The Need for Tweed 

Tweed is synonymous with British countryside life and style, evolving with modern trends but keeping its traditional values. Emma Sandham has more.

Tweed is synonymous with British countryside life and style. It has its origins in the 18th century and became popular in the 19th, with the 15th Duke of Norfolk inventing the shooting jacket in the mid to late 1800s. Worn by dukes, princes and kings, the history of tweed in the country set is entwined with class, gender and fashion. Today, tweed is still a go-to for men and women in outdoor pursuits, but also an elegant look for anything from a day at the races in a smart blazer, to an elegant cape as the perfect black-tie ensemble.

Blending heritage and contemporary style

As time moves on, the style of tweed has taken a modern twist, while always giving a nod to its traditional values. Both men and women have been able to adapt their look in the field, and in the city, to be both stylish and practical. “Although it is associated by many with heritage, and there is heritage there, tweed is not a ‘fuddy duddy’ thing – just great British and Irish wool, beautifully woven and presenting endlessly versatile possibilities in colour,” says Anne-Sofie Lucan, founder of country clothing brand Lucan Fashion.

The variation of bright colours for casual and dress tweeds, alongside the classic greens, browns and blacks for shooting attire, mimics designs from decades ago. “The Victorians – very much the inventors of tweed, if not of heritage – were never afraid to explore great contrasts of colour with it,” continues Anne-Sofie.

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Similarly, experimenting with colour is at the heart of Jade Holland Cooper’s designs. “I have found tweed to be one of the most workable fabrics, as it is so versatile, and available in so many different colourways than we often see,” says founder and designer Jade. “A prime example of this is the soft pink Anniversary Knightsbridge blazer. I love mixing it up and mismatching tweeds, for an extra level of style – tweed clothing is no longer reserved just for the countryside.

“Tweed has completely evolved since I founded Holland Cooper,” she continues. “At the time, the material was thought of as green and itchy, and associated with being stuffy. I saw a gap in the market and set about designing pieces made from tweed that were feminine, contemporary and stylish. Holland Cooper is now the leading buyer of tweed in the UK.”

Performance threads

Many experts in the industry treat tweed as the original performance fabric. Used for its durability, warmth, breathable and water-resistant qualities, tweed has stood the test of time, remaining as the fabric of choice for designers.

Peter Sant, collection designer and brand manager for fieldwear company Farlows, explains that he likes to look to the past to update his latest designs, seeking inspiration on everything from the way the fabric is treated, to its performance on the customer. “For many brands, tweed is treated and finished to satisfy an aesthetic. It is milled and bushed and made to look aged or mildly distressed,” he says. “I like to go backwards and look for the original finishes and find out why they were used that way. This is not authenticity for the sake of authenticity, but to get the best performance out of the tweed and let the nature of the yarn and the weave do the work.

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“Tweed is still around because it performs,” he continues. “It will go in and out of fashion but will always be stylish when used the right way. But above all it is exceptionally practical. In a world of throwaway garments, practical is only going to become more and more important in the near future.”

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Happiest in the snow, Carlton is an ex-police officer and prison governor who has migrated to the world of adventure travel via motoring journalism. Carlton drives boats and pickups with more enthusiasm than skill, and is currently working on his first novel in addition to his prison memoirs.