Monday, December 2, 2013

Origins and Shopping Picks: Harris Tweed

I've long professed my undying love for everything tweed, and I think I can safely say that Harris Tweed is the best in the game, and won't get many arguments. However, I was just thinking the other weekend that it's another one of those terms that I didn't really know the meaning behind. Is it a brand? A mill? A fella with a loom? A few hours on the web and I had my answer...thank you, Google, for being you.

So, Harris Tweed. Turns out, it isn't really any of the things I thought it was, exactly. Rather than being, like I suggested, a brand or supplier, it's more of a class of the textile. In fact, there was even a Harris Tweed Act of 1993 (hot damn, style legislation? badass...) that laid out the definition of 'Harris' tweed:
"Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides." - from The Harris Tweed Authority.
It was this act that established the Harris Tweed Authority in 1993, but the HTA merely replaced an even older regulating body. You can actually trace Harris tweed as far back as the mid-1800's, when Lady Dunmore, widow of the Earl of Dunmore and landowner of the Harris Island in the Outer Hebrides championed the progression of the local cloth into a country-wide textile industry.

In 1909, the Harris Tweed Association (predecessor to the Harris Tweed Authority) was formed to inspect and regulate the production of the tweed, and the famous Harris Orb was created to mark approved materials. Since then, The Harris Tweed Association and now the Harris Tweed Authority have continued to strive for the highest quality of cloths, and have adapted and developed through the ages in order to remain accessible, relevant, stylish and deserving of their acclaim.

The Harris Tweed Orb that marks every piece of the fabric approved by the Harris Tweed Authority.
So what is it that sets Harris Tweed apart? The Harris Tweed Authority says:
"The rare character and beauty of Harris tweed is attributable to the fact that it is the only fabric produced in commercial quantities by truly traditional methods anywhere in the world...
...Unusually, our wool is dyed before being spun, allowing us to blend a multitude of colours into our yarn. With each thread containing a myriad of different colours, a cloth of great depth and complexity is produced...
...Soft, tactile, breathable, warm, colourful, sustainable, adaptable...the old image of coarse, scratchy dour tweed simply does not exist these days."
Today, the Orb is still a mark of some of the best tweed fabric in the world, soft yet durable, stylish but rustic. A tweed suit is about as gentlemanly as you can get in the colder months, with an undeniably rakish English (or Scottish) vibe. These days, you'll find the material used for everything from pants to hats to iPad cases. Here are some of my favorite products out there sporting the Harris Orb:

J.Crew Ludlow Suit in Harris Tweed: You have no idea how much I lust after a Ludlow tweed suit. Someday, when my bank account is a little heftier, this will be a gem in my closet. It's definitely not cheap, but if you have the dough, this suit will never treat you wrong. Jacket pictured below, pants here

Ludlow Suit Jacket in Herringbone Harris Tweed | J. Crew

ASOS Harris Tweed Pea Coat: ASOS consistently churns out affordable and stylish duds, and this looks to be no exception. It's a bit shorter than your traditional Pea Coat, but it looks sharp as hell. It's already relatively inexpensive at $245, but ASOS offers sales pretty often. (For example, ASOS currently has a Cyber Monday deal offering 30% off sitewide with code GIMMEMORE...might be a good time to snap this up!)
Stetson Harris Tweed Ivy Cap: Newsboy caps like this can be hard to pull off, but when they work they are one of my favorite looks when it comes to men's hats. A nice one in Harris Tweed will keep your head warm without mussing up your hair all willy-nilly like a wool beanie. Cop this bad boy at Amazon for $55.
Classic Harris Tweed Ivy Cap | Stetson via Amazon

Hennessy and Sons Tweed Dog Collar: During the gift-giving season, pet products are an awesome go-to. I'm admittedly obsessed with my pup, but nothing makes me happier than spoiling the little guy. A tweed collar is a great way to share some of your sprezz with your furry friend for a mere $60 (or a friend's furry friend).
Harris Tweed and Leather Dog Collar | Hennessey and Sons via Amazon

Ness Blaeberry Harris Tweed Purse: This one is for the ladies (once again, with gift-season upon us, trying to help you all out with your shopping lists). This number spices things up from the standard grey tweed with an electric blue plaid (and no, 'Blaeberry' is not a typo...don't ask me...) that your sister/mother/girlfriend is sure to love. Available at Gretna Green for $40, along with some other alternatives if this isn't your cup-o-tea.

Blaeberry Harris Tweed Purse | Ness via Gretna Green

Of course, Harris Tweed isn't the only option out there, but if you have the option, it's definitely the way to go. 

Do you have any favorite tweed pieces? Share in the comments below!

All information regarding Harris Tweed found at the Harris Tweed Authority website.

No comments:

Post a Comment