Tweed is a rough, unfinished woollen 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 or herringbone pattern. Subdued, interesting colour effects (heather mixtures) are obtained by twisting together differently coloured woollen strands into a two- or three-ply yarn.
Tweeds are desirable for informal outerwear, being moisture-resistant and durable. Tweeds are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. "Lovat" is the name given to the green used in traditional Scottish tweed. In Ireland, tweed manufacturing is most associated with County Donegal in the Province of Ulster.
The original name of the cloth was tweel, Scots for twill, it being woven in a twilled rather than a plain pattern. A traditional story has the name coming about almost by chance. About 1830, a London merchant received a letter from a Hawick firm about some tweels. The London merchant misinterpreted the handwriting, understanding it to be a trade-name taken from the river Tweed that flows through the Scottish Borders textile area. Subsequently the goods were advertised as Tweed, and the name has remained ever since.
Traditionally used for upper class country-clothing like shooting jackets, tweed became popular among the Edwardian middle classes who associated it with the leisurely pursuits of the elite. Due to their durability tweed Norfolk jackets and plus-fours were a popular choice for hunters, cyclists, golfers and early motorists, hence Kenneth Grahame's depiction of Mr Toad in a Harris tweed suit.
Postwar, tweed declined in popularity except among the academic community until the mid-1960s when houndstooth was revived by the mod subculture. In recent years tweed has undergone a second revival among the British indie and later hipster subcultures. Sloane rangers and American preppies, unwilling to be seen in second-hand or vintage clothing, purchased brand new hats, jackets, bags, and overcoats made of Harris tweed. Popular patterns include houndstooth associated with 1960s fashion, Windowpane, gamekeeper's tweed worn by academics, Prince of Wales check originally commissioned by Edward VII, and herringbone.
Logo of the Harris Tweed authority
Houndstooth, the basis of the keeper's tweed popular among the upper classes from the 1860s until the 1930s
Grey Donegal Tweed sportcoat
Tweed Fender guitar amplifier
The Eleventh Doctor in his tweed jacket
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