While most of us probably like to think of ourselves as being discerning, there’s a fine line between this mindset and one that’s overly judgemental. This can definitely affect the way that we see things, and there’s no doubt that the renowned fabric tweed has suffered as a result of this down the years.
After all, this traditional, 18th century material will forever be associated with horse riders and those who used to hunt for sport, along with the middle and upper classes who were once the exclusive purveyors of tweed garments.
However, tweed remains a striking and unmistakable fabric, and one that’s incredibly versatile when compared with modern fabrics. But how exactly should you wear this material, and the iconic tweed jacket that has been worn since the late 18th century.
Tweed – A Brief History
Tweed originated in Scotland, with this fabric typically produced using a tightly woven wool that a slightly rougher than usual finish.
The material also features slightly flecked hues, creating a rich, blended look that’s inherently more versatile than blocks of colour.
Synonymous with jackets, it has also been used through the ages to craft waistcoats, trousers, coats, gloves and a host of fashion accessories. The fabric is particularly well-suited to jackets, however, as its unique woollen composition can withstand colder climates and is naturally moisture resistant.
So, despite the unmistakable association that exists between tweed, fox hunting and the British aristocracy during Edwardian times, tweed remains a practical and stylish fabric that has numerous applications in the modern age (including contemporary horse racing).
It’s compatible with both formal and informal looks too, from classic tweed dinner jackets to sports coats for all seasons.
How to Wear a Tweed Jacket as Part of Formal Attire
The chequered history of tweed certainly masks its versatility and enduring popularity, while it also disguises the fact that jackets made from this fabric can be worn as part of both formal and informal attire.
Interestingly, tweed makes far more sense as a fabric for informal wear, thanks to the wide range of colours that it can be sourced in and its suitability in cold weather or outdoor conditions.
However, it’s this innate versatility and range of colours that also makes tweed jackets a popular choice for more formal occasions. Available in an array of hues and patterns, formal wearers can easily opt for shades like brown or grey to create a genuinely professional look.
It’s also important to identify a particular shade that compliments your complexion, as while earthier tones are most commonplace in the market, there’s no doubt that navy tweed is striking, smart and ideal for a modern-day business look.
A slim-fitting jacket is also preferable in a formal setting, so pay careful attention to detail when sizing and making your final purchase decision.
OK, we hear you ask, but should I wear with my tweed jacket as part of a formal outfit? Well, this type of garment definitely pairs well with a crisp and well-fitted plain shirt, particularly those that are white or navy blue (depending on the hues that are prominent in your jacket, of course).
When it comes to your choice of trousers, you can easily pair your tweed jacket with formal and commonplace fabrics such as wool and mohair. These garments can be combined to create a robust and smart business look, and one that’s ideal for the colder months during autumn, winter and early spring.
If you feel like creating a slightly more formal look, you should note that tweed also goes exceptionally well with corduroy. The most important thing is that the trousers compliment both the jacket and the shirt without overpowering either of them, both in terms of colour combinations and the material used.
Arguably, the accessories that you use to accompany tweed represent the decisive components of your formal look.
After all, these can add depth and personality to your outfit, striking the ideal (and often delicate) balance between professionalism and individuality.
A classic leather belt in either brown or black can really accent your formal look, for example, particularly when it matches your shoes (we’ll have a little more on this below). A brown Oxford’s belt can be especially alluring, but don’t be afraid to experiment when finalising your look.
You may also want to consider elevating your look further by introducing a plain white, silk pocket square, or a monochrome time when the occasion allows. Cufflinks that retain your tweed jacket’s main hue can also be attractive, while adding an additional layer of formality and grandeur to the outfit as a whole.
When it comes to footwear, you’ll be able to match classic brown or black work shoes with your tweed jacket to complete a traditional, formal look.
However, your choice of shoes also provides an opportunity to introduce even more tweed into your outfit without overdoing this motif. For example, both Barker Jackson and Baker Dowd shoes are constructed from leather and tweed, with the latter providing a subtle and unique accent that can really offset your look.
Finally, it’s important to remember that there’s always an opportunity to experiment with alternative tweed fabrics and jacket collar types to create an even more memorable look (despite the relative rigidity of formal attire!).
How to Wear a Tweed Jacket as Part of Informal Attire
And now for the fun part of the blog post, as we consider the classic tweed jacket as part of informal and smart casual wear!
The key here is to start with a relatively simple and versatile piece, with the grey Herringbone blazer offering a relevant case in point.
Ideal for the colder weather and compatible with everything from sweatshirts to chinos and dark wash denims, this type of jacket can lay the foundation for a smart but casual look that’s perfect for a multitude of occasions.
Of course, this type of tweed jacket can be worn seamlessly with a crisp, button-down shirt, but it looks equally stylish when combined with a long-sleeve polo top or winter sweatshirt. This is a crucial distinction, and one that highlights how a tweed jacket can feature as part of multiple looks.
The same principle can be applied to the lower portion of your smart casual outfit, as tweed provides the ideal accompaniment for chinos and various shades of denim.
So, while dark wash denims are compatible with the grey Herringbone jacket, you can vary your colour combinations to create compatible and ultimately stylish looks.
Suede is definitely a fabric that sits well alongside tweed, and the combination of these materials helps you to strike the ideal balance between smartness and comfort.
While we’d recommend wearing less accessories to accent your tweed jacket when creating a more casual look, your choice of footwear and belt remain central to the success of your outfit.
Chocolate Chelsea boots certainly add depth and heft to any casual look, for example, while a matching suede belt accents these perfectly without distracting from your tweed focal point.
When wearing tweed casually and during the colder weather, you may also want to consider adding a checked, woollen scarf to your outfit.
Not only is this practical (and eminently sensible given the British weather), but it also enables you to add a dash of colour to really make your outfit pop!
How to Care for Tweed
No matter how you choose to wear tweed, it’s important that you take care of this fabric while keeping your jacket clean and stain-free at all times.
After all, while tweed is a tough and surprisingly durable material at heart, its tight weave can allow microscopic dirt and stains to become embedded over time.
To avoid this, we’d definitely recommend dry cleaning your tweed jacket only, as this will afford the garment professional attention from someone who knows how to handle specific fabrics.
If you do need to clean spot stains quickly (which is often crucial if you’re to prevent them from setting), you should first blot these gently using a towel to absorb any excess moisture.
Take extra care not to rub the material, while in some instances you can usually use detergent to remove spot stains more effectively.
Just be careful to read the label on your tweed jacket before using any kind of cleaning agent, however, as each garment is created different and must be handled on its own individual merits.
The Last Word
Regardless of your knowledge of tweed and the preconceptions that may have tainted your opinion of this classic British fabric over the years, there’s no doubt that a jacket made from this material can add both versatility and durability to your wardrobe.
You may also be surprised to know that tweed jackets come in all shapes, sizes and colours, meaning that you can wear them as part of formal and more casual looks depending on your precise style needs.
So, if you don’t already own a tweed jacket, we’d recommend adding one to your wardrobe at the earliest opportunity and helping to reimagine one of Britain’s most iconic fabrics!