The Winter Woven / Boss Tweed

November 14, 2012

For whatever reason, winter is late in coming (a condition lamentably opposite a common source of romantic strife, says Cosmo). What lingers instead is a damp fall epilogue: sodden trees, grey clouds, drafty mornings. The lighter sport coats are on leave, the really heavy stuff not yet called up. The time is good for tweed.

A rough, unfinished woolen, tweed hails from the Scots borderlands and Ireland, mainly County Donegal, from which it was first shipped to England for use in sport: early cyclists, hunters, outdoorsmen and motorists took to it for its rain-resistance and warmth. A legend is that the Scots merchants called the cloth tweel, for twill, but an English store clerk misread a packing bill and thought he had a shipment of something called tweed, which name he assumed was taken from the Tweed River in Scottish weaving country. He advertised his wares with that name and it stuck. Noteworthy enthusiasts of the period include Kenneth Grahame’s Mr. Toad of Toad Hollow, known for his Norfolk.

Tweed slid from prominence in postwar fashion till the 60s, when houndstooth saw an uptick in professorial circles. In addition to that weave, patterns include herringbone, windowpane, gamekeepers’ tweed and the Prince of Wales check, commissioned first by Edward VII.