Tweed can be intimidating. Yes, historically, it has been synonymous with Ivy League professors, Sherlock Holmes, and gun-toting English gentlemen. But today, it’s a smart and versatile staple that any man can and should incorporate into his wardrobe, especially during these bitterly cold winter months.
Whether you’re trying to understand how to wear a tweed jacket that’s been hiding in the back of your wardrobe for years or trying to work up the courage to pull the trigger on finally buying one, we’re here to help. Here are five different ways to style the timeless but on-trend tweed jacket.
What is Tweed?
Tweed is a type of woolen material. It originated in a fabric-producing region in Scotland, near the Tweed River, during the early 1800s. However, the river isn’t its namesake, as someone elsewhere misread its original spelling of “tweel weave” for “tweed weave”, assuming this false connection of names. Nonetheless, the name stuck and its popularity soared.
In the production of tweed fabric, it is woven in intricate ways to create different, typically diagonal, patterns such as plain, twill, herringbone, and check. Plain may be the most frequently used pattern of tweed, but it is much more complex than it seems. While the plain pattern may just be one color, it is given depth in several ways. For instance, various shades of one color could be used in the weave. Also, different colors can be woven in one thread to build on the pattern. This goes to show the balance of complexity and simplicity of tweed, as the simple structure and color palette blend with the complex weaving and patterns.
The colors and patterns have made this fabric a very popular choice for blazers and suits. However, it has also served as material for caps, gloves, trousers, and liners. Most commonly, the fabric is dyed with various combinations of earth-tone colors, like different shades of brown or blue. Though it can be rough and unfinished, it’s both wind and water-resistant. Hence, it isn’t surprising to learn that this was first designed for farmers and other outdoorsmen. Eventually, because of tweed’s durability, one of its most favored forms has become that of a sports jacket, perfect for enduring the elements when outside.
Tweed Color Combinations
There are numerous ways to wear a tweed jacket, whether you want to be casual or dress up for a smart occasion. Below are our favorite options and combinations.
A grey tweed blazer paired with an elegant white dress shirt and a navy blue pocket square. This look is designed for daytime office wear, as well as for casual evening occasions. The colors of the blazer and the white shirt are subtle. However, adding the accessory of the bold midnight blue pocket square adds a small, smart flare to the ensemble that builds on its sophistication. Not too flashy, it creates a professional look that shows careful consideration in its assembly.
A blue tweed blazer paired with a blue shirt and beige chinos. This outfit is the perfect look for a lunch date or weekend occasion where you want to look dapper, but not “too dressy”. By choosing no accessories (tie, bow tie, or pocket square) and a linen shirt, this attire is stylish and ideal for casual business environments or dinners. The two different shades of blue between the shirt and blazer match perfectly well and create a nice contrast between the beige of the chinos. However, the contrast isn’t off-putting and adds to the look a more polished feel.
A brown tweed blazer paired with grey chinos and a classic blue shirt. This works for more casual-business environments and occasions. The brown blazer has a fine, warm color that isn’t too bold or flashy for an informal environment. However, the touch of blue from the blue oxford shirt pops a bit out from underneath the tweed, allowing the outfit to stand out just enough.
How The Modern Gentleman Wears Tweed
The two-button tailored tweed jacket was the definitive smart-casual choice long before the term ‘smart-casual’ was coined: worn with flannels and brogues or loafers, the jacket had an air of academia about it, with pockets stuffed with one’s daily necessities, collar turned against the wind. Think George Orwell, Woody Allen, Dr. Who, even Dirty Harry.
These days unstructured tweed jackets and coats – worn perhaps with chinos – look more contemporary, more at ease. Don’t stand on ceremony in tweed: like a pair of jeans, a tweed jacket is one of those garments that looks better the older and more battered it is.
A tweed suit may well last you a lifetime – and it will certainly pose a challenge to anyone also enjoying that central heating. But tweed is also one of those fabrics – akin to corduroy in some respects – that manages to look smart when properly tailored, but also relaxed at the same time. This is partly down to image, partly down to the tactility, density, and sheen of the cloths.
But play down the tweed suit’s in-built traditionalism by wearing it with knitwear – a charcoal roll-neck, for example – rather than shirt and tie. If you’re opting for the latter, stay clear of tattersall checked shirts and plaid ties.