The Rise of Tweed
Tweed is undoubtedly one of the most popular fabrics today. The rough, woven fabric is also durable and moisture-resistant making it ideal for outdoor wear, and especially during the cold Fall and Winter months.
Many may be surprised by the fact that tweed was actually originally called “tweel”, which is the Scottish word for twill. What many may not be surprised by is the fact that tweed originates from Scotland and that twill is the most popular technique used to create tweed. The long-standing story is that “tweel” became “tweed” by accident when a London merchant misread the handwritten name and assumed the fabric was named after the River Tweed in Scotland. The merchant began advertising the fabric as “Tweed” and the rest, as they say, is history.
Tweed was first invented in the 18th century by weavers in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. It has since become an icon of both Scottish and Irish fashion. Due to the practical characteristics of the fabric, Tweed garments were commonly worn by farmers and those working outdoors. It was later introduced to the British aristocracy by Lady Dunmore in 1840. Tweed then became a fabric worn by the privileged to go shooting, hunting, fishing, and for other outdoor recreations. However, it wasn’t until 1848 that it became truly popular among the British upper class when Prince Albert designed the one of a kind Balmoral tweed, after purchasing Balmoral Castle in Scotland. From then on, every Scottish highland estate began making their own unique tweed patterns or “estate tweeds” that would set themselves apart from those coming from other estates, especially during outdoor activities and hunting expeditions. One could compare it to modern day team uniforms. Since then, Tweed has been closely associated to all outdoor activities, particularly hunting, and is worn by individuals all over the world, especially in countries with cooler climates.
Of all the many types of Tweed, one of, if not the most popular is the Harris Tweed. In fact, it was so popular that in 1909, the Harris Tweed Orb Certification was created in order to protect it from imitations. The Harris Tweed Act of 1993 states that Harris Tweed is specifically dyed, spun, handwoven and finished by islanders in the Outer Hebrides. There are, of course, many other different types of Tweed, such as the Donegal Tweed and the Shetland Tweed, which are named after it’s county of origin and the type of sheep the wool comes from, respectively.
Since its inception, Tweed has been woven with the rich history of the British classes, of the breaking down of gender barriers, as well as the evolution of both men’s and women’s fashion over the past centuries. Today, Tweed is not only an integral aspect of both men’s and women’s tailoring but it has an important place in every day fashion.