One of the few compensations for the end of summer is the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with our winter wardrobes. Despite the industry trying to sell us the benefit of perennial suiting, the sophisticated dresser will always have a good amount of seasonal clothing to call upon. For autumn and into even cooler months, this should include a healthy amount of flannel and tweed.
Tweed is a wonderful fabric that allows even the most conservative gentleman to have a little colour in their clothing. The home of tweed is Scotland, and the name itself derives from a misreading of the word ‘tweel’ (the Gaelic word for twill) by a clerk at a London cloth merchant on a delivery from a mill in Hawick. It was an understandable mistake: the river Tweed was only a few miles from the mill in the Scottish borders. Future orders for tweed were not corrected, and the name stuck. Tweed was the cloth of choice for the fashionable 19th-century sporting activities of shooting and fishing. The thick, coarse yarns produced garments that were hardwearing and in colours that could blend into the surroundings. Private estates would commission their own tweeds to be worn by the ghillies, keepers and stalkers. These designs often contained variations of windowpanes, shepherd’s checks and houndstooth patterns. Perhaps the most famous of these ‘glen checks’ is the Glenurquhart check of the Seafield estate in Inverness-shire. It was greatly admired by the son of Queen Victoria, the future Edward VII, while hunting there, and he used the design to create his own ‘Prince of Wales’ check. Unlike that other Scottish woollen — tartan — estate tweeds are geographical in nature, and whoever owns the land has the right to the cloth. There is some snobbery as to whether the tweed should be worn by the ‘laird’ or if it should be considered a form of servant’s livery. Donegal tweed is woven on the east coast of Ireland and is famous for its flecks of colour in the salt and pepper design and used to be entirely woven by hand. Harris tweed is woven in the Outer Hebrides, on the islands of Lewis and Harris, and is still produced on handlooms. Both cloths have a lot of character, are incredibly versatile, and have been used extensively in upholstery and accessories. For this autumn/winter, The Rake has collaborated with Harris Tweed Hebrides on an exclusive dark green windowpane cloth that is inspired by the Hebridean landscape. Walker Slater, an Edinburgh-based contemporary tweed specialist, has used the cloth for a sports jacket, which will be available from October*.