Before electricity, the harsh winter nights must have been long on the Isle of Harris, particularly as the Atlantic storms blew across the island. There in the flickering candlelight, warmed by a smoky peat fire, islanders wove their iconic fabric – Harris Tweed – which in the modern world we treasure as a fashion statement. The definition and standards of Harris Tweed are protected in law, enshrined by the British Parliament in the Harris Tweed Act 1993. That guarantees that those products bearing the distinctive orb trademark are made from genuine Harris Tweed manufactured on the islands of the Outer Hebrides. It’s a stamp of quality and one confirming the fabric was woven by a skilled islander weaver. Originally made to withstand the climate of Scotland the tweed is an ideal material to make a variety of gifts, as well as the traditional clothing you might be most familiar with.
If you always go for the safe option when buying for the man in your life – cufflinks – then that is fine there are some really nice Harris Tweed cufflinks out there but here I give you some suggestions that are a little more imaginative.
Tough and hard-wearing Harris Tweed is perfect for protecting your portable IT equipment. You can then stylishly slip out your device and start reading something suitable tweedy like John Buchan’s tale of wartime espionage and danger, The 39 Steps, set in the heather clad hills of Scotland. Or if you want something more modern dip into one of the Lewis Trilogy crime novels written by Peter May that feature the Outer Hebrides as their vivid backdrop.
My children knew how to please me this Father’s Day when they presented me with a stylish card holder made from a rather natty black and grey herringbone Harris Tweed. I like to travel light and this is the ideal size for slipping into my trouser pocket, or into the depths of my sporran, to hold my essential cards and driving license. For those that long to be in Scotland you can whip this out every time you buy a malt in a trendy millennial-frequented city bar or keep your travel card in it to remind you of the Highlands when you are drudging along on your daily commute and waiting for another delayed bus or train in the rain.
Let’s face it belts can be oh so boring. Either black or brown seems to be the choice presented to most men in a clothes shop. If you’re lucky you might see one with a more interesting buckle to stand out from the crowd. A Harris Tweed belt gives you something a little bit different. I think I would pair this one with a pair of country cords or maybe some moleskin jeans to give that country chap visiting the town kind of a look.
It’s a blustery autumnal afternoon, there’s a nip in the air and the golden leaves are swirling around your feet. You’re feeling all poetical and are heading for a walk in the countryside, so you can compose a sonnet during your ramble.
As you lean on that rustic gate to compose your quatrains, warm yourself up with a strong nip from a Harris Tweed clad hip flask. Can you think of a better combination than Scottish Malt Whisky alongside classic tweed? And my tipple of choice? Maybe the Glenrothes 2001 bottling – that will warm me up nicely. Now, of course, it would be rather mean to present someone with an empty hip flask, so you better make sure you give them a bottle of whisky to go with it and dress it up with more than the normal cheap bottle bag from the supermarket. This tartan bottle holder makes a more elegant wrapping.
Along with my old battered jacket, my laptop bag is my oldest Harris Tweed item and it has traveled the world with me. Seemingly it can stand up to anything, from a torrential downpour in the Caribbean to a snow flurry in Moldova, to being flung around in the dust of the Ugandan outback. It’s even survived the unexpected explosion of a coke bottle, which is more than can be said of the contents of the bag at the time. Even now, after all these years, people still comment on how much they like it. It’s improving with age, unlike its owner.
When I’m wearing a kilt I often get asked, “What is worn under your kilt?” And I’m not going to tell you the answer to that question on this blog. And quite often it will be followed by, “What do you keep in your bag? “My what? You mean my sporran?”
Having corrected my questioner we will normally have a discussion about what it is made from. Most feature calfskin, goatskin or maybe rabbit pelt. However, I am somewhat taken with a rather understated sporran incorporating Harris Tweed. Its simplicity would make it ideal for wearing during the day when you don’t want the bling of a full-dress sporran, which should be reserved for weddings and military events. After all, I only need somewhere to keep my car keys and wallet.
Let’s admit it, it can get a bit chilly on a Scottish hillside, even in the height of summer. And you can’t always rely on whisky to warm you up, as it tends to hinder walking in a straight line after a while, which isn’t a good thing if you’re walking close to a mountain crag. Slip one of these on, lace up your hiking boots, borrow a spaniel and stride forth. You’ll be toasty warm, and you’ll look like a modern-day laird.
This is how to combine the two best exports from the Isle of Harris – tweed, and gin. I must admit that I have a man cave, I mean office, where I retreat to work, read, listen to music, escape from the kids. It’s a cosy place but would be a whole lot cosier softly lit with one of these table lamps. It would bring the ambiance of a private gentleman’s club. All you need to complete the atmosphere is a large gin and tonic made with distinctive Harris Gin.
Of course, a far better way to achieve the look would be to consume the contents of an entire bottle of Harris Gin and then make your own lamp using one of these kits. Safety warning: please don’t attempt to make your table lamp until you’ve completely sobered up after consumption of the contents of the bottle.
Do you remember that scene from the James Bond movie, Skyfall, when fleeing London with M in his Aston Martin, Bond heads northwards to his ancestral home in the wilds of Glencoe? As dawn breaks, they stand beside the classic car looking down the misty glen. What the camera didn’t catch for the benefit of moviegoers was that 007 had pimped up his car with one of these Harris Tweed steering wheel covers. Maybe he had also decided to don some stylish driving gloves as well. Perhaps I could suggest to the producers the title of the next Bond movie, and Daniel Craig’s last outing as the British spy – From Harris with Love.
Travel in style
If James Bond is the epitome of British style, perhaps he needs to kit himself out with a variety of Harris Tweed travel accessories for his globetrotting exploits. There’s plenty to choose from for your own adventures, even before you get to the departure gate. For that weekend getaway you need to use a stylish bag for your little jaunt; ideal for a few nights in a country house or a long weekend in a European capital. And to suggest to the check-in staff that you’re a member of the landed aristocracy so they consider you for that flight upgrade present your passport in one of these covers. Once you’re on the runway you need to lean back and get a little rest before your adventures. Maybe a plump little cushionand an eye mask will help you drift away and dream above the clouds. Bon voyage!
For many, the mention of Harris Tweed will conjure up an image of a misty moorland with tweed-clad stalkers crawling through heather, shotgun poised to take aim at a stag in the distance. Well, maybe it’s just me that gets that image. Anyway, you don’t need to blast red deer on the mountains to hang a stag’s head on your wall. These cast iron hooks make a more creature-friendly alternative that you can hang your cap and scarf upon.
They say that time stands still for no man. However, it might just go a bit slower with one of these Harris Tweed strapped watches. The leather-backed straps, with different shades of tweed, go perfectly with the classic watch. Why do you want those digital things with multi-functions you don’t know how to use, reminding you of every second of your life disappearing?
If you’re someone who doesn’t like a constant reminder ticking away on your wrist, instead preferring an occasional glance up from your book to decide whether it’s time for another whisky then a Harris Tweed clock will probably suit your purposes.
Maybe all this talk of Harris Tweed has prompted you to go and book that holiday in the Highlands that you’ve been hankering after for so long. If so, you need something to display that cherished photograph. And to frame that shot of you in front of a medieval castle or striding along a mountain path a frame made from tweed and an upcycled whisky barrel seems ideal.