Monday, October 17, 2011

The Men in the Gray Flannel Suits

One of my favorite stories involving Winston Churchill was recently recounted by Stephen Fry on the excellent British quiz show QI. An aide came to the Prime Minister to warn him of a potential scandal. A member of Parliament of their party had been caught indulging in homosexual conduct in one of Her Majesty's parks in London. Churchill thought carefully for a moment then said "rather cold last night, wasn't it?" The aide, not a little bit confused, agreed that it was. Churchill then cooly said: "makes you proud to be British." Presumably, the great statesman was himself warmly suited at the time in his favored Fox Brothers flannel.

We at Doyle Mueser are very happy to announce that we are now one of the few North American Bespoke establishments currently stocking Fox Brothers wool & worsted suiting fabric. Fox Brothers is most famous as the company which originated the ubiquitous fabric known as flannel. The company was established in 1772, and continues to offer the finest flannel in the world.

Fox Brothers fabric is made at the company's mill in Somerset, England. Perhaps most impressive is that Fox Brothers keeps an astonishingly comprehensive swatch archive, containing fabric samples going back over 100 years, allowing them to bring back older patterns, as they recently did with Winston Churchill's signature chalkstripe.

In addition to inventing flannel, Fox Brothers can also be credited with creating the sturdy serge fabric used by the British army which came to be known as khaki, even lending its name to a color. While Doyle Mueser doesn't get many requests for khaki, we do offer several beautiful varieties of Fox Brothers flannel in several shades of gray and blue: plains, chalkstripes, pinstripes, chalk windowpanes, houndstooths, and soft, warmly blurred checks.

The clip from QI can be viewed below.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Oh, look at that ass,” O’Toole said softly, shaking his head, raising his eyes with approval. “That ass is covered with tweed made in Connemara, where I was born…Nicest asses in the world, Ireland. Irishwomen still are carrying water on their heads and carrying their husbands home from pubs, and such things are the greatest posture builders in the world”
Peter O’Toole, in Gay Talese’s Peter O’Toole on the Ould Sod

Whether you think the great Mr. O'Toole was overstating the case for Irish posteriority or not, the case for tweed is less contentious. Tweed is one of the world's most venerable suiting fabrics: hardy enough for country wear, colorful enough for city wear, traditional enough for Parliament, durable enough for laying passed out in the gutter stinking of Balvenie scotch along with the other MPs. Add to this the faint whiff of urine given off by the fabric when it gets wet due to the ammonia used to bond it (this doesn't actually happen any more thanks to modern methods of preparing the fabric - we promise) and you can blame your coming home late stinking of drink and piss on the combination of precipitation and tweed.

But, kidding aside, tweed has a much more respectable history than we've implied with our imagined member of the House of Lords and his boozy misadventures. Tweed has recently been celebrated in a new book, and "tweed rides" - urban cycling parties kitted out in the finest of the cloth - are being held annually in London, New York, and Washington DC. 

At Doyle Mueser we have several fine bunches of tweed to choose from for your autumn suiting. Holland and Sherry's "Sherry Tweed" is made in the Tweed Valley in Scotland and some of the colors and patterns which stand out in the bunch are windowpane checks in blue on red, and yellow on purple, blue and grey Prince of Wales check, herringbones in pink, blue, and orange, and earthy-colored pinhead weaves flecked with colored points.

John G. Hardy's Harris Tweed is woven in the Outer Hebrides, off the coast of Scotland and conforms to the rigorous standards of the Harris Tweed Authority:
1. It must be made from Pure New Wool.
2. It must be hand woven in the weaver’s home.
3. It must be finished in the Outer Hebrides.
4. It must be wrapped around a young virgin girl who is then sacrificed to pagan gods before it is shipped to Doyle Mueser.

Ok...So that last one wasn't true. But what is true is that John G. Hardy's Alsport line of thinner tweeds is where the famous "Glen Plaid" or "Prince of Wales Check" was first created. The line also features multi-hued district checks, barleycorn weaves, birdseyes, and nailheads.

Our book containing the thickest tweed is the W. Bill Irish Donegal Tweed, presumably of the kind wrapped lovingly around the aforementioned ass admired by Mr. O'Toole. As the promotional copy reads: “William Bill was among the first to recognise the value of the rich tones and flecking which is typical of Donegal Tweed – reflecting the gorse heathers and lichens on which the colours were originally based.” I don't know what gorse heathers are (I picture a part-horse-part-goose named Heather,) but I'm sure Mr. Bill Bill must have been on to something. 

Finally, we are the only bespoke tailor on this side of the Atlantic to offer Dashing Tweeds, the wild-patterned-and-colored monster fabric which was the child of dandy and photographer Guy Hills. All of the fabrics are bold to the point that any man wearing them will need extra room in their trouser rise to accomodate his massive balls. Some of the fabrics even have a stripe or two of reflective thread woven into them so that when a headlight or camera flash hits it, it lights up. How flash is that?