A Brief History of Tweed to Help You Choose the Best Tweed Jacket

A Brief History of Tweed to Help You Choose the Best Tweed Jacket

Do you ever see a pattern, fabric, design, etc. that has been around for what seems like forever and wonder where it came from? Tweed is one of those fabrics that I love but never have taken the time to learn its history. How long have we been wearing tweed and never known where it all started? Why is tweed a thing and how did it become a fashion statement? My newfound curiousity of historical fashion had me researching the history of tweed.


Here is the “why” on tweed.

Origin: Tweed itself is a handwoven fabric that is rough, thick and felted. The coloring is historically muted, earthy tones that blend in with the surrounding environment. Most believe that tweed started in Scotland or Ireland as a way for working men to combat the chilly, damp weather as the fabric is resistant to wind and water. It is also an excellent insulator.

Tweed, what a funny word: There are two theories on how the word tweed came about.

  1. There is a River Tweed in Scotland, and the cloth was made in the Tweed Valley, and some believe that is the origin of the word.

  2. A more popular legend has it that the name tweed is a twist on the Scottish word for “tweel” or twill in our parlance, which is the signature weave of the fabric.  It is said that in 1826, a London clerk accidentally transcribed an order to “tweel” and wrote “tweed” instead, and from there the name came into use. (source)

So how did tweed become mainstream?: The royals, obviously! There’s not enough time to get started on my love for all things royal family, but I was not surprised when I read that Prince Albert turned tweed fashionable in 1848. When Prince Albert purchased Balmoral in Scotland he designed the very first Estate Tweed, which is similar to Scottish Clan Tartans. Where Clan Tartans identify a specific family no matter where they are located, Estate Tweeds identify people or employees of a certain estate. So Clan Tartans are family based and Estate Tweeds are location based, no relation necessary.

Estate Tweed and Clan Tartans are distinguishable by their different patterns and coloring.


Lucky for us, you no longer are required to be part of a clan or estate in order to wear tartan or tweed. When it comes to purchasing modern day tweed garments, there is a lot to consider. Is it for indoor or outdoor use? Tweed was originally designed to be warm, so you need to be careful if you’re buying authentic tweed or a tweed pattern depending on your needs.

What you need to know when buying tweed:

A quality, authentic tweed garment is extremely durable. This also makes tweed garments environmentally friendly due the fact that they should last decades and are able to be passed down to new generations of tweed lovers.

There are three types of tweed:

  • Harris Tweed was traditionally coarser and less tightly woven than other tweeds, with a hairier, rougher quality. The colours are inspired by the beauty of the landscape of the Hebrides, and Harris Tweed is the only fabric to have protected status.

  • Borders tweed has a light, smooth feel and the tight weave provides a thorn-proof fabric, which is why it was such a popular choice for country estates and outdoor sports. 

  • Shetland tweed is made from soft and delicate wool, making it a tight, thin tweed. (source)

The easiest way to wear/style tweed is by wearing a tweed blazer which can be designed with numerous tweed patterns such as herringbone or houndstooth.

What is your favorite way to wear tweed? Below, I’ve listed some amazing tweed jackets for this season, all under $300.

Looking for some books to get you in the tweed mood? Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is one of my favorites!

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