Unravelling the Mystery of Tweed

History of tweed

Tweed was originally developed in the Outer Hebrides, it was created by crofters that used the wool from their sheep, to shield them from the brutal Scottish winters.  Tweed was exceptionally popular with farmers and land owners when they were over seeing their lands as it was warmer, comfortable and to an extent waterproof.  They would use their ‘Hack’ to ride and check over the estate, hence the hacking jacket.

Tweed is in fact a typo made by a Merchant in London, the Scottish actually referred to it as ‘tweel’, which stems from the Scottish word for twill due to the structure and manner in which it was made. But the Londoner had no clue about this and thought the name had been taken from the Scottish river Tweed in the Borders.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Tweed even more popular after they purchased Balmoral.  It became fashioned to partake in outdoor pursuits, such as stalking and hunting and the aristocracy quickly took to this new trend.

Tweed hit its peak in the fashion world after endorsements from people like Coco Chanel.  Harris tweed in the 1960s is said to have sold 7 million metres.  Now in the 21st century, tweed is enjoying its latest revival.  The benefit of a tweed outfit is that, since its creation, tweed has never been out of fashion.

Ensuring the perfect fit

It’s essential that your jacket fits your body type correctly.  In the majority of cases jacket sizes are stated in inches.  Freedom of movement is key, so choose a jacket that feels comfortable and fits!

If your jacket is too small, it will look strained and very unprofessional.  It can also limit your performance, as it will hamper your movement.

When trying a jacket on there are certain things to check.  First of all the arm length, always make sure that when your elbows are bent in the riding position that the sleeve length is still ok.  Next, check that when in the jumping position that your jacket is pulled tight across your back.  Lastly, check the length of the jacket by squatting in a riding position.  A jacket that is too long in the body will make your leg look shorter.  Ideally the jacket should finish a few inches below your hipbone.

Most companies will have a junior fit normally from a 22” to a 28”, a ladies fit from a 32” to a 50” and also a maids fit from a 30” to a 34”.  The maids jackets are intended for that crossover period between child and adult. So whilst they have adult proportions they are still a straight cut and have a shorter sleeve and body like the junior jackets.
It is also essential that you have enough room in the sleeve to move.  Horse riders tend to have more strongly developed biceps so your jacket needs to be able to accommodate this.


One of the most closely associated disciplines with tweed, is Showing.  Depending upon which class you choose depends on whether you would need a riding jacket, tweed waistcoat or a lead rein outfit.  Check the breed standard for what to wear in the ring to make sure that you stand out from the crowd.

Colours that Compliment

When you are deciding on a new jacket you also need to think about the pony you are riding.
Brown tweeds look fantastic on a chestnut or a bay.  Whilst green tends to look best on a grey, black or coloured.

Your tie and shirt should compliment the tweed you are wearing for an overall look.  Try to pick out the colours of the over-check in the tweed to really make your outfit a stand out.


Tweed (ratcatcher) has always been used for autumn hunting or cubbing as it is otherwise called.  This is the more informal dress that is used as autumn hunting is designed to be a gentle introduction to the sport for young, hounds, horses and people.  Autumn hunting runs from late August to opening meeting at the beginning of November.


Lower level eventing also uses tweed for both the dressage and show jumping phases.  Tweed for eventing tends to be less ‘stand out’ than those used for showing. The over-check tends to be plainer and the colours not as bright.  It has more in common with cubbing tweed for hunting rather than showing.

The latest developments 

Whereas, traditional tweed was always 100% wool nowadays tweed can be made from either pure wool or a wool blend.  Some tweeds are now so versatile that they are machine washable due to how they are made and what with.  The benefit of a pure wool jacket is that they tend to be slightly warmer and thicker.  Whereas, the wool blend ones are lighter weight and sometimes have more stretch to them.

Picking the price

It depends what you need your jacket for and the amount of use you get out of it.   A tweed jacket should be looked at as an investment and the recommendation is that you should pick up the most expensive that you can within your budget. As a general rule of thumb the more expensive the jacket the more tailored it is likely to be.

Wool blend tweed jackets are naturally going to be cheaper but you need to take into account their practicality, such as being machine washable.  This is especially useful for children as falling off, and getting dirty are all par of the course.