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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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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Post Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

It’s too late – you forgot. Or you procrastinated. Or plan “A” fell through.

For whatever reason, Valentine’s Day is here and gone. And, you need to track down a little something that tells your man that you love him. We’re here to help. OTC rounded up a few ideas that have classic appeal coupled with some modern touches that won’t break your bank.

Citizen Eco Drive ProMaster Air

 

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This is a classically inspired chronograph reinterpreted by the folks at Citizen. If an IWC Aquatimer Galapagos Edition is not on your short list at the moment, the ProMaster Air is an excellent everyday alternative. Good down to 200 feet it also has an internal timing bezel, and Citizen’s eco-friendly EcoDrive. Features include a 1/100 second chronograph, world time in 30 cities, split lap time, and a 99-minute countdown timer.

What we really like about this watch is that with an MSRP of US$400.00, it’s not too expensive, but delivers the style, feel, and quality of something more costly. It’s 44mm wide, which projects a certain pilot watch persona, with the capabilities to match. At the same time, it’s overall design is clean and modern with just a touch of functionality. It’s also comfortable on the wrist – a pretty important feature on its own.

 

Eu De Lacoste L.12.12 Rouge

Lacoste-eau-de-lacoste-l-12-12-rougeYes, the vaunted iconic sportwear brand also does scents. And they happen to do it well. And yes, that’s really it’s name. Not typically the sort of thing we get into here at OTC, but we like a good cologne and when it comes to Valentine’s Day, it’s a great, simple gift that gets everyday use.

Inspired by the original Lacoste “L.12.12″ white polo shirt designed by René Lacoste in the late 1920s, Eau De Lacoste L.12.12 Rogue “captures the transformation of the iconic polo shirt into a fragrance.” We like because it’s a scent that reads both active and breezy.

 

Bull+Moose Tie Anchor Tie

 

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Bull+Moose makes great ties that are both modern and classic at the same time. In addition to this great nautical themed motif, B+M crafts some killer bow ties and pocket squares. A tie may be the “safe” gift for a guy, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or forgettable.

B+M also has a great story. A veteran-run company that was created with the goal of giving back to great organizations. – in this case, Got Your Six. We have a bunch and recommend the brand any chance we get. Like now.

 

Two (or more) from KP Bags

KP Faceoff BagBear with us here. OTC has always been big into the search for the perfect bag. Sometimes that bag is a leather satchel, sometimes a tote, sometimes a backpack. We are even working on the review of a handmade Italian box-over-lid briefcase; very old school. In this case, we are talking about the FaceOff messenger from KP Bags.

Kind of urban-meets-street-meets-techie? Sure. Not your typical OTC fare? Maybe. But the cool thing here is that KP Bags created a well-organized and well-made messenger that you can customize with a variety of purpose-built flaps. So, you buy the body in either grey or black and then choose from a bunch of different cover flaps. When in place, the covers are rock solid and match perfectly.

We actually love the one with all the tech pockets – seriously. Took us by surprise too. Really a great bag.

 

Style to Your Door: Bespoke Post

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Curated and customized style boxes delivered to your front door via subscription are very much a thing right now. As with most brands competing in a commoditzed market, first movers have the advantage of establishing themselves as brand names which often represent the whole segment. Some services are spot-on, some average, and some forgettable.

With its cleverly themed boxes, quality products, and interesting collaborations, Bespoke Post stands apart from others.  They refer to themselves as a”box of awesome.” We have had our eye on this New York based company for some time and recently had a chance to try out its updated “Sweat” box.

More Midtown racquet club than college gym, this box is a good example of actual curating and thinking through details. As with most of Bespoke Post’s boxes, the contents are meant to tell a story and set a mood, both in style and personality.

See what goes into the making of the Bespoke Post Blue Claw Co. duffel.

With only two components, a fantastic duffel in which to carry your workout gear from craft bag maker Blue Claw Co., and a on-trend camo workout towel by lululemon (yes, they actually carry some excellent workout wear and gear for men), you might expect to feel a bit shortchanged. Not so.

Bespoke_Post_LogoThe bag and towel are both substantial and solidly crafted, and the combination is just enough to keep things classy in the gym. In fact, while the Blue Claw duffel clearly can handle the gym, it’s easily nice enough to be a casual work bag. Each box also comes with a crisp and clever booklet that gives you details and information about your new goods.

The simple combination creates a feeling of potential – workout in style or upgrade your commute. Or both. As a side note, we were particularly impressed with both the quality of the products and creative way in which they are positioned in each box’s story, including the fluid nature of the advertorial messages – like the product booklet.

While the workout towel is actually very cool, the star of this show is the heavy duty 15 ource navy canvas bag. With a whipcord striped lining and nylon taped seams, heavy nickel plated hardware, and beefy cotton webbed handles, it’s pretty amazing. This bag is actually an update from the one first offered as part of the Sweat Box, and possibly one of the nicest small duffel bags we’ve come across, period.

With each box running an even US$45.00 as part of a monthly subscription, and guaranteed to contain at least US$70.00 worth of interesting stuff, you are bound to be happily surprised. Skip a box whenever; and if you happen to like one but don’t want to be bothered with a subscription, no worries, they are only US$55.00 a la carte.

Bespoke Post even has an online retail store front filled with a carefully orchestrated selection of manly gear, ranging from leather knife rolls for calming your inner Tom Colicchio, to authentic casino playing cards, to spearmint basic scrub soap.

So, if you are looking for a good Valentine’s Day gift for your guy, Bespoke Post is a pretty good place to start.

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