An Appreciation of Tweed

27 March 2009 // Miscellany

by Ben Myers;

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Sometimes it’s just a case of seeing things with fresh eyes.

Just over a year ago, quite out of the blue, I was suddenly gripped by an overwhelming urge – or maybe compulsion is a better word – to bedeck myself in tweed. I know. I was surprised too. But these compulsions cannot be ignored; they are there for a reason. Just as your body demands carbohydrates in the winter, so too it seems it cries out for tweed when you’ve passed the point of basing your look on old photos of Johnny Thunders and Carlito Brigante.

Forever associated with gallivanting upper class landowners drunk on the possibility of smearing their flabby chops with some poor foxes’ blood, tweed is alien territory for someone like me whose wardrobe is entirely assembled from those twin totems of any self-respecting, self-employed broke fuck up who resolutely refuses to get a job: Primark of Peckham and Scope.

But last year something snapped and I found myself easing myself into a Dannimac Leisure Jacket which, although only 60% wool, was nevertheless made from a cut that could not be ignored. I bought it immediately.

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Once you’ve tried on a fine tweed – even if it is only pretend tweed – there’s no going back. It’s like crack; all it takes is a taste. Soon enough people began to remark on my new tweed as I strode through the city with a new found confidence. While some approved, others – specifically five fat cackling women outside my local pub – were so abusive I narrowly missed an altercation. I also found myself taking regular excursions out to country houses in alien territories like Hampshire and Somerset whereupon I would don my tweed and treasured Alfred Sargents and walk about pointing at shrubbery as if it were my own.

None of this comes from a desire to be a country gent, you understand. I’m not Alex James. I’m from Northern suburbia; I can’t fake it. Instead my actions were merely being dictated by the tweed tight across my back. I’m not alone in this – the Band Of Historical Hillwalkers are a group dedicated to “the exploration of the great outdoors wearing attire made by underpaid adult craftsmen in the United Kingdom, as opposed to fashion-wear made by underpaid children in the Pacific Rim.”

Therefore traditional tweeds and stout leather boots are in, while Gore-Tex, thinsulates, fleeces – surely the sartorial evil of the modern age – and other such gaudy trappings of the fell-walking world are “objectionable impostors”. (It should come as no surprise that Billy Childish is a member).

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Instead TBBH like to wander freely, contemplating the landscape, taking pinhole photos and engaging with the world. Their most recent field trip was to the High Atlas mountains of Morocco – a testing place for any tweed lover – which resulted in some new artwork. Their next jaunt is closer to home – Kent’s Bossenden Woods on May 31. Apparently all tweed lovers are welcome.

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