Notoriously under spoken, the Irish, not as well known as the Scots, Brits and Americans in the sartorial world, are very quiet about their style and tradition. But make no mistake, they know what they are doing.
I recently came upon a fine dark navy jacket, with a Bedford construction. On the inside, there was a private label that read “Baird McNutt, Irish Linen”. The fact that it was Irish linen was one of the reasons I picked it up. I have a particular affinity for the Irish. Likely because of my Bostonian roots, and Kennedy Democratic political stance as a young adult which have now moulded into God knows what, as I write this piece as the United States has been hit with both a deadly pandemic in the form of Covid-19 and riots, stemming from the killing of another black male by law enforcement. In an effort to talk about something positive, I thought I would jot down my thoughts about a brilliant dark navy Irish Linen, single-breasted jacket I just purchased recently.
Still, we are a part of this world, and I’d reminisce if I did not comment on current affairs. One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he hopes there is no Heaven because if there is, the sins that “we”, (America and everyone involved) have committed will be doomed, because of slavery. He hinted that the only way to make amends would be to create a separate state for freed African Americans, who can move there if they want to, and with the proper funding and infrastructure could very well become an extension of the United States, where people of colour can drive around without the fear of being profiled, pulled over, and then subsequently killed. Conceptually, it would be similar to the country of Isreal. One can only hope that this wouldn’t create another Middle East.
The Irish share a similar story. They were persecuted by the British long before the Slave trade. Was it just a fight between Catholicism and the English Church, or was there something deeper. My inclination is that it was likely a bit of both. Angry Irishmen didn’t want to see their Emerald Isles sacked by the ‘Sasanachs”, and conversely, the English Crown wanted complete dominion over the entirety of the British Isles.
Because of this division, a lot of information has been tucked away, and a lot of great craftsmen, tailors, and cloth makers have only just now seen the globalized light of day.
Baird McNutt was established in 1912, right around the peak of a series of clashes that would eventually lead to the free Irish Republic.
I wrote about the ambiguity about Irish cloth, tweed, and so forth in a previous article, and one can consider this as the second part of that first article.
I heard about the company through my usual digital tailor, Proper Cloth, which was interesting to me. I was happy to see an Irish fabric make its way into global provenance.
“Baird McNutt Irish Linen is steeped in tradition and knowledge, gained over generations. We pride ourselves in using traditional Irish methods to produce the highest quality material. Our Irish linen is renowned among designers worldwide.” — Baird McNutt
When the jacket came, I quickly noticed that the texture was certainly unique from the others. Even my favourite navy Donegal jacket had a smoother texture. The concept of the Donegal itself is, originally, an Irish concept. There was a definite structure and resiliency to this jacket that I didn’t feel with some of my others. The other jackets in my wardrobe, many of which trace their fabric origin to Italy are much softer and delicate. Not this one. I could very well go sailing in this jacket, and maybe even hit a home run.
I do however get the feeling that this jacket will take a longer time to fully ‘break-in’, than some of there jackets I have hanging in the closet, again most of which are either Harris Tweed or of Italian fabric origin. I must say, I feel very English, upright and proper in this jacket, whose fabric was created by an Irish mill. It’s not rigid. That’s not the right word. It almost feels like a jacket that would have been issued to a high ranking official in the Navy or RAF, minus all the military decorations.
I wanted to know more about the mill, the origin, and the fabric itself, so I took a peek at their website where I found their mission statement, which I’ve noted above for your convenience.
I was surprised to see just how transparent and forward-looking they were.
“Linen has some strong attributes that place it high on the list of eco-friendly fabrics. With this as our starting point, we have formulated a simple approach to sustainability.” (Click on the link to learn more about their sustainability efforts)
Baird McNutt is already ahead of the game. Having internally acknowledged the fact that apparel sits second only to petroleum in global warming, they are doing their part to address that problem.
“Initially, each fabric is created with both garment and consumer at the forefront of our designer’s minds. Combining the optimum yarn count, design and colour to create stunning yarn-dyed fabrics or following colour trends to select exacting piece-dyed shades that will ensure our collections offer that combination of beauty, trend and affordability essential to any garment collection. We offer bespoke design via handloom followed by sample yardage to ensure that each fabric is properly tested before proceeding with bulk. Our lightweight linens include the sheerest blouse weight through to classic menswear summer shirting fabrics. What is more classic yet fashionable than a soft, stunning chambray shirt? Our medium weight linens combine the classic look of magnificent, tailored fabrics in checks, stripes, houndstooth, and solids on twill, herringbone and plain weaves. Whether it’s linen trousers, waistcoats, unstructured jackets or linen suits our linens can provide the ultimate product for any Spring/Summer collection.” — Baird McNutt
So what is it about Irish Linen that makes it different? Why didn’t Proper Cloth go with their standard Italian run of the mill?
Well, it is because Irish linen is a truly natural, and sustainable product. It starts by growing in a field, and is completely biodegradable and during its processing gives little or no waste materials.
The stock supported for suiting fabric provides the perfect product for the bespoke, made to measure market. Sold by the piece or in cut lengths, the luxurious fabric epitomizes classic Savile Row style.
Their fabrics are all processed at a facility in Kells, where since 1798, traditional dyeing and finishing methods are combined with modern machinery to create soft, elegant finishes.
We always land back at Savile Row, don’t we?
That’s it for now. My quest to solve the Irish sartorialist continues so expect another piece on Irish cloth, tailoring, fabrics, and heritage.
Until then, may the road rise up to meet you!