City to County
Is it my time for tweed? asks columnist James
DO YOU think I could pull off tweed? The reason I ask is because this time of year fools me into thinking I might just be able to.
I find myself stopping to look in those country wear shop windows, attracted to the flat caps, waxed jackets, check scarves and yes, even the odd tweed jacket, wondering whether it’s too early in life to be sporting the mannequin’s full attire.
Of course, these shop windows are designed to conjure up images of long, autumnal country walks and cosy pubs with open fireplaces – the ideal scenarios for donning said country gear. And like a lot of us in Norfolk I do spend the odd weekend seeking out this ideal, especially in a county that blesses us with such picturesque landscapes to explore in our recreation time. Maybe it’s in these scenarios that tweed would be acceptable, perhaps even encouraged?
I mentioned my growing attraction to country apparel to a work colleague (he was wearing a waxed jacket, which I took as a qualification to advise) and his response was not the talking down I was looking for; “There’s a Norfolk tweed jacket, you know.” Our county’s own style of tweed? This exciting news certainly warranted a quick Google.
Although the history of the Norfolk tweed jacket is debated, the most popular theory is that it was invented as a hunting coat in the 1860’s by Henry Fitzalan-Howard, the 15th Duke of Norfolk, with the style of Harris tweed coat later popularised by a young King Edward VII in the 1880s.
The Norfolk jacket is a little longer than most tweed jackets, has a characteristic belt incorporated into the coat and expandable pockets, presumably from its hunting origins. Alas, although there were companies in our county making the jacket as late as the 1950s (for Prince Phillip, no less) they are collectors’ items today, so you’ll be lucky to spot one.
After spending a few seconds staring at the tweed coats and other country wear in the shop window, I tend to snap out of my momentary daze and remember I still live and spend most of my time in a city, not quite living the country life these shop windows want to trick me into thinking I live. And I’m certainly too young to sport the princely Norfolk jacket, but it’s reassuring to know our county has its own style of tweed covered should my penchant for country attire grow later in life.
No, the guy staring back at me in the shop window isn’t ready for tweed. But I’ve no doubt I’ll be seeing him again this time next year.
“I find myself stopping to look in those country wear shop windows, attracted to the flat caps, wax jackets, check scarves and yes, even the odd tweed jacket”
Left: Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk and tweed fan