When there’s a nip in the air, the sky is grey and overcast, or the weatherman calls for a chance of flurries, there’s only one thing to reach for––tweed. Why tweed? Because nothing blends style and function like this multi-colored woolen cloth. It’s rugged enough for the bleachers at the football game, yet dapper enough for the office. Tweed. It’s something you need.
Tweed was developed in Scotland, and if they decide tweed is the best fabric for their weather, you know it’s good. Interestingly, the name tweed came about through an error. A clerk, writing an invoice for the cloth saw the word “tweel” which is Scottish for “twill.” The clerk wrote “tweed” instead and the name was born. There’s no mention in the story if he was fired for this, but we don’t recommend making the same mistake and try to explain it your boss by saying you were creating a new word.
Harris tweed, from the Isle of Harris in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, is the most famous. Originally hand-woven, it stood out because it incorporated subtle flecks of color by using native dyes to achieve hints of red, orange, rust, and brown throughout the cloth. How do you know you’ve got an authentic Harris Tweed garment? Look for their unmistakable Orb logo.
Tartan, which incorporated a Scottish clan’s tartan pattern into the weave, and Linton, which provided patterns like a black and white check, were other early tweeds. Now, tweed fabrics come in an almost limitless variety of weights and colors to suit the garment that is being made. Some of the most popular patterns are herringbone, glen plaid, and broken check.
Because of its heavy weight, and rather rough texture, tweed at first was used primarily for jackets and topcoats. It’s warmth and natural water resistance made it ideal for roaming the moors in search of grouse. Now, lighter and much softer weaves are available so you can comfortably roam the office in style. You’ll find tweed suits, vests, pants, hats, and even ties to add to your wardrobe. If you’re just getting into tweed, start with a sport coat.
As you might expect, a tough, durable fabric like tweed doesn’t need to be overly cared for. Treat it like you do your wool sport coats and suit jackets. Always hang it up. And get it dry-cleaned once or twice a year. That’s another nice thing about tweed—you don’t have to baby it.
The Way To Wear It
Tweed is a favorite because the flecks of color in the weave lend it a wonderful depth. This gives you a wide variety of color choices to pair it with. Pick a minor color in your tweed sport coat and wear pants in that color. And don’t be afraid to throw on a pair of red twill pants, either. The most adventurous pairings look the best. Remember this, though: the more prominent and busy the pattern is, the less you’ll be able to pair it with. Also, because tweed has an outdoorsy feel, make sure you wear shoes that display this same kind of rugged attitude. Upland boots, brogues, or chukkas are all great choices.
“Knit ties are something to keep in mind when wearing tweed,” says Jason Nickel, Editor here at Of Rogues and Gentlemen. “They both have a great amount of substance and texture to them which makes for great pairings.”
The Men Of Tweed
Yes, we’ll admit that tweed has been associated with wimpy types like Woody Allen. But remember this: “Dirty Harry” Callahan and Jim Rockford—two icons of tough, manly cool—also wore tweed. Tough guys wear tweed. Period. The wimpy guys are just trying to seem less wimpy by wearing it. Are you going to tell this guy he’s in the wrong jacket? No, you’re not.
The Appeal Of Tweed
It’s a fabric that can handle some tough weather conditions and still look great out on the town. And the depth of colors and patterns in its weave impart a refined ruggedness to the person wearing it. And, hey, if you’re still on the fence, just think of Dirty Harry wearing a tweed sport coat while striking fear into the hearts of criminals everywhere. If that doesn’t have you feeling the need for tweed, then nothing will.
You may also want to check out the Esquire Fall Shopping Guide: 10 Tweed Jackets For Right Now.