Gone are the days of grandfathers and charity shops adorned with tweed jackets and trousers. Tweed has seen a revival in the past decade, once the mainstay of large country estates with workers clad head to toe in their estate tweed, which was made specifically in the colours of their particular landscape. It was always a heavy, unlined (yet durable) fabric – that is, until it rained, gave off a particular odour and turned into a form of cardboard that provided an ideal bed in the boot of a Land Rover for the soggy old dog.
Scottish and English mills are the masters of producing this indestructible fabric, and today’s tweed has undergone a revolution in manufacturing. Made lighter with a very tight yarn, some coat it with Teflon and most tweed outerwear features a waterproof membrane to keep the elements at bay.
Tweed was always considered a working fabric, or an essential piece of kit for the country gentleman once the stalking shooting seasons opened. A tweed jacket was a must at luncheon, finished off with a pair of cavalry twills and the beloved English brogues. Over the years, The Sporting Lodge has sourced tweed from its favourite suppliers in Scotland and Northern England – and these suppliers now manufacture tweed for the world’s finest designers. Once we rubbed shoulders with a grandfather kitting out his grandson with his first shooting suit; now we find we are buying with the likes of designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Lauren.
This time-honoured cloth is now seen in all our high street stores in all colours of the spectrum, to suit the needs of the fashionista and all pockets. We continue to purvey brands that only manufacture with British tweed; be they French, Italian or German manufacturers. One English manufacturer worthy of mention is James Purdey and Sons, one of the oldest gun makers in the world, who produce exquisite tweed clothing all made in the UK. This tweed is of a mid-weight construction, and every detail of their clothing manufacture is tried and tested on all shapes and sizes of men and women. Their tweed is made to be worn for years, hence woven from the finest wool, and constructed to allow freedom of movement whether in the field or driving to work.
What to look for when buying tweed?
- Mid-weight is always preferable.
- Garish colours should be avoided, as tweed should always represent the colours of the countryside – unless you have seen a pink sheep!
- Tweed should always be lined.
- Steer clear of bulky padded or heavy drop liners – this will make the cloth crease.
- Beware of Teflon or waterproof coatings as these do not allow the wool to breathe, which is a must for any woollen fabric. They will stop staining, but your friends will notice your odour before they see you!
A tweed coat or jacket should always be viewed as an investment for the future. If treated well, tweed should last you a lifetime. And its only partner should be a well-made wooden coat hanger after a hard day in the field or a saunter round the city.