Smokin’ tweed

Before vintage was the new by-word for charity shop chic, there were jumble sales. Every Saturday I would crank the handle on my Ford Anglia and do the rounds of the sales, buying what is now colloquially known as DMC (Dead Men’s Clothes). In those days you could pick up a fur coat, a printed synthetic blouse adorned with pictures of the the Virgin Mary suckling the baby Jesus, and a pair of embroidered flares, then dress up in them for an evening’s headbanging at the KenTone Club in New Road, Portsmouth… (hang on, I’m veering off-topic into a nostalgic frolic of my own).

Art student uniform for 50p

Art student ‘vintage’ uniform for around 50p new money

Anyway, the acme of DMC was the Harris Tweed jacket. At the time I was trawling through the trestles of detritus in church halls, Brideshead Revisited was the biggest thing on TV and so to find an old Charles Ryder-style checked suit or tweedy coat was the musty equivalent of hitting pay dirt.

Spin forward a few decades and Wight Catwalk model Matt is, alas regularly frustrated in his attempts to find heritage clothes that fit his vast frame. It’s seemingly impossible to find DMC to fit a fella who is six feet four inches in his holey socks. So the only way to get a well-fitting tweed jacket is to take a trip to a gentleman’s outfitters. And, on the Isle of Wight, the only way is Fields.

I wanna take you to a tweed bar, tweed bar

I wanna take you to a tweed bar, tweed bar

The purveyors of fine menswear since 1890, Fields is a stalwart of Newport’s shopping scene, with a branch in Sandown. And, most importantly, Fields caters for all sizes. As it happens I think that the bane of modern life is the elasticated waistband; possibly the single-most contributor to the obesity crisis. After all, who can tell if they’re getting fatter if their trousers just expand at the same time as their skin? Still, if you are <ahem> blessed with an above average waistline then Fields can accommodate you. Sixty inch girth, sir? No sweat. Well, maybe a bit. In the folds.

Matt’s experience of shopping at Fields was, like many other experiences on the Isle of Wight, a trip back in time. The politest of assistants fussed round him; measurements were taken, colours clucked over and the tweed bar was rifled. Yes dear reader, Fields has a tweed bar – a catalogued spectrum of tailored woollen menswear. Before long, Matt was clad in the best fitting jacket he’d worn for a considerable time, with coordinating shirt and even a rust coloured tie, expertly matched to a single thread of the jacket’s subtle checked pattern.

Tweed jacket details

Tweed jacket details

A wise lady who worked in the fashion industry once explained to me about ‘price per wear’. Basically she suggested that buying cheap clothes that you wear once or twice can represent the same value for money as a perennial classic that gets a lot of use because it won’t fall to bits. Matt’s new jacket cost £159.95 – what fashionistas probably call an ‘investment piece’. And, as for price per wear? He’s barely taken it off since he snipped out the price tag.

Tweed in the wild

Tweed in the wild

So, what is the best way to bag a tweed jacket? A decent tweed, particularly Harris, should outlive its original owner so, if you can find a pre-loved one that fits you then it’ll be worth snapping up. But hey, if you’re not an impoverished student then maybe it’s time to move beyond DMC and treat yourself to something new – for the students of tomorrow to fight over.

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