Swiss spin-off: herringbone tweed

The thing about spin-offs is that they can take you way far away from where you started. In this case, the start point is in my 6/19/18 posting “A Swiss thread”, about the Swiss silk thread company Zwicky and its ad posters over the years, including, in #5 there, Otto Bamberger’s famous herringbone tweed coat Plakat (‘poster’) for the Swiss men’s clothing company PKZ:

(#1) An artwork, not a photo

Now, in an ad photo, a black and white herringbone tweed sport coat, of the sort that was my serious professor-drag for over 50 years (along with blue Oxford-cloth button-down shirts, khaki chino-cloth pants, and mahogany or black penny loafers, in a clothing scheme that I picked up as an undergraduate at Princeton):


Two things here: the tweed fabric and the herringbone pattern.

Tweed. From Wikipedia:

Tweed is a rough, woolen fabric, of a soft, open, flexible texture, resembling cheviot or homespun, but more closely woven. It is usually woven with a plain weave, twill or herringbone structure. Colour effects in the yarn may be obtained by mixing dyed wool before it is spun.

Tweeds are an icon of traditional Scottish and Irish clothing, being desirable for informal outerwear, due to the material being moisture-resistant and durable. Tweeds are made to withstand harsh climate and are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and Scotland.

On the name, from NOAD:

ORIGIN mid 19th century: originally a misreading of tweel, Scots form of twill, influenced by association with the River Tweed.

And on the

noun twill: a fabric so woven as to have a surface of diagonal parallel ridges [in contrast to plain and satin weave]. ORIGIN Middle English: from a Scots and northern English variant of obsolete twilly, from Old English twi- ‘two’, suggested by Latin bilix ‘two-threaded’.

Herringbone. From NOAD:

noun herringbone: [usually as modifier] 1 [a] an arrangement or design consisting of columns of short parallel lines, with all the lines in one column sloping one way and all the lines in the next column sloping the other way so as to resemble the bones in a fish, used especially in the weave of cloth or the placing of bricks: a brown wool herringbone jacket. [b] (also herringbone stitch) a cross-stitch with a pattern resembling herringbone, used in embroidery or for securing an edge. 2 Skiing a method of ascending a slope by walking forward in alternate steps with each ski angled outward.

Cloth above. Red bricks in a herringbone pattern:


Herringbone stitch:


And the herringbone maneuver in skiing:


An actual herring skeleton:


#6 is a certainly a possible model for a metaphorical name for the pattern — but then pretty much any fish skeleton would do. (So would chevrons, or the letter V.) And in fact the herringbone pattern is simply called ‘fishbone’ in a number of languages (Norwegian fiskebein, for example).

If you’re going to pick a particular fish for a metaphorical name, it would make sense to choose a small, commonly eaten fish whose bones people are likely to encounter on an almost daily basis: sardines, smelt, herring, etc. Whatever is the canonical little edible fish in your culture. For people around the North Sea, that would be the herring. A generic ‘fishbone’ name would have done, but in Scotland and Ireland, herringbone is more colorful.

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