November 2018 — February 2019

"The smartness essential in a topcoat, allied to such dependable powers of protection as enable the wearer to face the worst weather without discomfort or risk to health, are universally admitted to be the outstanding characteristics of the tielocken" is one way of describing what we see here, which is, of course, the tielocken in a Donegal tweed.
Nothing if not enveloping, the parka. It has a big ol' hood, a high neck, and a double-layer front — all of which serves to encase its wearer within the confines of several pounds of thick, heavy, and not even slightly pliant cotton. And then, with a clunking sand-cast belt buckle at the front, it is all wrapped up with a big brass bow.

The three meters of cloth that go into world-facing parts of the peacoat are woven with worsted-spun yarn, and so have a wonderful lustre about them. No plain duffle cloth or heavy melton this, then. The cloth — which hails from Somerset — is also heavily milled, so those fine strands of yarn are coaxed together, making an already dense cloth denser and denser and, yes, denser yet more still.

The mathematics of knitwear are fuzzy — especially where the softer lambswools are concerned — but one estimate is that, in being ten-ply at the front, six-ply at the sleeve, and eight-ply round the back, the heavy tuck-stitch crewneck adds up to no more and no less than exactly one panoply.

The workshop here is obscured by a man wearing a v-neck and scarf made with geelong lambswool, which are both hand-framed and hand-linked in the south-west of the British Isles. Some autumnal-looking cords, too, which you wouldn’t know at first glance, but which fasten at the side with a pleasingly weighty buckle. .

For something ostensibly a classic — and one stripped-back at that — the trench coat sure has a lot of pieces. And the most simple-looking of these pieces, but also by far the most tricky to get right — and arguable among the most important to the appearance, comfort, and longevity of an all-enveloping trench coat — is the one-piece sleeve. It means the trench slides easily over whatever may come its way, with an elegance and insouciance befitting its status as workshop elder statesman.
Two shades of geelong lambswool are at work here: one rich brown and one marbled grey. The watch cap is throughout a rib-stitch of these two shades — rib being the optimal stitch when you want something to hug the head. The yarn is pre-washed, meanwhile, so the hat can be easily washed — in a machine, even — and will then boing back to its original shape.

A two-ply yarn is twice as strong, springy, and textured as a single-ply yarn. The crewneck in geelong lambswool you see here — it is a whopping ten-ply, and as such scores very highly in any knitwear-themed game of Top Trumps. The profound substance of the thing comes not at the cost of shape or comfort, however.

That's where the painstaking efforts of full-fashioning and hand-linking come in — both of which are many times slower and more difficult to accomplish than standard machine-knitting, but which in the right circumstances bear great reward. On the legs, meanwhile, is the natural and undyed wool of British sheep doing its hirsute, heavy, and faintly hostile thing.

Greater than the sum of its parts, the duffle coat. Eight lengths of rope, four toggles — hand-turned horn ones from Lancashire, naturally — and about three metres of very heavy melton are all that goes into the thing. But that enveloping private reverie of essentially wearing a great big blanket: beyond measure, that.

A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Yes, yes, but still — the donkey jacket sometimes wouldn't mind rechristening itself the stallion jacket, say, or the thoroughbred racehorse jacket. Besides, with its rather unusual whole-cut upper body and sleeve, what we have here is quite apart from donkey jackets of yore.

The unmistakable allure of cloth woven on a loom built by the local coffin-maker in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains.

It has been said before, yes, okay — but it bears repeating: you really caan with a balmacaan. Made this time around with a hand-woven hopsack tweed from Northern Ireland, and with a five-button front, a two-piece sleeve, and a pair of through-pockets, this is a walking coat which is anything but pedestrian. Ahem.

You get those outdoors coats, don’t you, like Swiss Army knives, but the field coat tends instead toward more traditional technical outerwear — which is to say, technical outerwear which has had all those fiddly parts sanded down by the commonsense of a public wider than the professional squirrel-stalking community.

The field coat doesn’t impose its features: doesn’t turn retrieving your mobile into a memory game; doesn’t insist you take a good look at yourself if this relationship is to go any further. Rather, it is very ready and very able whenever called upon, but is, the rest of the time, quiet and modest and expert at minding its own business.

The hat in felt here is made in the crucible of traditional English hat-making ("hatting" or "hattery") — and unlike most such hats, which are blocked with great amounts of steam into a firm and fixed style, this one is not. It so may be poked or prodded into a new shape — Homburg! Bowler! Trilby! — every day of the week.

Worn erstwhile

    • March — September 2021
      The debuts of the duster, the smock, the DB, and the knitted t-shirt make a mockery of the notion that less (clothing) is more in the warmer weeks of the year.
    • October 2020 — February 2021
      Many old-stagers from autumns and winters past — the duffle coat, the balmacaan, the peacoat, and the donkey jacket — made returns in refined form.
    • April — September 2020
      From the poolside (the popover) to the coast (the boatneck) via the railroad (the engineer) — the only way to travel (literally) during a pandemic lockdown.
    • September 2019 — March 2020
      The tielocken and peacoat found their feet in new heavy woollens from the south and north respectively, while the balaclava, gansey and cooks jacket made their debut.
    • March — August 2019
      The return of cotton airweave from east Lancashire, and a cloth from North Yorkshire that really puts the local into locally made two-ply tropical worsted.
    • November 2018 — February 2019
      The tielocken and parka joined the trench in the big-coats-with-belts aisle, while the bal returned in tweed from a mill whose loom was built by the local coffin-maker.
    • August — October 2018
      Weatherproof ripstop and tropical worsted, the debut of the field coat, and a cavalcade of cotton knits were the talk of the workshop in the warmer parts of 2018.
    • October 2017 — July 2018
      Heavyweight outerwear galore — with the old guard of trench coat, peacoat, duffle coat, and balmacaan, joined by the topcoat, donkey jacket, and flight jacket.
    • July — September 2017
      New textures for what are quaintly called the warmer months of the year — like a two-ply birdseye, replicating cloth of the 1920s, and a Flyweight flavour of Ventile.
    • September 2016 — June 2017
      Angora, peccary leather, melton, cotton and linen with some wool mixed in, even some blanketing — a melting of materials for an unusually warm end to the year.
    • April — August 2016
      Texture, let it be known, is a quality tricky to come by in the warmer months, here in the British Isles. But look — hopsacks, tuck-stitches, and herringbones galore.
    • September 2015 — March 2016
      The heavy Donegal tweed balmacaan made its debut, as did the heavy duffle coat and, indeed, the heavy fur-felt hat. Lots of heavy things, then, for the colder months.
    • March — August 2015
      New linens came to the forefront: linen from the south coast of Ireland; linen hand-woven in the Outer Hebrides; linen knitted into crewnecks and cardigans.
    • September 2014 — February 2015
      Cloth development came thick and fast: yarn-dyed Ventile at the start of the period, and tweed made with organic and heritage fleece in the Inner Hebrides at the close.
    • January — August 2014
      Along came the SB1 jacket in hand-woven indigo cotton, the link-stitch crewneck and cardigan, the porkpie Ventile cotton hat, and a brace of cottons from Lancashire.
    • September — December 2013
      The cotton-twill trench coat rounded the year off, but before that came the peacoat and SB3 in Donegal's finest, as well as lambswool knitwear both heavy and light.
    • January — August 2013
      The first half of the year began with the three-button Tetris tweed blazer and concluded with an assortment of corduroy and cotton numbers — plus some shorts.
    • August — December 2012
      Heavyweight tuck-stitch jumpers, the wool-tweed peacoat made with the one-man-mill, and the debut of both the reversible jacket and the Ventile mac.
    • December 2011 — June 2012
      Early spring was met by the British Millerain dry-wax and cashmere mac, and kept busy with the linen suit, new tour jacket, and two-button neat jacket.
    • August — November 2011
      The last few months of 2011 witnessed the release of the chalkstripe-wool seam overshirt, the hopsack tweed neat jacket, and the birdseye wool-cashmere blazer.
    • February — May 2011
      Spring and early summer saw linen semi-cutaway shirts, the horizontal cord blazer, panama stowaway overshirts, and the cycle-friendly brushed cotton tour jacket.
    • September 2010 — January 2011
      The work jacket made a first appearance in French navy cotton-twill and charcoal wool-cashmere. And, on the knitwear front, Shetland Isle moss-stitch jumpers.
    • May — August 2010
      Five mostly interchangeable garments were made over the middle months of the year: two semi-cutaway shirts, two cotton-drill trousers, and a corduroy overshirt.