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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As cold weather settles back in across the Northern hemisphere, let’s make sure to keep a little sunshine peeking through the clouds. Indeed, this time of year means wool sweaters and six-whale cords. Yes, there will be more time indoors and more flannels, tweeds, fleece, and hot coffee.

All good things to be sure; however, there is one brand that always makes certain we don’t take things too seriously.

Ntnady makes great, casually breezy belts that blend the practicality of East Coast prep with the laid back chill of SoCal surfing. Founder Napper Tandy is a native Brooklynite marketing exec turned LA craftsman, which explains the pitch-perfect match-up in styling.

Too often belts are a serious business that must meet the work-a-day requirements of understatement, sobriety, and conformity. Of course, when you sit back and look around, you’ll see that there are many occasions when you can loosen up your wardrobe choices and have some sartorial fun.

ntandy_oliveNtandy’s new crop of simply designed belts are a fun fit for your casual winter wardrobe and add some personality while still holding up your flannel-lined khakis.

The new belts add some traditional takes to his classic design: olive and navy nylon, a navy wool flannel, and a fun red/green belt version of Christmas fun pants.

All of the belts are, of course, made in sunny Southern California. The nylon belts are crafted from old-school board short material wrapped around 1000 pound test nylon climbing webbing and simple contrast stitching adds just the right amount of vintage style.

As Napper describes his belts, “I like to think they’re aesthetically part Birdwell Beach Britches, part 70’s Patagonia with a little nip off the flask of the old prep school ribbon belt.” We remember Patagonia from back then – unbreakable crunchy mountain hippy gear – and he’s spot on.

Check out the super fun ways ntandy customers sport their belts, it puts a smile on our faces every time we visit.

We regularly test out all sorts of stuff here at OTC, and Napper’s belts are simple, fun, functional, and plain old cool. They work worn-out old shorts and Sperrys in the summer and khakis and Bean duck boots in the winter. What’s not to like?

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The Rowing Blazers Tie, Get Yours

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When Jack Carlson penned Rowing Blazers, he created a unique and elegant anthology of the hard-charging yet tradition-bound rowing culture.

An instant classic, it’s a welcome edition to any gentleman’s classic style and menswear library. The book also showcases the vibrant and eccentric designs of the world’s rowing clubs’ historic and in some cases, iconic, blazers.

As a personal homage to his love of the sport and appreciation of its history and culture, Jack began doodling mini blazers in his spare time; different colors, different designs, different badges. Just for fun.

Well, that pastime turned into a personal talisman when he had a one-off version of the necktie made and then sported it in his Rowing Blazers book. It proved a bit of an obsession with some readers asking where they too could get one.

Well, now you can – at least for a brief time.

Get your own limited edition Rowing Blazers Necktie and channel your inner oarsman. It looks pretty cool in the picture above and even nicer in person. The one Jack sent us is a fantastic heavyweight silk navy twill, made in England, and looks great with just about anything. The blazers are amazingly detailed and each one has a personality all its own.

This is a special tie and we love it – an heirloom that’s a unique as it is a bit of preppy inspired fun.

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