By John Wrigglesworth, owner of The Sporting Lodge in Sandside, Cumbria
Gone are the days of seeing 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 until it rained and it gave off a particular odour and turned into a form of cardboard that provided an ideal bed in the boot of a Landrover for the soggy old dog.
Scottish and English mills are the masters of producing this indestructible fabric. 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. 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 buy into brands that only manufacture with British tweed be they French, Italian or German manufacturers. One English manufacturer worthy of mention is that of James Purdey and Sons one of the oldest gun makers in the world who produce the most exquisite tweed clothing all made in the UK. This tweed is of a mid-weight construction and every detail of the manufacture of the clothing is tried and tested on all shapes and sizes of men and women. Their clothing is made to be worn for years hence it is weaved 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!