Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

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When the innovative technology company Dyson approached us and asked that we write about what a dream space means to OTC, we quickly agreed. Often, “dream space” is associated with the ideal female getaway, but men often want the same thing too. It can be described as an office, library, retreat, man cave, workshop, or even just “my room.” However, we prefer the the more refined and light-filled description of a “study.”

The label of study reflects a place of thoughtfulness and meaningful introspection.  It is not where you go to retreat from the world so much as a place to explore it; recharge and reflect on important ideas, thoughts, issues, topics, and pastimes. A study is not simply where you keep your stuff. It is akin to a library, yet not all libraries are studies. Where a library can sometimes be a mere repository of ideas and information, a study is a living, breathing place that feeds your creativity and curiosity.

No wonder then that the heart of OTC is a small, book- and sample-filled study.

DSC 05301 Dream Space: A Study of Your OwnTo us, a study is not simply a work space; it is a living place, a thinking place, a writing place, and a home base for ideas. Even though every study is personal and unique, they all tend to have some things in common.

Collections: One of the key purposes of a study is to serve as a physical repository for your ideas and passions. It is a home for important collections such as books, papers, pens, watches, or pictures – whatever they may be. Some studies are a study in precise order and control. Others are an explosion of color and stuff; a cacophony of objects that to an outsider have no meaning or cohesion. Yet, to the owner, everything has a purpose and a role. Every item is cherished.

To us, the study is very much a home for ideas and personal expression. It’s a place to keep your thoughts and materials together. The OTC study is home to hundreds of books, art, and a ton of collateral from brand that span the globe.  We have an extensive menswear library and piles of publications covering the menswear, luxury goods, and lifestyle markets. Our wall of books cover all sorts of subjects and disciplines, and many of them have been in the family for close on 100 years.

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Art: Pictures and sculptures are something else that make a study more personal and interesting. Art is a true expression of personal interest, and each piece often has a story and meaning. For us, art is what makes a space and it is a physical way to express the things you value in life. The OTC study is chock full of old water colors and oil paintings, classic equestrian prints, family photos from the 1920s, historic keepsakes, trophies, globes, and even a cherished portrait of Napoleon.

Work Space: You need a place to write, stack, organize, and sort. A traditional desk, of course makes sense, but if you have the space, we also like the  idea of a large open work table. Position your work space near the natural light of a window or ensure that your task and indirect lighting provides proper illumination. Think about storage and shelving too, as organization is key to keeping your space clean and orderly.

Seating: Apart from your desk chair, a good lounge chair for sitting, reading, thinking, or researching is always helpful. It also has a way of transforming your room from a spare space to a true intellectual retreat. Here, her have a simple small club chair in a light tartan, but you can opt for something more substantial, like a beefy duck cotton or leather. If you have the space, and the budget, create a separate reading area in your study; a small sofa and coffee table or circle of occasional chairs,  make a nice place to sit and work.

Restoration Hardware Library Sofa 300x144 Dream Space: A Study of Your OwnFor our money, you can’t do much better than Restoration Hardware’s sprawling Kensington Sofa. Part leather couch, part daybed, it’s an ideal place to think and spread out – if you have the room!

Personalizing your space and making it comfortable and productive are essential tasks for creating a study that meets your needs.  Keeping it clean and organized are equally important to ensuring that your study evolves in a positive and useful fashion. To that end, we are running a very cool giveaway contest.

You can win your very own Dyson DC59 Motorhead vacuum. This flexible and efficient cleaning tool is perfect for compact spaces or general cleaning and it’s cordless design makes it that much more versatile. In fact, it’s the latest Dyson Digital Slim™ cordless vacuum and designed for maximum performance, ease of use and versatility, it has a direct-drive motor in the cleaner head.

Dyson on Wall Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

We are true fans of Dyson and are long-time users. The cool thing about the Dyson DC59 Motorhead is that it’s designed for floor-to-ceiling cleaning. The center of gravity is located towards the grip for easy handling up top, down low, and in-between. So, with a hand tool like that, there is no excuse for not keeping your study clean and organized.

To enter the giveaway contest, all you have to do is leave a brief comment to this post answering the question: “What is your dream space and what Dyson DC59 Motorhead feature do you enjoy the most?”

Thanks to Dyson for sponsoring today’s discussion.

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 Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

 

Art of Style Invite Large Art of Style Event Recap: A Huge Success and Stylish EveningArt of Style was a big success, a ton of fun, and a chance for all of artist Samara Shuter’s DC fans to meet her in person.  The Huxley, our venue for the evening, was fantastically cool and made us all feel right at home.

The event and its omnipresent hashtag #ArtOfStyleDC, received great media coverage, including The Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, Friend of a Friend, Greg’s List, and numerous fashion and lifestyle bloggers.  Thanks to everyone for the support.

We could not be happier with the outcome and already the question is being thrown at us, “We need more; when’s the next one?”

We’re already working on that.

With close to 200 guests in attendance, we had a full room, a lot of conversation, and lots of eyeballs on our in-house brands.  The bar was busy, but so were the tables for Bull + Moosestubble & ‘stache, Read Wall, and the Nice Laundry crew who were roaming through the crowd.

Personally, OTC had the chance to meet many readers, chat with great industry folks, and of course hang out with Sam Shuter, our guest of honor.  With all that out of the way, let’s get down to the photos!  If you were there, maybe you’re here.  And, if you missed The Art of Style, here’s what you missed.

If we missed mentioning you in a photo, no worries.  Just leave a comment and we’ll make sure you are recognized, or email us directly at otc (at) oofthecuffdc (dot) com.

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Art of Style Invite Large 1024x699 Join us on May 16: The Art of Style With Samara Shuter

On Friday May 16, 2014, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., join OTC and some of D.C.’s coolest brands and style influencers at The Art of Style Happy Hour celebrating artist Samara Shuter.  Sam is the creator of OTC’s suit logo, and more importantly, a talent whose international reputation continues to grow as more people discover her distinctive, menswear-influenced style.

Our other partners for the event – Bull+Moose, Nice Laundry, Read Wall, and Stubble & Stache – will have their outstanding wares on display.  Share a drink with the brands’ founders and meet up with other menswear enthusiasts.  You’ll be able to meet Sam and take a look at some of her iconic images on display.  We may even raffle off a couple of prints!

We are looking forward to a great crowd and some pretty special guests – Washingtonian Magazine and DC Magazine will both be there to cover the evening.

Our venue for the evening is D.C.’s The Huxley, a seriously cool event space centrally located near DuPont Circle.  The Art of Style Happy Hour is going to be one of the hottest events of the season and a great chance to hang out with some of the most fashionable and interesting folks in the capitol city’s style scene.

We will be updating you on the event as it gets closer, so make sure to check out our Facebook page.  And, of course, make sure to RSVP today and get your free tickets!

 

Danish Short Film, “The Trench”

True Love Video is a small collective of filmmakers and creatives based in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Dedicated to exploring, “beauty and the human place in the Nordic nature,” they have released the first in a series of short films that capture iconic outerwear and the humans beneath.  The series, entitled UDE, begins with that most traditional of menswear garments, the trench coat.

An art house styled short, Trench is slightly moody, narrated in Danish, and doesn’t even have a guy in it.  What it does do is convey the ubiquity of menswear and its easy movement between intended purpose and daily life, like a thoughtful, solitary stroll along the quay.

True Love Video producer Emilie Bredtved Hansen told OTC, “We want you to think of these works as morning walks.  As Something simple and pleasant and without any higher purpose.”

 

The Full Circle of Preppy

Actor Theo James on Nantucket GQ 684x1024 The Full Circle of Preppy

As with much of life, the modern aesthetic we refer to as “preppy” bears only a thin resemblance to the historical roots upon which it rests.  Often, the substance of a philosophy or belief is obscured over time as the surface decoration which was initially its outgrowth comes to define the entire idea.  The same can be said of preppy fashion.

It’s not too dramatic to state that the preppy fashion meme of today is but a shallow construct masquerading as some sort of cultural touch point.  The problem of course, is that preppy fashion has almost nothing to do with the culture it references, certainly not when it comes to actual, you know, culture.  However, as we move into the Spring of 2014, it would appear that designers are finally beginning to see the limits of the hyper-preppy overkill that has saturated the menswear space for several years.

The eye-burning excess of colors, patterns, crests, layers, skulls-emblazoned-on-everything, big plaid with little plaid with repp stripes, and velvet slippers to the office, finally seems to have exhausted even the most ardent of trend spotters.

So now, at long last, we can move onto the next phase in the ongoing preppy style circle of life.  As evidenced above in this relatively realistic GQ-styled take on preppy, a shift toward real life appears to be in motion.  Actor Theo James’ outfit, shot appropriately on Nantucket island, is thoroughly believable and wearable. Thank goodness.

The Influence of Real Life

Actual preppy style (that is, the preppy style of dress) evolved from life in New England preparatory schools, which by and large expressed conservative protestant values and social stratification.  Collectively, these influences created an environment which produced the uniform we know now as the preppy look.

Today, when someone is called (or calls themselves) “preppy,” it usually means that he dresses in a neo-traditional fashion, typically predicated on conveying a classically sporty lifestyle (crew, rugby, sailing, 1950s football, etc.).  Often, but not always, it is simply costume; no sense of history or understanding of the preppy culture.  That’s too bad, because actually, it’s a pretty interesting history.

Take Ivy Picture The Full Circle of PreppyMore so than other styles, preppy – East Coast, Ivy League, WASPy, call it what you will – has a real history behind it that clearly informs the fashion.

Perhaps that is why the style and implied lifestyle behind it, endures generation after generation.  While you can look polished and successful in a nice suit and carrying an expensive bag, you can convey many more social, cultural and status cues looking as though you just hopped off your Hinkley yacht after spending a week at the Cape house.

While for the most part it started at New England prep schools and ivy walled colleges, the roots of preppy style can also be traced to a focus on social achievement, uniformity of style, propriety, proper decorum and class distinction. Conformity of dress at school resulted in the basic uniform of coat, tie, button down shirt, grey flannels or chinos and loafers or lace ups. Codes, traditions and sports also helped to nurture a bond and familiarity among budding preps and instilled in them a feeling of belonging.

A culture of thrift and purpose also pervaded the Ivy League world.  Clothing was worn until it frayed, upon which it was patched and sewn.  Garments were handed down and cherished, signs of age and wear denoted a certain authenticity and personality that only time conveys.  Preppy style looks so good because it looks so worn and beat-up, lived in, and loved over time.  This focus on These

This environment helped create a culture of exclusivity that had real influence.  To say you prepped at Phillips Exeter (a feeder school for Harvard) or Hotchkiss (a feeder school for Yale) could win you access to the right social circle or get you into really great parties.  And once in the working world, to say you were a Yale man could mean getting the right job, joining the right club or vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.

From Exclusive to Popular Culture

As preps sought to instill that sense of tradition and lifestyle in their own children, they looked, of course, to their own preppy past. To the oak paneled lecture halls of Exeter, the squash courts of Deerfield and the rowdy but stylish nights at Choate Rosemary Hall. So, their offspring were trucked off to the old alma mater and the cycle began again.

Kennedy Short Khakis The Full Circle of PreppyWithout question, it was an exclusive, self-impressed, and privileged world that gave birth to preppy style and the culture that underpinned it.  But, as with so many other attempts to create a homogenous bubble of exclusivity, the prep school aesthetic eventually moved beyond its original sphere of influence.

People want what they do not have or what seems more attractive than what they do. So, when the Preppy Handbook hit the shelves in 1980, its editor Lisa Birchach (herself a Brown grad) overnight became the arbiter of all things pink and green. People didn’t care that it was intended to be both a send-up of the “true” prep culture as well as a tongue and cheek education for those looking to emulate the life. They saw a way of living that was far more exciting, cultured, sporty and stylish than their own – and they wanted it.

For the first time, preppy culture had been distilled into a portable and easy to understand resource.  It was, and remains, the de facto guidebook to being preppy.  And, while she issued a follow-up, “True Prep” in 2010, the original remains unquestionably dominant in influence.

The privileged and windswept lifestyle that had taken generations of Blue Bloods to develop and refine was now a commodity to be bought and imitated. In that moment, the life of prep was effectively democratized. That is because once the Preppy Handbook came out, kids across the world latched onto the single most attractive and achievable aspect of the actual preppy’s life: its look – the rumpled and ironic blending of dress and casual clothes.

Ralph Lauren Preppy The Full Circle of PreppyIn the intervening years, preppy style has been interpreted, parsed, watered down and ginned up to such a degree that for many it has been commoditized beyond recognition.

In response, sites like Christian Chensvold’s Ivy Style launched as a sort of counterbalance, reminding people that this preppy fashion thing actually had a rich and important story behind it.  Yes, anyone can dress preppy, but “being” preppy is actually something altogether different.

When we first broached this subject years ago, one OTC reader pointed out that what some only know of as iconic Ralph Lauren branding, the mixing of dress and functional clothing, did not actually start out as a fashion movement.  His comment was in itself an expression of true preppy-ness:

“You don’t wear foul weather gear over your blazer because you’re a blue-blooded American demonstrating your accessibility without appearing tacky; you do it because you’re a wise-mouthed elitist who smugly tells your Latin professor, technically speaking, you haven’t broken any rules so there’s nothing he can do about it. And of course it’s sailing gear, because your father does own a yacht…”

The original audience for this rebellious “foul weather gear over the blazer” look was other preppies and their families. Yet, as this type of hybrid style came into its own, it seeped out into regular society. Eventually spreading to Madison Avenue, it was popularized by style influencers like the aforementioned Ralph Lauren.  Over time, the prep boom of the 1980s waned due to its extreme and vibrant interpretation of the preppy culture – the same issue facing the trend today.  At its apogee there was an almost cartoonish quality to the movement.  Sound familiar?

Finding Preppy’s Roots

What we see moving into the American preppy space now is an interest in a more reality-based look; muted colors and less overt branding and styling, singular pops of color rather than a cacophony that overwhelms.  Less “look at me, I’m preppy!” and more “oh, this old thing was my dad’s when he was in school.”

Hopefully, all this will translate into a more careworn, comfortable and vintage preppy personality; approachable and less precious than in the last few years.  Many of the style’s adherents are now looking for a little substance behind the flash, the story behind the fashion, and a more accurate read on the overall Ivy League look.

How wonderful would it be for the renewed focus on menswear quality, detail, provenance, and longevity to extend to the history and culture behind that most American of fashions?  Let’s make understanding the roots of American preppy as stylish as dressing in American preppy.