A Short History of Tweed by Jasper Littman

3 Jan

A Short History of Tweed

Last year’s autumn/winter catwalks were dripping in tweed with several top name designers taking inspiration from the timeless classic. But what are the origins of this fascinating fabric and why has it remained so popular for so long?

The Origins of Tweed

Tweed was born in 18th century Scotland and came about when weavers wanted to create a thicker, heavier cloth that would withstand the cold climes. They developed the diagonal line running through the weave, which became known as the ‘twill’. We know the fabric as ‘Tweed’ today, thanks to a London cloth merchant who, when the fabric was delivered to him, misread the word ‘Tweel’, the Scottish spelling of twill.

The method created by the Scottish Weavers produces a coarse, dense fabric, generally dyed in earthy colours that has become as much a part of Britain as fish and chips and is just as popular today as it ever was.

Enduring Quality

Thanks to its durability, Tweed became a commonly worn fabric throughout the 19th century. Today tweed is synonymous with high quality men’s suits and country pursuits, mainly due to the world famous Tweed maker, Harris.

Harris Tweed originated in the Outer Hebrides during the 18th century and was made popular amongst the British aristocracy when Lady Dunmore introduced it in the 1840’s. It was used to make hunting, fishing and shooting garb and has become forever associated with the country gent.

Thanks to its incredible popularity, Harris Tweed was the first company to create a certification mark for their fabric which was introduced in 1909. The Orb Certification mark came with the guarantee that ‘only tweeds woven in the Outer Hebrides would be eligible.’

Although the fabric lost popularity after the Edwardian period, Tweed enjoyed a resurgence in the 1960’s when it was worn by mods. Later on, Sloane Rangers and those that favoured the preppy style invested in Tweed suits, hats, bags, overcoats and jackets.

Harris Tweed is the only entirely handmade fabric still available, but other types of tweed are still associated with quality and tradition. Today’s technology has allowed Harris Tweed to create a lightweight version of their cloth, making it easier to create wearable tailoring for all types of occasion and not just for country pursuits.

Tweed Making

Today, Tweed is considered one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly fabrics available, perhaps because it’s still made in practically the same way as it was 200 years ago. All the products used to create Harris Tweed are 100% natural, even down to the heathers and lichen that are used to dye the wool.

The only change is that ‘waulking’, the process of stretching the cloth, used to be achieved by soaking it in human or animal urine. Today, soda and soapy water are used instead.

Timeless Elegance

Where once Tweed was purely for farmers and well-heeled country gents, today anyone can sport this fabulous fabric. Harris Tweed recently enjoyed a significant rise in orders after a 1960’s vintage tweed jacket became the outfit of choice for new Dr Who Matt Smith, prompting Angus MacNeil, MP for the Western Isles to comment that “the endorsement (by Dr Who) shows that Tweed is timeless and can be worn anytime, any age and in any galaxy.”

These days you can find an array of tweeds available in a host of designs and colours that evoke the Scottish Highlands. If you’re looking for an abidingly elegant suit that exudes quality and class that you can enjoy wearing for many years to come then get in touch with us today to ask about our bespoke suit tailoring  services.

Jasper Littman specialise in one thing only – bespoke and semi bespoke suits measured, fitted and delivered by their visiting tailors.

Their Savile Row style suits personify gentleman’s English elegance. Jasper Littman combine a contemporary approach to customer care with traditional tailoring expertise.

Using the finest English fabrics, their bespoke suits are created exclusively in England. Their tailors visit at a location convenient to you, office or home, and have over 10 years of Savile Row experience. www.jasperlittman.co.uk


2 Responses to “A Short History of Tweed by Jasper Littman”

  1. Paul Robertson-Brown January 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    People, listen to this Fashionista! What a fantastic guide. A great attribute to the Tweed breed 🙂

  2. tweedvixen January 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Thanks very much!

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