Sexy is a word not commonly used in the same sentence as tweed. Posh, yup. Scratchy, possibly. But the fact is the fabric—even with its upper-crusty, country origins—can be sexy. And as finding your own personal style becomes more and more important, reevaluating classic elements piecemeal is a handy way to elevate your look. Take the gun-club-check jacket, a pillar of the Anglo nob wardrobe whose story is way cooler than you might imagine.
Estate-tweed patterns like gun-club checks were the Victorian period’s proto camouflage. In a mid-19th-century mania for shooting estates in Scotland, newly minted Sassenachs from England (without the right to wear a tartan) needed something to wear. And they learned that the game found it harder to see you if you looked like a native shrub. Tweed mills like the 220-something-year-old Johnstons of Elgin would create a bespoke tweed by making an artist’s impression—in wool—of the local grounds. Greens and browns were a given, but there would also be tiny flecks of purple and yellow for the heather; gray, white, and blue for the granite. These became known as gun-club checks (according to legend) after an American gun club, in a rush of Anglophilia, adopted it as its very own pattern around 1870.
These days, gun checks have new appeal. We’re seeing them in a raft of young-minded, vaguely sartorial brands from Drake’s to Massimo Alba to The Armoury, plus fashion-leaning labels like Martine Rose. At Husbands Paris, the look is British with a twist. Think Bryan Ferry popping out for coffee. You can do the same, making it yours with a denim shirt and white jeans. Or you can throw it over exuberantly striped trousers, like Rose did in her latest collection. The trick is finding what works for you. And then not thinking about it too much. Which, as it happens, is the whole point of personal style.
This article initially appeared in the September 2020 issue of Esquire magazine.
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