It’s time to forget everything you thought you knew about tweed. Reimagined for autumn/winter 2015, this heritage cloth – worn for centuries – now comes rendered in cuts and designs to reflect the modern man’s lifestyle. This season tweed is more downtown than Downton Abbey.
Here, we explore how this tradition-steeped fabric graduated from country pursuits to key AW15 runways and show you how to wear tweed without looking like you’ve just lost track of the shooting party.
What Is Tweed?
Tweed – at least its most recognisable form – emerged in 18th century Scotland out of a need for a material that would make hard-wearing, well-insulated tailoring and outerwear. Woven sturdily from coarse virgin wool in dusky, earthy colours, this original performance fabric provided farmers on the Outer Hebrides with a means of staving off damp, chilly conditions.
As fabrics go, tweed can take more rough and tumble than most – its twill construction boasting resistance to both wind and water – and was to the 18th century farmer a bit like what Lycra is to the modern-day cyclist.
Much like its cousin cloth tartan, tweed comes in a vast number of varieties – including the renowned Harris and Donegal variations, both crafted in accordance with a strict set of conditions – each with its own subtle design features that mark it apart.
Then, there are patterns, four of which are worth your immediate attention. Firstly, there’s plain tweed, which is woven into a twill design ranging from a lightly mottled weave to distinct stripes, and is by most accounts the easiest to wear.
Secondly, herringbone tweed, which boasts a distinctive V-shaped pattern, is known for its rich visual texture and loved for its versatility.
And finally, at the more attention-grabbing end of the scale, houndstooth tweed (characterised by a bold broken check design) and overcheck tweed (large windowpane checks) offer more statement-making takes on this time-honoured cloth.
Why Wear It Now?
Over the years tweed’s ruggedly masculine yet classically charming appearance has lent itself to the wardrobes of farmers and landed gentry, making it one of menswear’s most democratic fabrics. Fast-forward over a century and its appeal is just as far-reaching, with leaders in contemporary tailoring – from Canali to Ermengildo Zegna – as well as high street heavyweights like ASOS and River Island all offering their takes on the centuries-old style.
Why? It’s simple. Tweed is every bit as hardy and practical (not to mention stylishly smart) as it was all those years ago.
Proof that tweed has shaken off its stuffy reputation is the fact that you’ll find just as much of it in autumn/winter 2015 collections as you would languishing in mounds of dust at the back of an old wardrobe.
British stalwarts Hackett London and Barbour both paid homage with their AW15 presentations, the latter layering the fabric with more contemporary padded pieces for an inventive twist. Elsewhere, family-run brand Orley produced a collared zip-up jacket in classic Harris Tweed, bringing an old-world charm to a modern silhouette.
If a whole host of the UK’s most-watched brands wasn’t enough, London Collections: Men ambassador Tinie Tempah also joined forces with the Museum of London and designer Patrick Grant to create his own one-of-a-kind tweed suit to wear on the FROW of LC:M’s hottest shows.
And if it’s good enough for Tinie…
How To Wear Tweed
Granted, the fabric has more than a whiff of old-school style, but, worn wisely (read: not with jodhpurs and a shotgun), tweed hits that sartorial sweet spot between classic and contemporary. In a nutshell, it’s one of menswear’s certified all-rounders, working just as well in the form of a blazer worn with a button-down and jeans, as in the shape of a three-piece suit.
“Tweed has infinite possibilities for wear during autumn and winter,” says Chris Chasseaud, Style and Features Editor at Ape to Gentleman. “Not only is it warm, but it can also smarten an outfit instantly.”
Tempted to try your hand at tweed but not sure where to start? A plain variety should be your first port of call.
Try teaming a plain tweed blazer with a neutral tee, roll neck or cold-weather shirt, a pair of dark wash jeans and some leather boots. It’s a look that nods to British heritage without being too outdatedly rah.
- Topman Harris Tweed Brown Twist Pure Wool Skinny Fit Blazer
- M&s Collection Luxury New Pure Wool Harris Tweed Check 2 Button Jacket With Buttonsafe
- J. Crew Ludlow Jacket In English Donegal Tweed
- John Lewis Harris Tweed Premium Blazer Green
- Beams Plus Grey Herringbone Harris Tweed Blazer
- Suitsupply Havana Burgundy Check
- Wooyoungmi Wool-blend Herringbone Tweed Trousers
- River Island Beige Tweed Skinny Suit Trousers
- Acne Studios Aron Cropped Tweed Trousers
- Incotex Slim-fit Wool-tweed Trousers
- Austin Reed Contemporary Fit Donegal Tweed Trousers
- French Connection Washed Herringbone Tweed Trousers
One of the simplest ways to incorporate the fabric into your sartorial arsenal – and one that’s guaranteed to see your personal style score soar – is to take tweed to your tailored outerwear. A black or grey herringbone tweed overcoat will make a statement while still working with most of your wardrobe.
But don’t get too heavy-handed: an eye-catching monochrome print works best with pared-back pieces, so try styling yours with a charcoal knit, black jeans and a pair of black leather zipped boots for an on-trend head-to-toe effect.
- Folk Wool-tweed Overcoat
- J. Crew Unconstructed Italian Tweed Topcoat
- Suitsupply Blue Double-breasted Coat
- A.p.c. Herringbone Wool-tweed Coat
- Acne Studios Grey Single Breasted Tweed Coat
- Nn.07 Aaron Navy Wool Blend Tweed Coat
- Boss Hugo Boss Tweed Coat
- Faith Connexion Harris Tweed Coat
- Oliver Spencer Tweed Coat
At The Office
Worn in a more formal setting, tweed has the annoying tendency of making you look like you’re the kind of person with a stick you-know-where.
So, avoid earthy greens and browns, and instead opt for a fine weave grey tweed suit paired with a white shirt, deep navy tie and oxblood double monk-strap shoes. It’ll strike the right balance of brave and business-appropriate that will win you praise at the office.
- Devils Advocate Blue Fleck Tweed Suit Jacket
- J. Crew Ludlow Double-breasted Suit In English Donegal Tweed
- Acne Studios Grey Aron Slim-fit Wool-tweed Suit
- Green Donegal Tweed Slim Fit Suit
- John Lewis & Co. Ainsworth Donegal Tailored Suit
- Skopes James Suit
- Ralph Lauren Black Label Birdseye Suit
- Moschino Vintage Checked Tweed Suit
- Jaeger Wool Tweed Modern Suit
Tweed may most often be drawn upon for outerwear and tailoring, but don’t forget that accessories offer a subtle way to add some texture to your look this autumn/winter.
Steer clear of the obvious – tweed flat caps should be left to your grandfather – and instead consider adding a tweed bag (holdalls and backpacks in particular), tie, pair of gloves or scarf to your cold-weather collection.
If those options seem a little safe, try a tweed snapback or even footwear – Timberland is offering some superb leather/tweed boots this season, while adidas has reworked its iconic Gazelle ’70s model in a brown tweed upper.
- Brunello Cucinelli Tweed-panelled Leather Brogues
- Timberland Britton Heel Tweed Shearling Look Boots
- Adidas Adidas Originals Gazelle 70s Tweed
- Barbour Tweed Holdall
- Next Herringbone Briefcase
- Asos Snapback Cap With Grey Nep Tweed
- J. Crew Lambswool Marled Glen Tweed Hat
- Andersons Harris Tweed & Suede Belt
- Grey Herringbone Tweed Gloves
- River Island Grey Tweed Pocket Square
- Polo Ralph Lauren Reversible Scarf
- J. Crew Extra-long English Silk Tweed Tie
How To Care
Tweed may boast a well-deserved reputation for being a rugged, robust material, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t need a little TLC every now and then. The cloth’s tight weave gives it its much-loved finish, but it also means that it’s particularly vulnerable to picking up hard-to-shift stains.
If you do end up with tainted tweed, steer clear of the washing machine. Tweed’s wool fabrication means it’s prone to shrinkage so always visit a specialist dry cleaner when tackling stains and only have yours cleaned when absolutely necessary.
Remember: prevention is far better than cure. Keep your tweed safe by storing it properly. Hang your tweed jackets and outerwear on thick, padded hangers and neatly fold your tweed trousers rather than hanging them.
Also worth bearing in mind is how tasty moths find your tweed – stop mysterious holes appearing by keeping your pieces in a cool, dry place, ideally covered in plastic to ensure they remain in pristine condition.
Having shrugged off its old-fashioned connotations, tweed has come to consolidate itself as a modern-day menswear staple. Insulating, brimming with heritage and exceptionally versatile, it’s little wonder why.
Are you convinced by tweed’s AW15 makeover or is the fabric still more fuddy-duddy than fashionable for you?
Share your thoughts below.
How To Wear Tweed Today
Why this centuries-old cloth is still a menswear classic
Image: Massimo Dutti Barbershop Collection AW15