2017 Tailoring

Coming to Terms with Tweed

By Aleks Cvetkovic

Jul 13, 2022

Coming to Terms with Tweed

Overcoming a deep-seated aversion to the stuff, Aleks Cvetkovic finally comes to terms with tweed, discovering its unequalled powers of self-expression. (Originally published in Vol. 1 of Common Thread, under the title 'The Power to Transport'.)

I’ve always found tweed a curious thing. As a sartorial obsessive I feel like I should have more of an affinity towards it than I do. Perhaps because I’m in my early twenties and spent three years at one of the stuffiest universities on the planet, I’ve experienced some sort of psychological allergic-reaction to it. I’m not sure.

It’s certainly true that, even now, when I spot a certain type of self-aware, windswept gentleman wandering down the street in scuffed driving shoes, needlessly slim red chinos and a loud green and orange tweed sport coat, I can’t help but twinge a little inside. It’s a shame, because as I learned only recently, tweed at its most original and honest has quite a different power of transportation. On a trip to a fifteenth century tweed mill in the Scottish highlands I had an epiphany; I saw tweed in the context of its natural environment. The mill was untouched by time, nestled in a secluded gully with a stream trickling under a stone bridge, fighting against the onset of moorland moss and weeds. Within, two rickety, click-clacking looms weaving cloth at a painfully slow pace chugged away. Somehow, watching the warp and weft passing through the loom, like a pendulum swinging from side to side, felt like witnessing a process entirely connected to the natural world; the cold current of the stream passing through the mill’s water-wheel, the chill breeze rattling at the windowpane and whistling through the cracks in the wooden workshop doors.

And that’s the point. At its most authentic, tweed is a gorgeously traditional cloth—rough, rustic and connected to its age-old history and heritage. The best weavers draw upon the unchanged world of the highland landscape for inspiration and acknowledge that tweed is, at its most fundamental, an ancient fabric, designed to reflect and tame the elements. It’s born both as a complement and a challenge to the world around it. This is the tweed I like: deep, dark forest green patch-pocket blazers with belted-backs, shades of brown in formidable double-breasted sports coats; the colours of cold Scottish coastlines cut into deceptively soft jackets, finished with a three-roll-two front and leather football buttons; chilly grey herringbone blazers in subtle shades of lavender or moorland heather. Forget disconnected, privately-educated checks and clashing colours—tweed has the power to be a truly sophisticated, ephemeral cloth, one that speaks of its extraordinary island origins.

Tweed is at its best when it retains a connection to the context in which it is woven—it has to be earthy and robust. It should combine the tones of the autumnal landscape. It has a wildness about it that one should not seek to lose when wearing it. Tweed is a tool for straightforward self-expression, not to be meddled with; the same way the Scots know you don’t add ice to a distinctive whisky.

So what came of my journey up to the frozen north? Quite apart from this realization, I started to appreciate the beauty to be found in tweed at its most simple. Tweed should be about subtlety of texture and tone, something indestructible yet effortless. It’s a stable backbone for a wardrobe, dependable and distinct, one less thing to worry about on the rush out the door each morning. In the end, tweed endures because it’s cloth at its most elemental.

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