This year’s Off the Cuff Holiday Gift Guide is a unique collection of 15 top products and brands vetted, used, and tested by OTC staff. Whether a clever key chain or Arctic-ready parka, we have put these items through their paces and found them to meet the high standards we set for our readers.
As always, there are too many great products to fit into this seasonal guide of goodness, so make sure to check out our “Brands We Love” page and search through our hundreds of posts (10 years worth, in fact!) which cover amazing brands, cool clothing, awesome bags, and pretty much everything in-between.
Without further delay, here we go!
1. Triple F.A.T Goose: The Hesselberg Parka
This classic cold weather coat represents a renewed appreciation for timeless style, even when it’s freezing outside. The “F.A.T.” stands for “For Arctic Temperatures” and it means just that. This down filled cocoon feel like you are wearing a sleeping bag – in a good way. Yes, it’s puffy and a bit bulky, but that’s part of this jacket’s charm and what gives it that classic function-over-form aesthetic. Mesh underarm vents allow for some temperature control and the coyote fur trim on the detachable hood is nature’s greatest wind blocker. A neat feature are the hidden storm cuffs, complete with thumb holes, that keep wind and cold from sneaking up your sleeves.
2. Bucket Feet: Leather Sneakers to Up Your Casual Look
Fancy leather sneakers are all the rage at the moment, and we think it’s a pretty cool trend. Long favored by creative types, elegant, or at least minimally logoed and tricked-out kicks provide a laid back counterpoint to otherwise dressy outfits. While some big name versions can set you back thousands, these Basic Leather Brown sneaks from Bucket Feet (designed by artist Takashi Yoshii) are nice option for upping your style quotient while keeping things simple. Based on the pared-down design of old-school canvas trainers, the caramel leather upper dresses up the white rubber sole and says, “I’m chill, but still know how to win that argument/point/debate.” A single red eyelet on each shoe is the only nod to embellishment, and all that’s needed.
If there is one thing we can never get enough of, it’s books. The OTC office is literately awash in a sea of style, fashion, menswear, history, travel, cultural, and design books. Two particular books of note for this holiday season are From Tip To Toe: The Essential Men’s Wardrobe and Fantastic Man.
Geshtalten, the publishing house that also brings us all those great Monocle books, crafted From Tip To Toe from the ground up and completely in-house. This hefty little coffee table book is a worldly tour of keystone labels (often European, given the German publisher) and core pieces of clothing that define, or are at least indicative of, important elements in a man’s wardrobe. Apart from the fetching photography and thoughtful writing, we particularly like that the book looks at all aspects of life, from the boardroom to the mountaintop. It’s a great addition to your reference section.
Fantastic Man is a tour de force retrospective of the eponymous magazine that helped to re-shape menswear periodicals. Part style guide, part literally reflection, part meditative menswear musing, Fantastic Man the magazine is required reading for the fashion cognoscenti. The book is a collection of key interviews, stories, and profiles from the first 10 years of this celebrated publication. This is a book for the thinking parts of your fashion-y brain.
4. Hudson Sutler: The Perfect Duffel Bag
Ever wonder what happened to those classic, rugged gym bags that always seemed to be everywhere back in the day? Heavy canvas and beefy zippers. Plain shoulder strap and stitched wrap-around handles for hauling gear to practice and beer to the game? Look no further, because Hudson Sutler has you covered. These guys make the best basic bags you’re going to find anywhere. Solid, timeless, and fun. With the motto, “to the next great escape,” their goal is for your next escape to include one of their commuter or travel duffels. Or, maybe, the insulated cooler bag – everyone needs one of those. Based on a single old rugby bag, Hudson Sutler’s duffels and other offerings are ruggedly built and meant to be used and abused. Send them a picture of your bag in action, they love that.
5. Orbitkey: The Coolest Non-Key Chain
Winner of a 2015 Good Design Award for best in the category of Product Design – Homewares, Fashion, and Objects, Orbitkey has created a totally cool and surprisingly elegant key chain – fob, really – that discretely bundles your flat keys inside a practical, beautiful leather cover. They also have an option for a wonderfully modern looking elastomer cover. Held in place with a small metal bar, itself industrially attractive, the Orbitkey is both form and function in action. Car fobs and other bulky necessities can be attached to the included flat ring and you can even add in a handy USB key or bottle opener (it is from Australia after all). This little item is hands-down one of our favorites for all of 2015.
6. Ribbed Tee: The Undershirt That Fits
The market for undershirts – yes, undershirts – is becoming a crowded one. From all-cotton to fancy proprietary blends, there is literally something for everyone. It’s turned into a veritable forest of undergarments out there. For our money, Ribbed Tee makes some of the best out there. Soft and comfortable, these tees are always a good fit and good choice. They have longer shirt tails to stay tucked in place and a fit that stays close to the body without feeling constricted.
7. Ecko Unltd. 72: Fragrance With a Cause
Not only do we like this new men’s fragrance, we are also fans of the ecological mission being supported by Ecko Unltd. 72; the #EckoRhinoRescue initiative. The current rate of poaching rhinos means that they will likely face extinction in the wild in just 11 years. In partnership with Save the Rhino International, Ecko Unltd. 72 has committed to raise funds and conservation awareness for species worldwide.
For each Instagram post featuring the rhino—whether it’s a drawing, stuffed animal, or selfie in a rhino T-shirt—and tagged #EckoRhinoRescue, Ecko Unltd. 72 will donate $1 to Save the Rhino International (up to $10,000). Kicking off the initiative with an American college tour and digital campaign, Ecko Unltd. 72 is committed to helping save rhinos from extinction.
As far as this new fragrance goes, the top notes are crispy ozone, Italian bergamot, frozen apple, and smoke; with mid notes of English lavender, violet leaf, warm amber, and suede. The scent’s base notes are Indonesian sandalwood, tonka bean, and musk.
8. Birddogs: Shorts You’ll Always Want to Wear
OK, these things are awesome. Let’s just get that clear right up front. Birddogs are marketed to guys as shorts that combine the best elements of swim trunks and boxers, and indeed they do. Don’t worry about the fact that it is chilly outside; it’s summer somewhere and when warm weather rolls around you’ll want a few of these in the weekend wear drawer. Yes, the brand has a certain frat-party ethos to it, but that’s not the point. When we first slipped on a pair of Birddogs, the reaction was simply, “Oh my gosh, they did it. I didn’t even know that I’ve been looking for these forever.”
9. 8/Omakase: Subscription Service, Customized to You
Subscription boxes that bring various forms of fashion to your door are becoming commonplace and distinguishing oneself in a crowded market can be a not insignificant challenge. 8/Omakase ups the ante by promising to deliver affordable made-to-measure clothing throughout the year that not only fits you, but also fits your style. An initial style profile helps to set out your fashion preferences and once you get your measurements loaded into the system, the boxes start coming. Your products, colors,and patterns are selected by a stylist and made to fit just you.
We found our selections to be a bit more trendy than what we would have chosen, but you know what? They work really well and helped us to open our eyes. Nice job! And the name? “Omacase” is a term often used in sushi restaurants where the customer entrusts the chef to serve as he sees best. As for the number; in Asia, the number 8 is considered lucky. More importantly, it’s the number of packages of made-to-measure clothing customers receive in a year. 2 packages per quarter.
10. Upton Belts: The Customized Knox Belt
Not only are the belts from Upton Belts distinctive, stylish and darn well-made, they are also made just for you. Another example of semi-customized menswear, these belts possess an optimistic and fresh look, whether formal or informal. Side-tack stitching and custom cast hardware help make your Upton belt stand out from the crowd. Hand made in Texas of Italian leather, the belts are substantial and take some time to break in a bit. You can choose among three “families,” dress, casual, and sport and select your hardware finish and leather color. We are particularly fond of the way they make our casual Knox belt look both minimalist and rich in detail at the same time.
11. This Is Ground: Mod Tablet 2 (You’ll Want This)
This is Ground creates carryalls that are as interesting and unique as the company’s name. The Mod Tablet 2 is essentially a cult object that happens to also be a thoroughly practical tool for everyday life. How cult? it has its own Instagram hashtag: #TIGMOD. The Mod is perfect for gathering your various technical and personal gear that often gets lost in a bag, stuck in a pocket, or dropped on the floor. Within the standard soft leather shell is a magnet spine that allows for the swapping in and out of different inserts with unique pocket, snap, and slot configurations dedicated to different lifestyles. We love ours and often look for reasons to load it up and leave the bag at home.
12. Vionic: Super Slippers
A good pair of slippers is a necessity for a lot of guys. They keep your feet warm, of course, but they also play the important role of being house shoes. And, for those of us who adhere to the philosophy that footwear which have spent the day roaming the streets and getting into all sorts of questionable stuff should be taken off when you get home, ones choice of slipper matters. These Vionic moccasin style slippers are way more than meets the eye. Comfy? Yes. Warm? Yes. But, they also have Vionic’s unique Orthaheel Technology, a biomechanic orthotic footbed that naturally aligns your feet and may help to relieve heel pain by reducing over-pronation. It’s a mouthful, but man, they do wonders for your feet.
13. Deo Veritas: The Best Online Made to Measure Shirt
Just to be clear, when we say “best online made to measure shirt,” we mean exactly that. OTC has and will continue to test out all manner of made to measure shirts, and the fact remains that Deo Veritas makes the best. The quality, construction, materials, and fit are hands-down the best we have come across. We like their shirts so much that we look forward to wearing them and typically build outfits around a particular shirt. That’s pretty much it; it you want a great shirt, give Deo Veritas a try.
14. Triple Aught Design: Mean T-Skull Shemagh
Cold weather brings out the scarves, but what if you are looking for something a little different to keep your neck warm on the way to work? Our friends at Triple Aught Design have the very thing; their take on the traditional Middle Eastern shemagh or keffiyeh. It’s an incredibly useful and multifuntional item that lends some international savoir faire to your wardrobe.
The shemagh’s classic design – a large square of cotton fabric finished with small knotted tassels – is quickly recognizable. TAD ads its own tactical fashion stamp via a topographical/skull pattern that speaks to the company’s special forces roots. Of particular note, this item is manufactured in collaboration with the non-profit organization Not For Sale, which works in several countries to make a positive impact in the local community by connecting retailers to manufacturers who provide humane, ethical working conditions for their employees.
15. Lipault: The Elegant Roll-on Bag
Everyone needs one good travel bag, and a carry-on roller is a must for any road warrior. Lipault Paris makes one of our favorites. A robust build is deftly hidden within its modern, minimalist design. Simple pockets, spinner wheels, and grab handles mean that transfers and loading/unloading are a breeze. And, the compact 22″ size easily fits overhead while holding much more than you would expect. Bon Voyage.