Tweed is one of the most versatile fabrics there is, and one that every gentleman should incorporate into his wardrobe. From some of the most formal events through to a casual evening stroll, tweed does it all. Here’s how to adapt tweed to look the part, no matter what the occasion.
The traditional way to wear tweed
The original Harris Tweed comes from the remote isle of Harris, to the West of Scotland, where it’s still made by small homesteaders or ‘crofters’. Woven from the fleeces of Highland sheep, it’s a very warm, tough fabric perfectly suited to the cold, wet, and windy weather of the north western Atlantic.
It was the British aristocracy who adapted the workwear of farm workers into the smart tweed suits we see today. For them, the warmth and colors of this natural fabric made tweed the ideal choice when pursuing deer and other game across their Scottish estates.
These days, tweed is made on the Scottish mainland, in England, and elsewhere. It has also developed from a 100% sheep’s wool fabric to a wide range of fiber mixes which suit lots of different applications, but it’s still mainly made from wool.
Available as a traditional three-piece suit, or as separates, you’ll also find tweed flat caps – another staple of British menswear – plus neckties, overcoats, and tweed is even incorporated into shoes and accessories. If you want to go the whole hog, a full tweed suit with matching vest looks fantastic.
Tweed separates for smart casual occasions
Break your tweed suit into its component parts to wear as separates for smart casual occasions. Wear your tweed jacket and vest with a pair of contrasting chinos for a look that’s warm and tactile without losing its smart edge.
Lose the jacket, remove your tie and you’re ready to let the vest do the talking while you relax and unwind. Alternatively, wear the pants with a soft, brushed cotton Tattersall shirt and cashmere-mix sweater.
Tweed is the ideal way to walk the line between a smart yet understated look. You can wear the jacket with or without a tie and go for brogues which, because they also originate from Scotland, are an ideal match.
Casual tweed is really all about the jacket. With its British cut, it offers some structure in the shoulders, half canvas construction which drapes nicely, and double vents which make sitting very comfortable. Try a few jackets to find one that fits nicely – it should be snug without restricting your movement.
Wear a tweed jacket over a check shirt and dark jeans for a vibe that’s both classy and casual. This is a great look for those times when you want to dress down without ever appearing scruffy. Visiting the in-laws? Tweed is a good option for you.
Choose relaxed footwear to go with your tweed jacket. During the warmer months, loafers or boat shoes and chinos will look good. In the fall and winter, switch to dark jeans and country boots.
How to wear a tweed vest
A tweed vest is a more versatile item than many give it credit for. A matching tweed vest really gives a suit that extra wow factor, but using it as a standalone piece or wearing one under a contrasting jacket is also a great option.
Because tweed is a textured fabric, it really lifts a pair of chinos and a cotton shirt, but it does draw attention to your mid section. If you’re a little on the large size, it’s probably best to use your tweed vest for a snap of color under your jacket.
If you are wearing a vest, do make sure you remember to leave the bottom button undone. A practice that harks back to the days when gentlemen travelled by horseback, it originally made travel in the saddle more comfortable. Nowadays it remains a fashion faux pas to fully button up your vest, and in any case, it’s easier for sitting.
Wearing tweed for winter
Winter-weight tweed is as warm a natural fabric as you’ll find anywhere, and because it’s perfect for layering, it makes even more sense to add tweed to your wardrobe.
Moleskin or corduroy pants, a brushed cotton shirt and a tweed jacket is a great combination for cold weather, and for even more warmth, why not wear a cashmere mix sweater or sweater vest underneath? Wrap a scarf around your neck, pull on a pair of country brogue boots and you’re ready for those chilly winter days.
For colder weather, a tweed long coat offers both warmth and classic good looks.
Wearing tweed in the summer
Lightweight wool mixes mean that modern tweed can be an effective summer option, especially if you’re out and about during the late afternoon and early evening.
A summer-weight tweed jacket also offers a compelling alternative to a navy blazer, maintaining a sense of formality while keeping you relaxed and comfortable. During the summer, cooler tones like light blues and grays come into their own – wear your tweed jacket with stone or khaki chinos and pair with leather loafers.
For formal summer occasions, a summer-weight tweed jacket is a fine choice, and looks great with a Panama hat and a pair of classic sunglasses.
How to care for your tweed suit
Tweed is easy to keep in good shape provided you follow a few simple steps:
- Lightly sponge stains from your suit using a gentle circular motion – never scrub.
- Use a clothes brush to remove lint and loosen dirt – you can even vacuum tweed, but be sure to use an upholstery attachment.
- Always dry-clean tweed – it does not react well to a spin in the washing machine.
- Have your tweed cleaned before storing it, and do use mothballs or cedar balls as moths love to feast on wool.