Swellboy on… tweed

Our man ponders how the fabric can give life meaning during the autumn blues

Image: Brijesh Patel

Tweed is God’s way of making one feel better about autumn. In one of Galsworthy’s novels, when asked what his wife is doing, one of the particularly worldly characters says that the death of an older relative “has made her dwell on the future. Ever dwell on the future, Dinny?” he asks his interlocutor. “It’s a dismal period, after a certain age.”

I am beginning to understand what he was getting at, especially at autumn time, with death in every withered leaf that floats to the ground.

Which is precisely why tweed is so important: it takes one’s mind off the futility of human existence. So it is no coincidence that at about this time every year I take out my copy of Scottish Estate Tweeds, a charming book brought out some years ago by Johnstons of Elgin. Even though I am neither Scottish nor do I have an estate I leaf through the pages with familiar pleasure.


Depending on my mood, I can imagine myself in something boisterous such as the Dacre estate tweed, which is a brilliant design of bold checks in red, black and cream that dates from 1871 – Victorians were a good deal more colourful than the sepia photographs they left behind.

By contrast, the Garden estate tweed looks like a Donegal and has no pattern at all – I imagine that one could lie down on a moor and simply disappear against the flora. The camouflage style of tweed makes perfect sense when it emerges that the tweed was designed by Colonel Archibald Stirling, the father of the founder of the SAS.

Somehow I cannot imagine a military man having the time for pink tweed with light cerulean and black overchecks that Huntsman once made for me. Admittedly, the Special Forces applications do not strike one immediately, but the cherry blossom season in Japan is just one of many situations in which this would make the perfect camouflage,


However I wear it for other reasons, it is hard to take oneself (or anything else) too seriously when wearing a hairy pink three-piece tweed suit. While it may not be very SAS, I find it a good antidote to the SAD syndrome of life in lightless winter Britain, and having read that the NHS is now paying for such advanced medical therapies as pedalo rides, I am going to see if I can get my next bolt of pink tweed on prescription – trouble is, I don’t know of any chemists with tailoring departments.