No Anglophile visiting Basel should depart the Swiss city without making a trip to John Tweed, a bike shop-cum-gentlemen’s outfitter that wears its Englishness on its sleeve in both name and nature. It’s easy enough to find, being the only retail outlet in bustling, tram-heavy Clarastrasse to feature an ever-changing display of vintage bicycles outside its window ¬ and possibly the only one known to welcome its clientele with the offer of a comfortable seat in a club armchair and a generous dram of single malt.
Proprietor Michel Seeliger stands out, too, since he’s regularly dressed in well-cut checks and displays the demeanour of an Edwardian gentleman – although he is Swiss. “I’ve always been interested in everyday products made with care and craftsmanship,” says Seeliger of the impetus behind the store, which he opened in 2010. Bicycles became a particular passion because of his previous incarnation as a cycle courier. This, combined with his love of the vintage aesthetic, has led him to hunt down classics to sell, such as an immaculate 1948 Raleigh Jahrgang (SFr950, about £722) with gloss black paintwork and white balloon tyres. Vintage bikes like this are displayed alongside new, traditionally styled models from makers such as Pashley (from £288 to £1,633).
There is also a bicycle repair service at the back of the shop that doubles as the workplace of Roland Meister, one of Switzerland’s last true craftsman cobblers. “Our aim is not just to sell things, but to offer a full service to help owners maintain them so that they have the potential to last a lifetime,” says Seeliger, who stocks a wide range of footwear including elegant boots made in Portugal by Pike Brothers (the 1938 Low Quarters model is good value at £122) and Wolverine (including the Evans 1,000 Miles style, £364, made from Horween leather), and sneakers by Zeha Berlin, a popular style being the Derby (£208) in cognac leather.
Seeliger also carries workwear-style clothing from brands such as Stetson, Filson, Fleurs de Bagne and Pike Brothers. As the name of the shop suggests, tweed is an important part of the offering. “Twice a year we select a batch of fabric from which a local tailor makes our John Tweed-label sports jackets [from £379],” says Seeliger, who also stocks a select line of vintage clothing, such as beautifully preserved 1930s flying and motorcycling jackets (from £500).
Accessories include bow ties (£60) and braces (£106) handmade in Germany, walnut-handled penknives such as the London Luxe model (£212) from Passion France, Kaweco fountain pens (£80), Zeno pocket watches (£455) and tapir leather-cased shoeshine kits (£182) – plus a range of single malt and blended whiskies (from £34) from distilleries such as Kilchoman, Monkey Shoulder and Japan’s Nikka.
And for customers not quite ready to leave the cocooning, club-like atmosphere, there is the opportunity to step into the shop garden and join Seeliger for a cigar – the John Tweed humidor is never short on Cubans (£4-£23) such as Partegas, Romeo y Julieta and Cohiba.