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Vintage Tweed Jackets

The term Tweed engenders certain thoughts and even makes your face look happier as you speak it. It's a material that always makes you dream of days out shooting in the Highlands, riding a horse, hacking away with a golf club (in the days before bad taste became de rigueur) or being worn by a nineteenth-century crime-solving genius and resident of 221B Baker Street. What is odd about this special material is that it is linked with upper- and middle-class luxury yet feels quite rough, unlike most luxury materials which are noted for their smoothness, softness, beauty or sheer amount of hard work required to craft it.

The clue to tweed's popularity among society's elite is in the pursuits for which it was adopted. Outdoor pursuits in the British cold seasons required just enough wrapping up to beat the harshest chills, allow free movement and maintain one's manliness, and the tweed jacket fitted the bill perfectly. The fabric came from the Scottish borders, where a warm and reasonably somewhat waterproof fabric would have been required by anyone venturing out between late autumn and early spring. But more than just farmers used the properties of tweed. Adventurers and explorers used tweed in Arctic and Antarctic challenges, using tweed for warmth and resilience but, sometimes though the fabric was not enough to keep them alive.

The popularity of tweed eventually would lead to its adoption by people from all walks of life, perhaps originally with irony but latterly with more of a fashion direction. Tweed jackets made an appearance as a purely fashion item during the 1980s among the "Sloane Rangers", upper class types who certainly would not have been seen halfway up a mountain, but quite liked passing themselves off as outdoor types, as long as "outdoor" happened to be in Chelsea. And inevitably the look would filter through to all of society as riding chic took hold in the same decade. (Out on the rural estates the toffs looked on aghast and rifled through the Yellow Pages to find their nearest waxed jacket supplier.)

In terms of fashion and style, the tweed jacket stands alone, quite literally. Its coarseness is key to its ability to maintain its tailored shape whatever the situation, and that's pretty much a guarantee of popularity in some quarters. The resultant smartness and the iconic tweed twine still conjure up thoughts of outdoor moor tramping, and for experts in juxtaposition this makes it perfect city wear. If you really want to test the boundaries, you could go all out with leather elbow patches, cuffs and even shoulder pads, although designers have had plenty of fun with these original features and the patches can now be found in all manner of colours, patterns and fabrics.

So whether you're looking for the authentic Harris Tweed blazer or a modern urban interpretation, the past century will offer many a fine example of ingenuity and style. Vintage clothing stores are a great spot to start your search, and if you can pull off a clipped English accent without laughing, you're going to pull off the look no problem.