Some are named for the sheep that originally produced the wool, others are named for the region from which they came, still others are gathered up as part of a brand name, and yet more are named for the function they were called upon to perform.  The following discussion will help to make some sense of all this.

1. Tweed Named After Varieties of Sheep

 

a. Cheviot Tweed

Cheviot tweed is named after a breed of white faced sheep first kept in the Cheviot hills of Northumberland and the Scottish borders.  Cheviot yarn is generally larger, rougher, and heavier than other types of tweed.  It is a stiff fabric with a certain “sharpness” to the touch, and a bright luster.  Cheviot fabric is normally woven more tightly, making it well suited for country wear due to its firmness and durability and city wear due to its ability to drape well and hold a crease.

Take a look at this nice example of a brown Cheviot jacket:

Cheviot Tweed Jacket Worn by Michael Alden

Cheviot Tweed Jacket Worn by Michael Alden

b. Shetland Tweed

Shetland tweed was originally woven from sheep raised on islands of the same name.  The wools from these sheep is exceptionally fine with a soft, delicate and a slightly shaggy finish.  It is the epitome of a casual tweed.

Shetland Tweed

Shetland Tweed

2. Geographically Named Tweed

 

a. Donegal Tweed

The name is derived from the Irish county of Donegal.  The fabric is coarse which produces a rustic look, and features contrast-colored “neps” or “slubs” that produces a casual, sporty look.

b. Saxony Tweed

In the Middle Ages, Spanish sumptuary laws forbade the export of Merino producing sheep from the Christian areas of Spain.  As those laws were relaxed, in 1765 the King of Spain sent a herd of Merino sheep to his cousin the Elector of Saxony in 1765.  By the end of the century the state of Saxony had 4 million of these sheep.

Saxony tweed has a fine, short pile on its face and is very soft.  It is used to produce comfortably wearing Merino-based sport jackets and to some extent, suits. Back in the day, the British Bladen company provided the marvelous 700 grams Supasax tweed, which was a fantastic piece of Saxony Tweed.  Although the company is still in existence today and still produces this tweed in 650 grams made from dense and heavy lambswool it feels different than back in the day. Also the jacket styles are more limited. However, they also have a lighter 450 grams version that mixes wool and worsted yards that is well suited for office wear. 

Other Geographically Named Tweeds:  You may run across “Welsh,” “West of England,” and “Yorkshire” tweeds which are named for the areas in which they are manufactured.

3. Functionally Named Tweeds

 

a. Gamekeeper Tweed

Gamekeeper tweed is a heavier weight cloth (700g+ or 24oz+) for greater insulation and protection on cold days.  It can be found in a variety of patterns, weaves, and colors.

b. Sporting Tweeds

Sporting tweeds were developed as a form of indigenous camouflage to help hunters blend into the landscape particular to individual hunting estates. Color combinations were optimized to find the most effective combinations.  For instance, one local weaver produced eight color variations for the Strathconon Estate before enlisting hunters to prove which was least visible.  Tweed’s estate sporting background is the primary reason we have so many variations of patterns and colors today.

c. Thornproof Tweeds

A thornproof tweed is woven with high twist fibers to make the cloth tough and resistant to tears and punctures.  It was first used in 1870 in the Red River Rebellion in Canada, where troops wore a cloth made to resist the thorns. Thornproof is usually a plain, solid colored lightly grey-green fabric but also available with windowpanes.  It is extremely practical for hunting or hiking through thick underbrush, brambles, and gorse.  An interesting feature of thornproof tweed is that it is a self-repairing cloth.  If you were to push a sharp pointed object through the cloth to make a hole, all you need to do is massage the cloth between your thumbs and the hole will disappear.

Harris Tweed Orb Trademark

Harris Tweed Orb Trademark

Brand Named Tweed

Harris: The most famous brand named tweed is of course Harris.  Harris tweed has an open, loose twill weave that is rough to the touch.  First woven in the 18th century by crafters in the Outer Hebrides, it was introduced to the British aristocracy in the 1840s by Lady Dunmore.   To regulate and protect the fabric against imitations, the Harris Tweed Orb certification mark was created in 1909—the oldest British mark of its kind—with the definition, “only tweeds woven in the Outer Hebrides would be eligible.”  The use of the name was protected and only hand-spun and hand-woven products of 100% wool form the Outer Hebrides was allowed to use the Harris Tweed trade mark.

Today, the yarn is 100% pure virgin wool, but no longer hand spun. This change was introduced with the Hattersley mark 1 loom, the first kind operated by feet because the weavers were unable to produce the quantity or consistent quality necessary from hand spun yarn. Unfortunately, there was not enough wool from the Outer Hebrides to meet the demand, and hence 100% virgin wool from the UK is accepted now. Clothing made out of Harris Tweed will have trade mark label sewn into it.

Estate Overcheck Herringbone Tweed

Estate Overcheck Herringbone Tweed

Estate Named Tweeds

Estate named tweeds are associated with the particular estate for which they were commissioned.  These tweeds are remarkable for their variety in patterns, colors, and weaves.  This variety gives modern-day tweed wearers plenty of options from which to choose.

Common Tweed Patterns

Tweed comes in a variety of patterns and weavers that contribute to the look and durability of the fabric.

 

Plain Twill: This is a simple weave with a diagonal pattern running throughout.

Overcheck Twill:  A plain twill with a large checked design overlaid in contrasting color.

Plain Herringbone: Herringbone is so named because it looks like fish bones.  The direction of the slant alternates column by column to create ‘v’ shapes. The pattern is quite pleasing to the eye.

Overcheck Herringbone (Estate Tweed):   This pattern consists of a herringbone weave overlaid with a check in various colors.  Also known as estate tweeds.

Barleycorn: Barleycorn tweeds are typically coarse and have a weave that produces the effect of barley kernels when viewed close-up.  It is a very lively pattern.

Striped: Striped tweeds incorporate vertical line to create visible stripes of various sizes.

Houndstooth: This pattern resembles the back teeth of a dog and was found to be a very effective form of camouflage.  The larger houndstooth pattern is contrasted with the smaller “dogtooth.”

Checked: A pattern of horizontal and vertical lines that create small squares. It is sometimes enhanced by a larger overcheck in a different color.

Tartans and Plaids: The traditional Scottish cloth can be woven as a tweed.

Harris Tweed – A Modern-Day Tweed Manufacturing Drama

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6HLIBMS8Tk&t=09s

Tweed is as close to British national dress as you might get.  It is a fabric that arose from the land to reflect the heathered hills, patched by gorse and stone, and cut by cold-running streams.  For long, damp centuries, tweed was a peasant cloth that was appropriated for use by the landed gentry on their estates.  It wasn’t until King Edward VII took interest in it and brought the cloth to Savile Row that it really took off.  The cloth soon became an indispensable part of any aspiring gentleman’s wardrobe.

If tweed is a part of the British cultural patrimony, then Harris Tweed is its symbol.  Harris Tweed is protected by British law and in order to bear the mark of the Harris Tweed orb, the cloth must be woven by a Hebrides islander and finish in one of only a few factories on certain islands.

To be sure, Harris Tweed has established a place in men’s sartorial history, but over the years, its appeal seemed to wane.  Although there were 7 million yards of Harris Tweed woven in 1966, by 2006 the amount was down to 700,000.  Despite the legal protection, Harris Tweed still had to compete in the marketplace.

To complicate matters, the seemly limitless variety of Harris Tweed fabrics—and the cottage industry itself—was very nearly wiped out with a capitalistic wave of the hand.

In the winter of 2006, a veteran textile merchant by the name of Brian Haggas purchased the Kenneth Mackenzie Mill which produced 95% of the Harris Tweed still being made.  Soon thereafter he cut the number of Harris Tweed patterns from 8000 to just 4.

Haggas’ literal objective was to corner the market on Harris Tweed and bring modern manufacturing efficiency to the hand-crafted process. Faced with a being cut-off from what was a veritable cornucopia of tweed patterns, traditional cloth vendors scoured the countryside for small stashes of the more colorful versions.

Mr. Haggas with his 4 styles of tweed coats

Mr. Haggas with his 4 styles of tweed coats

In the meantime, Haggas began churning out thousands of Harris Tweed jackets outsourced to Chinese factories in 4 standard patterns and one standard cut.  Once the 75,000 jackets were warehoused, he set in place a “just-in-time” ordering process where he could supply any retailer, with any size and amount of jacket in just a few hours.  A true feat of enterprise and know-how.

Problem was, nobody bought the jackets. And factory workers were laid off. And weavers had nothing to weave.

Recognizing the dilemma, New York real-estate magnate Alan Bain set out to save what was left of a mortally wounded industry and bought one of the remaining Harris Tweed Mills.  Former British trade minister Brian Wilson did the same with another, leaving just two tiny mills to produce the world’s entire supply of authentic Harris Tweed–only 5% of what had been previously produced.

Out these dark times, however, emerged a marketing renaissance for Harris Tweed as the Harris Tweed authority began to court modern fashion designers of all stripes on the heritage, richness, and romance of the cloth.

 

It worked.

In addition, a huge stash of vintage Harris Tweed, including experimental types, was found languishing in a portside warehouse, there discarded by Haggas as unnecessary.   A veritable lost treasure of 8,000 iterations of the cloth.

Although the future of Harris Tweed has been irrevocably altered from that of its pastoral heritage, it remains an essential part of the sartorial landscape.  To be sure, the cottage industry is smaller, but the craft has survived as has the demand for this fine tweed by a discerning public.

Tweed Today

Although tweed does evoke stereotypes such as the Country Gentleman, The College Professor, and East Coat Intellectual, the cloth has experienced a renaissance in recent times and now carries with it a certain sophistication.

A long line of subculture movements such as the British Indie, hipster, Sloane rangers, and preppies has enthusiastically adopted tweed as a part of their wardrobe repertoire. This periodic “return to tweed” not only helps keep the tradition of tweed alive, but also serves to inject new life and energy into this iconic cloth.

Although tweed may still be the exclusive uniform for windswept Scottish estates, nowadays a thoughtful, well-tailored tweed jacket or suit evokes a certain refined flair for any man.  Its rustic outdoor heritage makes it a very democratic cloth, suitable for wear for all classes.

How to Wear Tweed?

Because tweed is inherently a cool weather fabric it goes well with autumn, cold-weather golfing, the opening of bird season, fall run trout, and crisp winter days. On the other hand, tweed is not ideally suited for classic white collar business outfits or more formal evening events.

A good rule of thumb for tweed is to wear it in any cool weather situation where a sport coat or casual suit is appropriate.  Weekends are great for tweed. Keep in mind too, that a new tweed jacket or suit will require some break-in time.  There are reports of people throwing their traditional tweed jackets against a wall to soften it up.  I don’t know if that’s actually done, but once a tweed jacket is broken in–wow–what a comfortably wearing garment.

Apart from the classic, rough tweeds, you can now find companies like Dashing Tweeds, who supply modern patterns and styles of this classic fabric. If you prefer a traditional look, but with a softer, more lightly woven tweed, you may want to take a look at Breanish Tweeds, who are known for their lightweight versions that are also gentle and fluffy to the touch.

 

True country tweed suits are hard-wearing, long-lasting garments.  Little details like collar closures, leather buttons, and hacking (slanted) pockets all add to the distinctiveness of the look.

If you’re really into tweed and the country lifestyle, you can go full bore with a Norfolk jacket.

Apart from that, there are endless ways to wear tweeds. Due to its country heritage, the vast majority of all tweed coats are tailored in a single breasted style with notched lapels and center vents, the vents being a nod to the adaption of jackets for horseback riding. Back in the day tweed suits were the normal wear option, whereas today you definitely see more sport coats than two piece and three piece suits.

If you fancy tweed, you should consider investing in a three piece tweed suit, perhaps even with knickerbockers, but whatever you decide, ensure you choose a weight that is appropriate to your climate and purpose. Suits made of heavy 700 gram fabrics will not be suitable for most people, unless they go shooting when it’s cold outside or the fabric is made up into a coat. Of course, a heavy 1000 gram Gamekeepers tweed may be great for some outdoor activity but if worn indoors, it will be likely too warm. On the other hand heavy tweed cloth makes for fantastic overcoats, such as an Ulster or Guards Coat.

For most, suits or sport coats made out of a 300 – 400 gram tweed cloth will be much more suitable for a number of different activities such as hiking or strolling.  As with anything, consider all these aspects before buying tweed so you are not stuck with a beautiful garment that just hangs in your closet because it’s too warm for you to wear.

With regard to shirts, most tweeds look better with shirts that are not white. Instead, choose pastel colors or patterned flannel shirts in Super 80s rather than a super 200s, because not only are they more in line with the country heritage, they also look better.

If you decide go with an odd jacket made of tweed, there are several good options for pants.  In general, a heavier wool is called for to match the weightiness of tweed fabric.  Flannel is a great choice as are corduroy (preferably wide wale), calvary twill, moleskin, and even waxed cotton.  Chinos could also work if the tweed is a lighter weight.  Some might even consider a sturdy pair of selvage jeans in a pinch.

For neckwear, wool, cashmere, or madder silk ties work great.  Knit ties in wool are recommended as well. Pocket squares should not be white but should complement your outfit with earthy or muted fall colors. For shoes, full brogues in all shades of brown, lace-up dress boots or jodpuhrs, and double soled derby’s are best.  Avoid oxfords as they are more formal and definitely don’t wear black shoes.

And let’s not forget the classic tweed driving cap favored by rally racers and golfers of yore.  These hats lend a dashing touch to a tweed-jacket or suit.

Of course, tweed is not only suited for apparel but also for duffel bags, luggage, gun cases, or even briefcases.  You can even find people who wear matching accessories with their bespoke tweed suits, which can look rather sophisticated.

 

Conclusion

I hope I was able to show you that that tweed is not the itchy, stuffy, stodgy fabric only worn by aging men, but rather a fabric with a rich and varied history that is also practical, versatile, and classically stylish. Although eminently suited for its original outdoor purpose as well as any cool weather casual occasion, it can certainly be worn in the city today especially in less formal environments or on the weekends.

Tweed: wear it well!

This article was mostly written by Joe Scherrer and amended as well as edited by Sven Raphael Schneider. Joe writes and curates the Tailored and Styled blog. The blog emphasizes classic dressing and is a place for aspiring, rising, and established professionals to receive in-depth style commentary, insight on the craft of custom tailoring as well as style tips and courses for improving their personal classic style.

More Information About Tweed:

Web Sites:

www.cordings.co.uk

www.harristweed.org

www.outofthecity.co.uk

www.bespokemears.co.uk

www.scotweb.co.uk

Books:

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street, Lara Platman, Frances Lincoln, 2011

Scottish Estate Tweeds, E.P. Harrison, Johnstons of Elgin, 1995

Videos:

Tweed Documentary in three parts.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-22825865

http://www.harristweedhebrides.com/collections/men

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-22825865

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfD839FAQ_8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2Z7DFSxADk

108 replies
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  1. Christopher Long
    Christopher Long says:

    I enjoyed this article very much. I would say that for many of those (in the British Isles) who wear tweed, it never really went away, and as such the notion of a ‘come-back’ is rather misplaced. However, I am not sure the ‘no brown in town’ rule has been relaxed – in the City of London, at any rate, you will see very few dressed in tweed.

    You mention clan tweeds and estate tweeds. I know also of at least one regimental tweed, that of the Queen’s Own Highlanders, whose officers had a specially woven tweed for off-duty wear.

    I would take issue with the advice concerning weight of cloth, although what has been written here may be from a North American rather than a British perspective. I disagree that 700 gram is not suited to most people ‘except when it is cold outside’ (for one thing, it’s cold outside at least 8 months of the year in Britain). In my view 700-750 is a better weight of tweed than 300-400 gram, which you advocate. I would say the latter is too light and will not show the drape and outdoor properties of tweed to best advantage. My own favourite is a 1000 gram thornproof tweed ‘ratcatcher’ hacking jacket, which I find ideal from November to the end of March.

    • Hal
      Hal says:

      Whilst it is true that wearing tweed never went away in the British Isles, it is also fair to say that it has had something of a resurgence in popularity in the last couple of years. A general interest in ‘heritage brands’ has helped it and Matt Smith’s Dr Who has also helped to promote the tweed look (even if, sadly, he was costumed in a Chinese tweed after first appearing in Harris tweed). It is once again a young man’s look, as well.

      More generally, a guide to buying tweed second hand might be helpful. Given how hard wearing it is there are plenty of vintage tweed jackets available. I personally own both new and old ones. Are there any things to look out for, though? Pitfalls to be avoided or recommendations for what to look out for?

      • Christopher Long
        Christopher Long says:

        The main pitfall is probably moth – that, or poor fit (obviously). I’m very tall and I would never find anything second hand that would fit, but I know there is a lot of good stuff out there in charity shops and on Ebay. In the UK, high street firms like Burton, Moss Bros, Dunn & Co and many others churned out huge amounts of tweed jackets and coats in the 60s and 70s, all to a quite high standard, if not exactly Savile Row. But speaking of which, you can even pick up bespoke on Ebay for very reasonable money. They say the best tweeds are all vintage in any case.

        Tweed is quite hard-wearing, but nevertheless expect signs of fraying and wear on cuffs, pockets, elbows buttonholes etc. These can be patched and bound quite convincingly (and correctly) with leather, although you will be skirting dangerously with the Geography master look.

        • Sven Raphael Schneider
          Sven Raphael Schneider says:

          With OTR pieces, you know they are symmetrical unless they have been altered. Bespoke pieces may have little intricacies such as more shoulder padding on one side, or a shorter sleeve, that I would not suggest to buy vintage bespoke suits without trying them on.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Christopher,
      I think it is all about perspective. The last time I was in London, I saw only very few well dressed men and a lot of very poorly dressed ones. If every body in London would wear a tweed suit and brown shoes in London today, people would be better dressed than they are now.
      Thanks for mentioning the regimental tweed. I have not heard about that but will look into it. Do you know anything else about it?
      The weight recommendation was geared towards most people. Personally, I love vintage fabrics from Reid & Taylor and I also have a thornproof that weights over 1000 grams but most people would likely be uncomfortable with that weight. Maybe In any case, I should add a section about heavier tweeds, though.

      • Christopher Long
        Christopher Long says:

        Sadly true – the English generally speaking go to no great trouble over their dress, tending even to be suspicious of those who do, and the same is true of London, if not more so. I was referring specifically to the City – the financial district – where business dress is fairly conservative, whereas in London generally tweed is sometimes seen, more so in the colder months.

        The Queen’s Own Highlanders merged with other Scottish regiments and no longer exists in its own right, but a distant cousin of mine was a colonel in the QOH and told me about the regimental tweed, which was specially woven for them in the regimental colours and for private purchase. They also had their own tartan, that of the clan Mackenzie. Unfortunately I never saw the tweed so can say no more about it.

        Re weight recommendations, I was beginning to wonder if the advice was aimed at people who never ventured outdoors, but clearly there must be many parts of the world where the heavier tweeds would be quite inappropriate – I was really referring to preferences in the British Isles, although even here, people often tend to dress with a view to the climate indoors rather than outside. One thing that is noticeable with vintage clothing in general is that it is usually a lot heavier than modern clothing – trousers and overcoats in particular.

  2. R. Scott Purdy
    R. Scott Purdy says:

    Excellent article! I greatly enjoy tweeds. I own five three-piece tweed suits, in various patterns and weights, about a dozen tweed odd jackets (and a similar number of tweed odd waistcoats), a full Norfolk jacket in a slate blue tweed with a medium brown windowpane, two pair of plus-fours, and two tweed overcoats (one with detachable top-cape). The variety in color, texture, and pattern in tweeds is enormous.
    So many tweeds, so little time.

  3. Mxolisi Ngonelo
    Mxolisi Ngonelo says:

    Hi Sven,

    This article couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve always wanted an indepth article on tweed and its provenance, qualities, differences. Most of the information I have is from style books, which is helpful but limited in a way. I enjoyed this article because it is substantive and the pictures do it a l ot of justice. I hope delve into some tweed next winter because it isn’t worn much in my country.

    Regards
    Mxolisi

  4. Tommaso
    Tommaso says:

    I am proud to inform you all dresses of Herbert Stricker photographed on this site were made by the great tailoring De Togni of Verona Italy.
    Great master tailor!
    Hello Herberrt , goodbye in tailoring!!
    TC

  5. S.G. Kilday
    S.G. Kilday says:

    Very thorough research and fantastically comprehensive article. I’m a sucker for Harris Tweed. Myself and my good lady spent a few days in the Outer Hebrides this year doing some tweed related research of our own. Took in a tour of one of the mills and even sat with a Harris Tweed weaver in his wee loom shed. We’ve took some great photos and posted them on our blog. You don’t make much money as a weaver, but the romance of it all is tempting enough to consider leaving the rat race and moving to the islands.

    Thanks for publishing this rather dapper piece!

  6. P J Weatherby
    P J Weatherby says:

    Truly a fascinating and enormously informative article my hat’s off to my Scherrer for sharing an in-depth comprehensive thorough dialogue with us to further our appreciation of the tweed cloth and it’s origin.

    Equally as well I personally enjoyed learning how to accessorize the tweed jacket with the proper shirt and tie however I would like to ask what would be the recommended pair of trouser e.g. flannel, chinos or wool? what would be suggested if one was interested in wearing a hat to perhaps complete the look driving cap of fedora?

    Greatly appreciate the fine efforts and indeed look forward with huge anticipation to future articles!

    P J Weatherby

    • Tweed Country Sports
      Tweed Country Sports says:

      For a traditional look I would recommend matching tweed jackets with corduroy, moleskin or cavalry twill trousers. Flannel trousers can be fine with less coarse and not to heavy tweeds. Chinos, cotton drills or denim jeans are less traditional options, but mostly it works fine, and not many would frown upon it today.

      As for head-wear a tweed flat cap is the number one choice, and it does not have to match the jacket fabric. A fedora might be a tad too formal to wear with tweed, better is a felt trilby or a tweed trilby. For a very casual look a knitted beanie is fine.

      Karl Oskar Källsner
      Tweed Conntry Sports

  7. John Cutler
    John Cutler says:

    Have used tweed in my bespoke tailoring business J. H. Cutler in Sydney for many years and am a great fan of this wonderful fabric. I really enjoyed reading this well researched article.

  8. Ahmed Sajeel
    Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Truly fabulous and echoes my love for tweed which currently stands at about 5 odd jackets. A beige Donegal tweed in herringbone seems quite likely to materialize as my first full tweed suit, these coming winters

  9. Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken
    Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken says:

    I must express my gratitude for this very insightful article. Again I know why this fine gazette stands out in its kind.
    As to the clichée of aged college professors wearing tweed I must remark that this is not forcingly a negative one. When working in the academia, it is not bad to be kept for a professor, so tweed is in fact a good choice for those striving to teach there, at least a better one than what average students on many a college wears. Clothes make the man.
    Greetings to the most noble author and all gentlemen of style

    • Christopher Long
      Christopher Long says:

      I do not by any means consider that cliché to be a wholly negative one, yet at least in the British Isles, the Geography master in his well-worn and elbow-patched tweed jacket does remain a rather fondly remembered yet nevertheless slightly eccentric figure from one’s past.

      Tweed is indeed a most excellent choice of fabric in any collegiate or academic environment, as you so rightly point out – even if only to set a good example.

  10. Alexandr Cave
    Alexandr Cave says:

    Two points. Tartan is not tweed – it is a high-twist wool twill or worsted which has the same thread count in both warp and weft, thus producing the symmetrical, mirrored patterning. The tartans that we know today are all recent inventions, many being devised in the in the last 50 years or so, and all except a few historical re-creations have been thought up in the past 200 years.

    In addition to its family, surname or clan connections, tartan also has a regional or district identity which gave rise to the district or estate tweeds. Before the era of rampant tartan invention, it was possible to identify a tartan or plaid wearer’s geographical origin by the colour and pattern, a tradition preserved in estate tweeds.

    An estate tweed is effectively work-wear livery for estate employees – keepers, ghillies and the like, but it is by no means worn by everyone living or working on the estate. An estate tweed is often bought as a complete piece, perhaps 30 yards long, and stored by the estate tailor to be used as an when required, often having been woven from wool produced on the estate.

    The reason tweed has never been accepted as appropriate for the office is that is is effectively sporting or work-wear. No matter how smart it may look, historically it has the same status as denim jeans or a nylon tracksuit. Post-war fashions have shuffled the social status of clothing, and tweed is now seen as formal suiting at weddings and in the boardroom – but as eccentric or showy in its original intended environment.

    • Hal
      Hal says:

      Is tweed ever ‘formal’?

      Even when worn as a suit I’d have thought the joy of it is it still carries the suggestion of something outdoorsy, a little less stuffy and a little more relaxed than a worsted or a flannel fabric. I know I could never get away with wearing tweed for my work – it would look inappropriate. For more relaxed environments, however, it might be ideal.

    • Christopher Long
      Christopher Long says:

      You raise an interesting point, that the article may have overlooked – that of tweed’s original quite lowly social status. It was at one time a quite rudimentary cloth, utilised for – as you say – ‘workwear’, largely in the Scottish Highlands by estate workers. Tweed nevertheless had functional characteristics that were attractive to 19th century gentlemen and aristocrats who had an interest in field sports – hunting, shooting and fishing. Tweed thereby gradually became a socially acceptable garb even in the very highest circles. Nevertheless, its associations with sport mean that it has never been accepted for business wear in the professions, other than in readiness for the weekend.

      • Alexandr Cave
        Alexandr Cave says:

        Tweed is never formal, despite its appearance in more formal settings in recent times – the same is true of is co-ordinating cloths, like corduroy and moleskin. Sporting gentlemen were quick to see the benefits of tweed, and adapted it to their own needs with top class tailoring as we know, but the cut of the clothing does not elevate its status.

        As the lounge suit has fallen in popularity even as regular office-wear, the suit per se has risen in the ranks of formality, so that any suit in any cloth is now regarded by many prohibitively formal. This includes the tweed suit. What was a generation or so ago held in reserve for damp after-noons on a wind-swept moor, has become the outfit of choice for dinners, weddings and the like.

        The tweed jacket (which may include the rest of the suit also) is referred to by the British Army as a ‘change coat’ and as a ‘half-change’ by public schools – acknowledging tweed’s status as something lower than military service dress, but confirming its durable functionality and relaxed comfort. The North American term ‘sports jacket’ has the same connotations.

        A century ago a gentleman would have in his wardrobe his morning clothes (frock-coat or morning tails), afternoon-clothes (lounge-suit in all its varieties that we know it) and week-end clothes (flannel suits for boating, motoring, travelling, etc., tweeds for outdoor country pursuits and field sports). Corduroy and moleskin, hugely popular with all social ranks today, were the rigid preserve of manual workers and the envy of their social superiors (a man in corduroys could not be a gentleman) until the latter half of the the 20th century.

        A form-fitting tweed suit might look and feel smarter than most modern off-the-peg clothes available in the high street, but its formality status remains the same as jeans and denim jacket.

  11. JC
    JC says:

    Would it be acceptable to wear a tweed sport coat with worsted wool trousers? I’m thinking of a grey herringbone or Donegal sport coat with say charcoal or black pleated trousers and black full brogue wing tips. Brooks Brothers has a Harris Tweed waistcoat. Could this be paired with a worsted blazer/sport coat and trousers? You say no black shoes, but it they are a full brogue? As you can tell, I’ve never dealt with combining two very different textures Dankeshohn .http://www.brooksbrothers.com/Harris-Tweed-Lambswool-Vest/MM00073,default,pd.html?dwvar_MM00073_Color=BLCK&contentpos=1&cgid=

    • Alexander Cave
      Alexander Cave says:

      Matching tweed and wool separates usually works very well, but you can spoil the effect if you mis-match cloth weights colours and textures.

      Your idea of a grey herringbone jacket and charcoal trousers (flannel perhaps) with black brogues would be quite right and proper, but I would caution aginst adding a Harris tweed waistcoat to the mix unless it is the same cloth as the jacket. A better option would be a grey wool waistcoat of another cloth (doeskin and moleskin always work very well) or another colour that would brighten up to outfit – say maroon, scarlet or even tattersall check. A plain lambswool or cashmir slip-over is a more relaxed alternative.

      Most of the Scottish and Irish tweed clothing manufacturers now offer sets of jacket and waistcoat only, as so many men now feel a full suit is too much. These are seen advertised being teamed with cords in russet autumn shades as well as brighter (such purple, mid-tone blue) colours, while the countryman’s old favourite of lovat or olive moleskin cannot be beaten as a great classic look.

      Have a look at Cordings of Piccadilly (www.cordings.co.uk) for inspiration – they have posted a few short films on YouTube that give advice on style and choice. But beware – tweed is addictive! You might start with a gentle grey herringbone, but you soon move onto the hard stuff of bright windowpane overchecks, hill-checks and gun-checks, and the habit is impossible to kick!

  12. Rosa Rodgers
    Rosa Rodgers says:

    Information on this site is really useful as I’m doing a tailoring course. Would it be at all possible to send me samples or even scraps for a “mood board”.

    Mrs Rosa Rodgers

    39 Burford Road
    EVESHAM
    WR11 3AG
    United Kingdom

    Many thanks,

    Rosa Rodgers

  13. Kory D.
    Kory D. says:

    Thank you for a great article! I think I was an English country gentleman in a past life, for I am mad for tweed. Alas, finding patterns, weaves and cuts that I like are difficult to find in Silicon Valley and the weather here does not give me as much opportunity to wear my meager collection as oft as I’d like. Online is a risk as I am a difficult fit and RTW rarely fits and made to oder is currently out of my finances so I troll the vintage shops regularly.

  14. Michael Yost
    Michael Yost says:

    The shoes at the end are an abomination and should be cast into the outer darkness of “high fashion” from whence they no doubt came. Otherwise, an informative article.

  15. Felix A. D'Haeseleer
    Felix A. D'Haeseleer says:

    Thank you very much for the well researched entry on Tweed. Who makes the greenish tweed jacket pictured on top ? Yes I am a retired professor, yes I have several heavy weight Orb Tweed jackets; I fit the stereotype………That greenish tweed is a must have.

  16. Felix A. D'Haeseleer
    Felix A. D'Haeseleer says:

    Thank you Monsieur Schneider for your answer; a vintage piece in a thriftshop in Mineapolis…..impossible to track the maker unless you got it for yourself, I wish you did.
    May be fellow readers have a hint.
    Félicitations pour votre site.

  17. JohnHP
    JohnHP says:

    This is a very interesting article- a good compilation of the various sources on the history of tweed. It really hasn’t gone out of style in the circles of those in the know. We make our own brand of Border Tweed in the Lake District of Cumbria. And for Kory D., a tweed bag bought online offers little risk in the way of not fitting correctly- might be an option? ;)

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] If you get a single breasted vest in buff or sand you can wear it as a morning waistcoat or with a stroller suit, business suit in solids or pinstripes as well as sport coats and tweed suits. […]

  2. […] So much vintage tweed goes through the shop this time of year that there’s hardly a chance to enjoy it all, the wondrous variety of dyes and weaves, patterns and textures. Prized for its warmth, water resistance, visual interest, and durability of use and style, a man’s tweed jacket—or his coat, suit, cap, tie–can become a lifetime member of his wardrobe, sheltering him in style season after season. The same practical and aesthetic qualities are what make tweed a favorite for vintage shoppers. All of the above photo details come directly from the past and soon-to-be-past shop, pieces we’ve loved and lost. Some favorite features are included like hacking pockets, suede patches, built-in belts, felted collars that button, as well as herringbone, houndstooth, stripes, plaids, and that Harris Tweed label that’s always a welcome find. If you’d like a less sentimental look at tweed—more on the noble history of the fabric and its patterns—I won’t do you any better than the recent treatment by the gentleman at Gentleman’s Gazette. […]

  3. […] with almost anything, ranging from jeans to cavalry twill and corduroy to flannel, worsteds and tweed. Unlike black, brown comes in an endless variety of shades allowing you to really create a […]

  4. […] and two vividly colored ties. In his hands, he is holding a Norfolk jacket which is made out of tweed. In the trunk to his right, you can see a double-breasted dinner coat with massive lapels and […]

  5. Wardrobe - Cad & The Dandy

    says:

    […] Clothing: A Global History Tweed Guide – The Curiously Compelling Story of Tweed via The Gentleman’s Gazette Advertising and Propaganda in World War II: Cultural Identity and the […]

  6. […] exactly what they were designed for. This last was not made for fine city worsteds but for tweeds and corduroys. As such, I find the styling spot on. In terms of the last width, I’d say it is […]

  7. […] Tweed Guide – The Curiously Compelling Story of Tweed … […]

  8. […] to its informal nature, a hacking jacket is always made of tweed and not of the more formal melton cloth or cavalry twill used for more formal horseback attire. […]

  9. […] from Gentleman’s Gazette will get you ready with the best article I’ve read about tweed. Among other anectodes you’ll learn about the difference between Clan Tartans & Estate […]

  10. […] the other week, we welcomed the fall season with our essential tweed guide, and while you now know what some great fall fabric looks like, you may still be looking for a new […]

  11. […] slim fit suits. Flat front trousers in combination with a dress shirt and a sports coat, preferably tweed. Fitted Chino pants matched with a dress shirt and a navy […]

  12. […] and the camel hair jacket online and if you are on a budget from a local consignment shop. Harris tweed rarely wears out, so two or three owners may enjoy a jacket. Read the Gentleman’s Gazette and […]

  13. […] vävtekniker, kavajmodeller, tips och råd osv, ALLT betas av. Rekommenderad läsning på http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/tweed-guide-harris-history-styles-patterns/ Mycket […]

  14. […] So, without further ado, from the Gentleman’s Gazette, […]

  15. […] keen to gather their attention. The chap to his right wore a Norfolk jacket which was available in tweed, shetlands, camel hair and linen. The slacks were made of flannel and available in various […]

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