You might, one morning when the kitchen has turned cold, ask yourself, “What is tweed, anyway?” This has been known to happen. I realized the other day that I didn’t know the answer. So I looked it up. Tweed means, simply,
“a rough, unfinished woolen fabric, of a soft, open, flexible texture resembling cheviot* or homespun, but more closely woven. It is made in either plain or twill weave and may have a check, twill, or herringbone pattern. Subdued, interesting color effects (heather mixtures) are obtained by twisting together differently colored woolen strands into a two- or three-ply yarn.”
Tweed is a favorite of sturdy gals everywhere. Tweed is for walking across a marsh, a moor, or any land where neither stone nor tree will break the wind. It’s for wearing with flushed cheeks. Something strong and warm on your feet. To be completely honest, for wearing with a turtleneck, because for all the poetry and warmth, tweed is itchy.
I know. They really ought to tell everyone this stuff. Would prevent unnecessary discomfort.
Harris Tweed is tweed fabric, woven on the Isle of Harris, or if we are feeling expansive, another of the islands in the Outer Hebrides. It’s cold and windy and damp, apparently, in the Outer Hebrides. Requiring woven jackets to keep the peace. The fabric colors were originally created by dyes made of lichen, the source of the characteristic smell of early Harris Tweed clothing. Ever since 1993, in order to qualify as Harris, tweed has to display this symbol.
This jacket is the for the Sturdy Gal, not the Grande Dame, nor the Arty/Intellectual Cousin Twice Removed. It’s not structured enough for the Grande Dame, and it’s too structured for the Arty Cousin. Although she likes the part about the Outer Hebrides and wonders if there are any tribes indigenous to the area looking to house a woman who knows how to throw pots.
Me, I have worn this off and on over the last 35 years, depending on the tide. Depending on the spiritual peat smoke in the air. In college, during my preppy phase, with navy sailor pants, a striped sweater, and shoes I have long since forgotten. In Manhattan, in the 1980s, with a burnt orange turtleneck and high-waisted pants. I never put it on during the years of small children. Their skin was too soft. Back in corporate life, I would wear it with a black cashmere turtleneck, Armani pants, and Ferragamo slingbacks. Patent leather toes. Monochrome to put to rest any possible doubts raised by a lichen-colored jacket. Now with jeans. Long sleeves, because no memory or sentiment is worth the wear and tear of itchy tweed next to one’s skin. The Sturdy Gal agrees with me. She has reason.
The Sturdy Gal laughs off sorrow. But will not endure unnecessary itchiness. She takes good enough care of her clothes that her granddaughter might wear them, 80 years later. She goes on walks, alone sometimes. Always buttoned up.
Here’s the thing. Sturdy is an intent, as much as a trait. Like smiling. They say if you make yourself smile you will feel happy. March enthusiastically and with determination across a few moors and I will be surprised if you don’t turn up sturdy when you’re done.
*Don’t you love it when someone explains something you didn’t know by comparing it to something you know even less? Cheviot is apparently a twill made from wool of, yes, Cheviot sheep. Twill is apparently fabric woven so that parallel diagonal ribs appear. It’s certainly not as though this is all self-evident.