Thinking Outside the Beltology

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Belts can be the bane of your existence or a signature style element of your daily wardrobe. It all comes down to fit and too often that fit is exactly, just not right. Either too loose or too tight, the traditional belt design based on pre-punched holes can be quite limiting.

Beltology_PackagingEnter Beltology. These clever and stylish belts are build upon the functional foundations of classic woven leather and preppy ribbon belts. They take features inherent to each – minute adjustability and easy expandability – and combine them in something new and interesting.

These pants-holder-uppers are both fun and practical, making Beltology belts a great choice for everyday casual and office casual wear. The basic design of the belts is neutral and timeless, allowing them to fit in well with many wardrobes. And, their variety of material options and ease of fit make them a natural first choice for most everyday needs outside of a jacket and tie.

The hallmark of Beltology belts is of course their stretchability. Each belt is crafted from a flexible, densely woven webbing of waxed cotton, leather, rayon, or polyester. We tried out several version that reflect each of these materials and were impressed not only by the solid construction, very important for accessories like belts, but also the quality of the materials. Each belt we examined was sturdy and flexible, well finished, and well proportioned.

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The core of every strand making up the belt is a strong elastic material that allows it to stretch up to two-to-three inches and return to its original length. The prong simply passes through the belt wherever it feels most comfortable.

We did note that due to the firmness of the belt’s webbing, too much of a stretch with too short a belt resulted in a snug fit that was sometimes uncomfortable. So, just order the next size up if you think it may be a possible issue for you. This strategy is especially helpful for guys who prefer a looser, more relaxed fit; just get a longer belt.

This is very much a local project; all Beltology belts are made in New York City. The belt buckles are constructed from a heavyweight alloy that comes brushed or polished, depending on belt style.  All the trim is full-grain leather. One of things we really like about Beltology is the wide-ranging collection of styles, patterns, and materials. All have the signature red keeper loop lining; a subtle but clever branding touch. And, for a mere US$55.00 to $65.00, that’s a pretty good deal.

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Win a Bull+Moose Bow Tie

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It’s no secret that we are big fans of tie-maker extraordinaire, Bull+Moose.

One of the things that makes this brand noteworthy is that its exceptional ties are truly affordable and even include free shipping.  And, B+M ties, with material and construction quality at least equal to the likes of Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren, could go for a whole lot more. The company is able to make high quality hand-made ties at such a disruptive price point because they cut out the middleman.

Bull + Moose is a small, veteran run operation that is fixated on making great products and has fashion heavyweight like GQ and Esquire singing its praises. Without the overhead or licensing fees of large fashion labels or wholesale companies, B+M can pass cost savings directly to customers while still being able to support to great causes like Got Your 6 – an important company goal right from the beginning.

Now, you can win your very own B+M bow tie – the same tweed one shown here on their brand ambassador-in-chief, polo star Brandon Phillips. Entering is easy as 1-2-3:

1. Like B+M and OTC on Facebook

2. Follow B+M and OTC on Instagram

3. Leave a comment here and tell us how you’d wear it!

The contest closes at midnight on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. So, hurry up and enter!

*While we have no doubt this tie will make you look extra dapper and even natty, OTC cannot guarantee you will transform into an international polo champion with perfectly rugged stubble and a smoldering stare.

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OTC Recommends: Christensen Bags

Christensen No13_1Most lifestyle brands seek to improve upon a time-tested design or known functionality; a better shirt, hipper jeans, or a cooler laptop case. Christensen Bags, the brainchild of a creative husband and wife team, took a path less traveled and we think it’s made all the difference.

Rather than mimic something obviously traditional, these mid-century inspired bags and folios are unique, well designed, and irresistibly useful. They stand out from the portage crowd for all the right reasons.

Christensen bags are a third space when it comes to holding things. Crafted from a dense twill waxed cotton canvas, they are minimalist and sturdy – built for the work of carrying. While masculine in overall form, the brand’s carryalls and satchels evoke a clean lined, artistic aesthetic that make them perfectly appropriate for men or women. At at the same time, the purposeful materials and robust construction call to mind something you would expect to find in the field or in the hands of an architect at a construction site.

More so than any other bags we have tested, Christensen’s perfectly straddle the line between form and function. Tough yet refined, rugged but clean, pragmatically functional and aesthetically compelling. These bags work equally well hauling papers to the office or hauling tools.

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The carryall line in particular exemplifies this dual personality. Depending on how you use the bag, its functionally minimalist design naturally adapts to the chores and at hand. We have used a No. 28 Olive Carryall at a suit-and-tie conference and for porting sports equipment; it blended into each environment with notable ease.

Our No. 13 Platypus Satchel has become a go-to everyday errand bag. It’s the perfect size; compact but just roomy enough to carry the essentials with space to spare. The design is casually cool and can work with shorts and a polo shirt or with smart office wear. As with the carryalls, a simple panel of pockets and leather pen loops keep smaller items at bay, while the large, open interiors hold more than you might expect.

Construction-wise, the bags are actually double-thick due to the black cotton canvas lining used in all Christensen bags. The carryalls have thick leather bottoms and handles, and an equally sturdy detachable shoulder strap. We are still enamored with the No’ 28’s clever leather wrap handle closure.

The unique tab and stud closure on the No. 13 is also part of its appeal. Distinctive and practical, it is a design element for sure, but also keeps thing well-contained.

Overall, these bags continue to engage our creative side and keep us looking for reasons to put them to use. The company’s stated inspiration of Danish mid-century modern esthetics carries through all its products and underlies their ability to always look like the right choice.

It comes as no surprise that we highly recommend Christensen Bags.

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The Case for a Classic Briefcase

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In today’s world, men carry bags. Be they messenger or backpack, leather or nylon or canvas, formal or casual, we need a good bag. For many of us, a daily commute – even a quick errand – can necessitate a wallet, keys, smart phone, sunglasses, notebook and pen, not to mention innumerable personal knickknacks and talismans.

OTC has had a long running love affair with bags and thinking about the best way to carry the stuff of life. Your bag, and we have need for different types at different times, says something about you, your sense of style and personality, your value of design or craftsmanship, and your thoughts on form and function.

Louis Vuitton Attache CaseTo that end, we propose that you consider – or reconsider – the classic, hard-sided lid over box briefcase. For some this object is the height of old-fashionedness, while others see it as a classic case that carries with it eminent practicality and intellectual masculine swagger. While the briefcase, or attache, is in some ways a visual byword for the era of men in grey flannel suits, it still has the power to impart purpose and purposefulness to your kit.

So, with the burgeoning appreciation for all things classic, heritage, and hand-crafted, let’s take another look on your dad’s (or grand-dad’s) briefcase.

The first thing to understand about a hard-sided briefcase is that using one is commitment. You are making a statement in terms of your style and also in accepting that this isn’t an informal bag you can sling over your shoulder. You quite literally carry it around with you. There is a formality to the briefcase that will set you apart from others and you need to be OK with that. Yet, in today’s world such a stylistic positioning of self is not a bad thing – in some ways it’s sort of liberating.

While technology and the cloud allow for greater mobility and flexibility, the need to have our stuff at hand, since we are so often “on” even when away from the office, requires a mobile office beyond a mere iPhone 6 Plus. If you have need for files and papers, a tablet, your legal pad, pens and the other material of office life, being able to sort and organize your “carrying space” (as one reader dubs it) is more important than ever.

More than other bags, a box briefcase is your portable office and your mobile command center that holds its shape and creates a sense of grounding and place where ever you happen to be. Depending on the size ans style of your briefcase, the commuting convenience factor may certainly be impacted. A leather Frank Clegg messenger bag is of course more convenient on a crowded train. However, a slim Swaine Adeney Brigg briefcase is by no means a heavy lift.

You can find briefcases and attaches in varying sizes and price points. As with any other such investment, try and buy the best quality and construction you can afford. Some have wooden frames, some steel; regardless each element of construction should work towards the goal of a sturdy and balanced lifelong companion. When it comes to filling your briefcase, two factors quickly come into play; weight and capacity.

SwaineAdeneyBrigg_SAB2_MedHandStitchedLidOverBodyAttache_1bBy its nature, a box briefcase is heavier than other bags. and, its structured body does not really allow much flexibility when loading it up for the commute. Therefore, an ability to curate your daily needs is important. Also, the ability to organize and sort, if not inherent should be developed. The size, layout, and capacity of your briefcase comes into play at this point. Slim is elegant and refined but limiting. A large or expandable case (truth be told, we really don’t like the expanding type) allows for more stuff but that also increases size and weight.

We have been testing out the Buroni briefcase from Maxwell Scott (shown at top and below), a British brand. Handmade in Italy on a wooden frame, this box brief is a beautiful and solid example of a classic attache bag.

While it may be slightly larger than some prefer, we appreciate its deep box and snap-out blotter/divider that both keeps items separated and doubles as a firm writing surface. Our review finds it to be a great example of what a briefcase can be, with leather reinforced corners, bound edges, and discreet brass feet. It is a case that’s meant to be used in everyday real life, and that’s what we like to see.

Inside, a roomy light leather lined interior is separated from the well-designed top organization panel and file pockets by the aforementioned blotter. Two sturdy combination locks keep our contents safe.

As with any well crafted briefcase, part of the enjoyment in carrying it is appreciating the craftsmanship and detail that go into these unique and intensely personal objects. There is a reason that for more than 100 years, the British budget is still officially transported from Number 10 to the House of Commons via that little red briefcase.

The choice to carry a hard sided briefcase is personal, for some it will never be a good fit. For others, it’s a meaningful ritual that blend heritage with modern life, and form with function. If nothing else, add one to your bag rotation and make a point of using it. Maybe not every day, but sometimes it’s the perfect fit.

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While familiarity may breed contempt, exclusivity can engender affinity, curiosity even. To wit, where Ralph Lauren may suffer the slings and arrows of ubiquity and accusations of wannabe-classism, clothing brands known to only a few often retain genuine affection and social pull.

Such is the case with American clothing label, Boast.

First, a botany lesson; it’s a Japanese Maple leaf. Really. Second, a little history. To anyone who grew up around a country club in the 1970s and ’80s, Boast was that brand. Playing tennis on the dusty clay courts, all the cool guys wore Boast polo shirt or shorts. Racquetball (perhaps the WASPiest of all sports)? A Boast headband or socks. That leaf logo was, in an exclusive sort of way, ever present, which makes it that much more interesting.

So many brands like to try and build a preppy/vintage/heritage culture off a near-nugget of truth. Others create from whole cloth a background that somehow grounds them in Americana or Ivy League culture. Boast doesn’t need to; it’s the real deal.

Created in 1973 by a group of Ivy League All-American squash and tennis players, including the tennis pro at Greenwich, Connecticut’s Field Club, Boast was an American answer to fancy European sportswear that was at the time dominating the pro shop market. Selling from the back of a station wagon, they grew the brand into a staple of leading country clubs. If you played squash or tennis, you knew Boast.

Boast_Greg_NormanFrom there, the brand grew and was adopted by a certain strata of society and the sports world. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, iconoclasts everywhere were wearing Boast, from John McEnroe on the court to Greg Norman on the links to George W. Bush stumping for his dad. Boast, in no small part due to people misconstruing the leaf logo, was seen a badge of individualism and irreverence- yet almost always within the context of the upper crust.

That, of course, was the hook that kept the brand within a circle of a certain culture. You only really knew about Boast if you ran in the country club crowd at some level. And sporting Boast displayed your edgy independence to a familial menage that would metaphorically nod its head and, with a little wink, grab another G&T or Bloody Mary and mosey on over to the 19th Hole.

Boast never really went away, but it never really grew beyond what it was. And that’s OK. Boast was always about culture and people more than commercialization. Then, with some new owners at the helm determined to preserve all that makes it unique, Boast was re-born in 2012. It was, and still is, a brand for folks who appreciate grabbing a beer or two after a match, not a sustainably-sourced-gluten-free-vegan-detoxyfying-power-smoothie.

These new owners cherish the brand’s history and the philosophy behind what makes it such a special slice of American sportswear.

We tested out a few Boast items over the past couple of weeks and are more than happy to say that Boast is still very much a classic, country club inspired brand that is meant to be worn every day.Boast _Solid-Pique-Polo-Navy-580x580The classic Boast polo shirt is a blast from the past – 1985 (or thereabouts) to be specific. Thick cotton with some real texture, just like they used to be. Want enzyme washed and broken in? Not here. You’ll have wear this shirt to break in, thank you very much. And we like that, because it’s a polo that you are going to wear for years to come and cherish the work it took to build some personal character. It’s made to last and if that means you don’t need to buy another for some time, they’re cool with that.  It even has an old-school drop tail hem; love it.

We also have the navy Pique Sport Coat. It’s like wearing a blue blazer made from your polo shirt. How preppy is that?

Boast_Pique_Sport_Coat_Navy2-580x580This version was inspired by a jacket Boast made as a one-off collaboration with Andy Spade. That collaboration, Boast X Mr. Ned, was dreamed up by Partners & Spade of which Mr. Spade is a principle. Mr. Ned is a beloved tailor in Manhattan where the likes of acclaimed director Wes Anderson have their suits made.

The original was constructed from a heavy navy canvas with red elbow patches. It took a while to break in and literally creased when he bent his arms, but everyone loved it and asked for it. After a little tinkering, this easier to wear version emerged. Patch pockets and unlined with baby blue taped seams. Like if a blazer and a cardigan had a child; informally dressy. If Mory’s still had a jacket rule, this would be what you wore to brunch after a morning workout at Payne Whitney.

Boast is a slice of real American Ivy League, preppy, East Coast, country club life you can wear. That leaf may be mistaken for a lot things, but not for being a poser. Grab a cocktail, grab a seat, and hang out for a little while.

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