This week we wanted to take the opportunity to showcase a brand that pops up a lot in our vintage clothing finds: Harris Tweed. Originally associated with hunting, shooting, and other leisure activities of the elite, Harris Tweed is a luxury brand known for its high-quality wool fabric. Warm and hard-wearing, Tweed is a coarse woollen fabric often woven in plain, twill, and herringbone patterns. However, what separates Harris Tweed from other tweeds is that it is dyed, spun, woven, and finished by hand in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Much like Champagne from the Champagne Region of France; if it’s not made in the Outer Hebrides, it’s not Harris Tweed. Popular for both women’s clothing and men’s clothing because of its durable nature, it’s perfect for outdoor pursuits and is guaranteed to keep you warm even in the harshest of winters.
Originally woven in small quantities by individual crofters, Harris Tweed started to become commercialised in the mid 19th century with the help of Frances Beckett. She was responsible for organising the crofters and introducing a level of quality control. Around the same time, Harris Tweed began to grow in popularity amongst the upper classes. This most frequently attributed to the work done by the Countess of Dunmore to promote the cloth amongst her peers. She purchased Harris Tweed in the Murray family tartan for jackets to be worn by her ghillies and gamekeepers and went on to promote the fabric as a fashionable cloth.
Harris Tweed is often made in a range of earth tones. Greens, browns, and reds are common in antique clothing made from Harris Tweed as the wool was originally dyed with lichen and other natural dyes found on the islands. This also reflects it’s most common use as the natural colours help the wearer to blend into wooded, outdoor environments. Harris Tweed is now dyed with chemical dyes and is made in a much larger range of colours, including bright pinks, purples, and yellows to appeal to a range of tastes and create unique clothing and accessories.
Harris Tweed can be identified by its iconic label and orb logo. The Harris Tweed Orb is the oldest certification mark in the U.K and is used on both labels and stamped onto the selvedge of Harris Tweed cloth. So make sure to keep an eye out for these labels when shopping for your vintage clothes! After an influx of poor quality cloth in the early 1900s, Harris Tweed was trademarked in 1909 and later the Harris Tweed Act 1993 was introduced. The Harris Tweed Authority was also set up to maintain the quality and authenticity of the fabric. This certification is one of the factors that makes Harris Tweed to popular today.
If you love your period dramas as much as we do, one place you may have seen a lot of tweed recently is on Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great and Small. Set in the mid-1930s, the three veterinarians are frequently seen sporting various tweed blazers and suits. While not necessarily Harris Tweed, the costumes in this series are a great insight into how tweed clothing can be incorporated into vintage-inspired outfits.
Here at Revival Vintage we have an amazing collection of vintage Harris Tweed jackets from across the decades. Tweed jackets have become a timeless classic, and they are definitely a wardrobe essential for any vintage lover. However, some of these jackets, especially those from the second half of the twentieth century, are still wearable with modern clothes and can easily be incorporated into a modern wardrobe, while still creating a sense of individuality.
Inspired by some of the costumes featured in All Creatures Great and Small, for this style suggestion we’ve paired one of our men’s Harris Tweed Jackets with a plain white spearpoint shirt for a crisp, clean look. As well as one of our 1940s style Fairisle tank tops for extra warmth through the winter months and finally, a green and black pin spot vintage tie. We’ve used a lot of browns and greens to really emphasise the earthy tones that are so heavily associated with tweed. It’s an outfit perfect for any aspiring country vet or vintage tweed lover alike.
We hope that you found this brief introduction to the heritage of Harris Tweed interesting and informative. What did you think of our All Creatures Great And Small inspired outfit? What do you wear your Harris Tweed with? We’d love to know down below!