Just The Tonik – Mohair, and Dormeuil

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I heard the Charlie Rich song - Mohair Sam the other day, and it made me smile, and groove a little. It also inspired me and made me want to write about Mohair, and about a brand that was in the mid-twentieth century, was the leading brand for suits using Mohair fabric and is still today held in very high regard.

Mohair, quite rightly, is associated with great style and is quite clearly something that is still appreciated, although it is perhaps more associated with the fashion and style of past generations. The excellence of such fabric is still in use today by many, if not all tailors, and high-end brands.

Just The Tonik Mohair and Dormeuil 1

Mohair comes from the Angora Goat - which originated in Turkey. The word mohair comes from the Turkish word “muyha”, which translates to “the best-selected fleece”. Unlike other natural fibres, mohair handles dye colours with ease and is one of the reasons why it became so popular. Who doesn’t love a suit in an unusual colour or one with a particularly rich tone?

Angora goats were introduced to the U.S in the mid-1800s as a gift from Turkey.

During the second world war, the U.S was so fearful of a wool shortage due to their military uniforms being made entirely of wool, that they decided to combat this by blending mohair with wool. The subsequent use of Mohair in the military would soon act as a stepping stone into an ever-evolving fashion hungry world.

Just The Tonik Mohair and Dormeuil 2

But why Mohair?

Mohair is still one of the best fibres around, due to its durability, breathability, lustre and its natural elasticity.

Mohair is taken from the underside of the Angora Goat and comes in three grades: kid, young adult and adult. The latter being the coarser of the three which is why many tailors source their mohair from the young.

One of the subcultures that propelled the mohair movement into the eye of the public, was, of course, the iconic Mod subculture. The mid-50s gave birth to the London-based rakish youths with a taste for modern jazz. These modernists were inspired by the style of musicians and movie stars alike. Continental style and American style inspired these young style-conscious people, and as a consequence, they would search out garments, styles and fabrics that would allow them to push the envelope and create looks that either looked like their inspirations or were tweaked versions that would be subtly different thanks to added details so their garments were practically unique.

Their main armament was the mohair suit, and in particular, Dormeuil tonik mohair. (House of Dormeuil) actually coined the term ‘tonik’ in 1958, and now it’s used to describe any suit with a sheen.

Dormeuil whose history, from its origins to present day, can be tracked down through famous, innovative creations, starting from 1922, when their mill launched Sportex, the first cloth to have a woven selvedge.

The cloth was designed to keep warmth without restricting movement and became a must for European outdoors sportsmen. Thanks to the sweeping success of Sportex the company was able to expand further, moving its headquarters to Regent Street in London’s West End, which is the world’s epicentre of textile retail.

From their new West End home, Dormeuil released Frilex in 1936. The pure wool fabric was created with a very aerated, plain weave, and a special construction that made it extremely fresh to wear and quick to dry. Dormeuil had once again exceeded the expectations of sportsmen across the world, including professional tennis players.

By the time we reach the 1950s, collaborating with Paris’s haute couture, in 1957, the Dormeuil Mill launched Tonik. The cloth was entirely woven in England, and the pure three-ply mohair weft, combined with special processing and finish, gave the fabric a very distinctive sheen.

The fashion industry was experiencing radical changes, such as the introduction of the ready-to-wear, and the fast-paced evolution of fashion during the 60s saw growth in markets as the buying power amongst the post-war generation had grown and subsequently tastes for desirable items for that generation expanded. The Dormeuil family was not intimidated by this, and responded well to such changes in demand, and introduced its very first ready-to-wear collection.

In England, as Tonik became all the rage, so many stylists would wear the wonderful fabric. As processes developed, so the whole two-tone affect of the tonik fabrics became a noticeable attraction for those that bought into the super sharp style, and so it has remained ever since. As the decades went by, two-tone tonics were adopted by some other subcultures. Such as The Suede heads, for example. The sheen of a good tonic Mohair suit has always attracted customers. Although it may go in and out of the spotlight from time to time as tastes change. There is always those who look back and still want unusual fabric, in amazing colours, and if you can afford it, you know you are going to have quality and a statement piece. A Mohair suit is flashy and gets you noticed. It’s iconic. You only have to look at the Mohair suits that the likes of Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and other movie stars have worn on screen, to see how cool and stylish a good Mohair suit is. You feel uplifted and sharp when wearing them. It seems a good Mohair suit is more than a fabric. It really is a real tonic, in a world that often needs brightening up.


Read 1119 times Last modified on Tuesday, 14 July 2020 18:56
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