Spring Style: Out and About

OTC in DC Spring Style: Out and About

As warmer Spring weather finally begins to settle in, it’s time to head out into the city, take in the cherry blossoms and take care of a few errands.  Here, along Washington, D.C.’s 14th Street, NW, you will find some outstanding furniture, decorating, and accessories stores as well as a growing selection of exciting gastropubs, restaurants, and gelaterias.

For this day’s excursion, we opted for a casually simple and comfortable outfit that worked with the unexpectedly warm, breezy weather.  Remember, every day doesn’t have to be an exercise in Ivy League interpretation.  Sometimes, you just want throw on an easy outfit and head out the door.

Here, the vintage cotton J. Crew button down allows for freedom of movement and long sleeves for when the sun goes down.  The shorts are from Ecoths and while classically neutral in cut and color, they also have some nice urban touches, like a handy smart phone pocket. The ECCO BIOM Walk shoes are incredibly comfortable and lightweight – perfect for extended city roaming.

Athabasca 24 Spring Style: Out and AboutWe also took the opportunity to test out the Athabasca 24 day pack from Granite Gear, a maker of serious outdoor equipment.  Designed for use by both everyday consumers and avid hikers, this bag was just right for hauling purchases, snacks, and personal necessities.

Backpacks are best suited for casual outfits and practical needs.  Regardless of intent, a backpack – certainly a outdoorsy one -  never looks right with a coat and tie.  And, we are daily commuters, so we understand why people opt for them.  Remember to match your bag to your wardrobe and the level of formality, or informality, you are projecting that day.

Luckily, this day’s outfit was decidedly casual and the Athabasca was the right bag for the job.  It sat comfortably on the back and also stayed in place when slung over one shoulder, even filled-up.  The pack actually comes with an integrated hip belt for long day hikes, but we left it at home, opting for a slimmer, urban profile.



OTC: What We Carry Everyday

What I Carry Picture OTC: What We Carry Everyday

OTC was recently asked to contribute a photo to the British site Everyday Carry UK showing what our editor-in-chief has in his bag and on his person any given day.  As bags and the stuff of life have always been a big part of OTC, we were happy to oblige.

While the sack may change based on need, style, and mood, what’s inside is fairly consistent.  When we tried to edit all the stuff down to a manageable representation of gear, one item inadvertently left out of the photo was a fantastic Chester Mox wallet that keeps his all-important Metro pass secure.  In addition, although out of view, the bag used that day was the Courier Messenger Bag from Frank Clegg.

This brief exercise reminded us of the many great brands, creative companies, and exceptional individuals we have met over the years.  We have linked to a few of those brands represented here.

Clockwise from top:


Frank Clegg Launches New Web Presence

President Obama Frank Clegg Bag Frank Clegg Launches New Web Presence
Today, we are excited to announce that master leather craftsman Frank Clegg has launched a completely new website.  With a clean new look that highlights his exceptional collection of handcrafted leather goods, Frank’s new site is a study in focus and clarity.

Frank Clegg has been in the luxury goods business for more than 40 years and makes some of the best leather travel bags, briefcases, and classic totes, and accessories on the market.  While Frank and his small team of craftsmen design and build elegant leather goods under the Frank Clegg name, the workshop also produces outstanding products for some of the most revered of American luxury labels.

Frank is an artist of the old school; he learned craft over time and understands that when true luxury is involved, less is definitely more.  What makes Frank particularly unique is that he is both a designer and a craftsman.  Everything sold by Frank Clegg was designed by him and made in-house.

Black Ziptop Frank Clegg Frank Clegg Launches New Web PresenceIn fact, he is held in such high esteem that when the White House went looking for a made-in-America personal briefcase for President Obama, they turned to Frank.  That Zip-Top Briefcase next to the Resolute Desk in the photo above, Frank made that himself.

You only need to examine a Frank Clegg product to know that he doesn’t just make leather bags; he crafts heirlooms, one at a time, by hand.  Luxury leather work is a deceivingly complex craft. Even the modern conveniences of machines and computerized design must bow to the master of time, because it still takes time to create such durable beauty.

Indeed, Frank may practice an age-old craft, but this creative innovator is very much on the pulse of today’s luxury goods market.

To that end, the new website also showcases a few new bags, including the moderne Diablo Briefcase and a Suede Shield Duffle Bag that is part of his collection with designer Michael Bastain, both below:

Frank Clegg Diablo Briefcase Frank Clegg Launches New Web Presence

Frank Clegg Michael Bastian Suede Duffle Frank Clegg Launches New Web Presence


OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

DSC 0650 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

OTC is proud to be a brand ambassador for the footwear and lifestyle brand ECCO.  When it comes to everyday life, we often need items that work well, get the job done, and are a comfortable fit.  More often than you might think, ECCO products fit that bill.

Shoes that are incredibly comfortable and versatile, bags that work in the real world, and accessories that fit a casual, European inspired lifestyle, are the hallmarks of ECCO products.  Modern styles and technical functionality are also core attributes of the company and our recent shipment highlights all these elements.

For Spring 2014, we are checking out some classic hand-sewn boat shoes, a pair of hybrid day sneakers, and a leather zip tote that makes for a stylish office alternative.

BIOM Lite 1.1 Sneaker

DSC 0634 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

Ellery Boat Shoe

DSC 0632 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

Deane Tote Shopper

DSC 0631 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

Here are a few additional views:

DSC 0649 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

DSC 0663 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

DSC 0651 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 GearDSC 0648 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

DSC 0658 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear


Find the Right Bag for You

OTC J.Panther Ruc Open 1024x685 Find the Right Bag for You

Everyone has their odd interest; that particular thing you love and obsess over, the subject that’s never far from your thoughts. For example, a friend of mine is obsessed with anything related to trains. He is always coming across books on trains or railways, or finding china from famous lines for sale on eBay. He even train spots in movies that are not about trains. Once, he identified a particular engine by the sound of its whistle. We checked; he was correct.

For me, it’s bags – or more accurately, containers. I have always found things like luggage, desks, furniture, and boxes fascinating. I am a fan of museums, architecture, and interior design; all natural extensions of this proclivity. I am also a natural organizer, which makes sense given this longitudinal interest.

Bags, however, have always been a point of particular fascination to me, especially bags that have a function or purpose. The idea of a bag as a portable office or hold-all for one’s daily needs and wants has always interested me. Even document cases, pen cases, zippered pouches, and coin cases all fascinate me. Each has a purpose and role; sorting, organizing, containing.

Indiana Jones Bag Find the Right Bag for YouGrowing up, one of my idols was Indiana Jones. He traveled the world, defied death, and taught archeology at Princeton to adoring girls. He had an awesome leather jacket, that great fedora, and a whip.

He also had a bag. Indy’s bag held notebooks with ancient Egyptian calendar translations, golden statues, and grail journals. It was really cool, but totally practical. It made sense; where else would all that stuff go? It went everywhere with him.

The First OTC Bag

The ability to pare down one’s daily necessities and take them with you is another concept that continues to interest me, and in fact helped lead to the creation of OTC. One of our earliest posts was about the Counterfeit Mailbag, from the J. Peterman Company.  In fact, John Peterman himself sent over for review. It was one of the first everyday bags positioned specifically for a man; a tool for safeguarding and transporting the things you needed.  It was rugged, manly, functional, and steeped in history. It had a story, purpose, and background. These are still the key elements that speak directly to many male consumers; and that bag is still a favorite.

While bags for nearly every guy’s need are now a mere mouse click away, the proper balance needs to be struck. To our mind, function should always edge out form because what ultimately make a great man’s bag so compelling are its roots, design, provenance, and construction.  These qualities transcend style and materials because a well-made bag is obvious no matter what kind of bag it is.

Four Bags

That said, we feel there are four basic bags to consider when looking for an everyday bag: the briefcase, the messenger bag, the tote bag and the duffel bag. Each one of these has an inherent function at its design core, yet each can easily adapt to most men’s needs.

The Briefcase

Frank Clegg English Briefcase Find the Right Bag for You

The briefcase can be strictly business, as with a Swaine Adeney Brigg lid-over-box briefcase or entrepreneurially flexible like the J. Panther Courier Ruc (also shown at the top). The definition of a modern briefcase has shifted to match the changing role of the man who carries it. Simply put, a typical man in a grey flannel suit needs room for more than just a pen and some folders, and it often his bag needs to be malleable and commuter friendly.

While the traditional box briefcase is elegant, sturdy, and ideal for the transportation and protection of files and paperwork, it is also limiting. A man’s accessory in most iconic way, its heyday is unfortunately past. The box briefcase is today more often an ironic steampunk accessory, corner-office aspirant security blanket, or, rarely, a true work tool carried by those unencumbered with too much day-to-day materiel (read, CEO or law firm partner).

A great truth about a great briefcase is that it becomes an heirloom. And a great modern briefcase is epitomized by the Frank Clegg English Briefcase shown here. Based on the iconic English dispatch case, it is formal yet rugged, polished yet waiting to be aged by life.

The Messenger

OTC Messenger Bag 1024x685 Find the Right Bag for You

Perhaps the most influential modern example of a daily bag is the messenger bag. As with many social innovations, the now-ubiquitous messenger bag began life as purely functional tool used by bike messengers. When they first started showing up at the office, these purpose-designed bags telegraphed that the owner was creative, edgy, and had maybe even had access to the cool but sketchy bike messenger world.

Indeed, messenger bags were the perfect hybrid for many men; not a briefcase, not a backpack, bur decidedly masculine. They helped to define a new category that moved freely from home to street to office to Starbucks. They were also utilitarian; one big compartment, maybe a small zippered pocket and that was it. Bag makers quickly revisited their interior landscapes and today’s messenger bag now has pockets, sleeves and flaps for every conceivable gadget.

We feel that a classic Timkuk2 messenger is the best choice for a traditionally styled bag. Jack Spade also makes some great clean, modern messenger bags for those with an urban aesthetic.

The grown-up messenger bag is also very popular and thoroughly practical for many men. Rendered in leather or sturdy canvas, these bags are perhaps the closest thing there is to a man’s version of a purse. Two that we really like are the Keith Messenger Bag by ECCO and the Frank Clegg’s classic Messenger Bag. The Frank Clegg bag is exceptionally crafted and timeless in design. With few pockets but a huge amount of space, it is on the larger side, but if you are looking for that “one” bag, this is it. The ECCO bag is similar in design, although smaller and it has more pockets. Designed to carry a variety of everyday stuff, it is very much a “man bag,” in the best of ways.

The Tote

Porter x Monocle Tote Bag Find the Right Bag for You

The iconic canvas tote bag is as practical as it is ubiquitous. Tote bags are big right now and come in any manner of style and material. Perhaps the most famous version of this functional workhorse is made by L.L. Bean – the Boat and Tote. In fact, L.L. Bean essentially invented the canvas tote bag category. The bag was originally developed to carry blocks of ice (back in the day when block ice was used to keep foods fresh in the ice box).

The tote bag survives and thrives because its design is simple and universal. The open top, occasionally zippered or buttoned, is easy to fill up and empty out and when well-tweaked, can morph into a modern bag while holding on to its utilitarian roots. Notebooks, tablets, and magazines are easily found and the wide-open space encourages you to toss in a few leather zipped pouches for pens and other small items.

A great example of this thoughtful updating is found in this elegant tote bag from the Japanese brand Porter, in collaboration with Monocle magazine. A practical tote at heart, its carefully placed interior pockets and sturdy top snap make it the perfect office or globe-trotting companion.

J. Panther Luggage has beautiful example of a modern classic tote about which we recently wrote, the Ruc Tote.  It’s possibly one of the coolest bags OTC has ever reviewed.

The Duffel

Frank Clegg Duffel OTC Find the Right Bag for YouA duffel bag in the office? Yes. But we are talking about smaller, carry-on style duffels, not the ones used for military deployment. Intended as a personal travel bag, the duffel has the advantage of being designed to both carry a good amount of one’s stuff and be easily portable, fitting into tighter spaces.

Typically simple in design and construction, a duffel bag also blends in well with most outfits and styles. Short of a full-pads business suit, it can handle the office with hipster aplomb and then head off with you on vacation.  And, frankly, some duffel bags from Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Bally, Hermes, and Frank Clegg (pictured here) are elegant enough for any setting.

While not for everyone, using a smallish duffel as a work bag is a fun way to bring a utilitarian – or, dare we say, bohemian – bent to your daily routine.  Bear in mind that by design they generally consist of one large open space, sometimes with a small zippered drop pocket.  Consider capturing smaller items in pouches and small zip bags, keeping tem easy to find and access.