Khakis: Pants to Live By

 

JD Khakis 640x1024 Khakis: Pants to Live ByFor many of us, khakis are the real backbone of our wardrobe. Workplace to casual wear, they go with almost anything, can be dressed up or down, and travel well. In many ways, they are the perfect pants.

Jeans have their place, no question, but khakis have that preppy, laid back good-with-a-sweatshirt-or-blazer thing that’s hard to define.

Choosing the right pair of khakis at the right time is an important challenge for some men, and the risk of looking like a chain restaurant waiter can be a real one. A good way to start the process is to treat your choice of khakis as a grown-up one. Think about this wardrobe staple as you would any other clothing investment and make a smart choice based on quality, fit, style, material, and cost.

When you think about it, unless obligated to wear a suit every day, the go-to staple of most mens’ office wardrobes are khakis. Also referred to as chinos, especially when denoting dressier versions, these ubiquitous trousers are available in myriad styles, from loose and comfortably old school to trim and tailored.

Generally speaking, “khakis” encompass a broad range of pants that fall into a category that traces its lineage to military trousers from the 1940s. American soldiers brought these beloved and functional pants back home and created a trend that eventually morphed into the ironically classic “Ivy League” look. These days, the term encompasses the general style of pant now available in an endless range of colors, finishes, weights, and cuts.

Your own goal with these endlessly versatile pants should be to look dressed up but still comfortably relaxed. Ideally, this translates into khakis that are reasonably trim and have a flat front. While pleats are very much a personal choice, for many men they remain unflattering and dated when applied to casual pants. While they are making a bit of a comeback for suit trousers, the heavier cotton fabric of most khakis cause the pleats to add visual weight and bulk to the wearer’s midsection.

Bonobos in particular makes an excellent range of khakis that employ the brand’s signature curved waist that removed much of the pants bulk. The result is a very comfortable and well-fitting pant that also looks trim and modern.

 Khakis: Pants to Live By

Flat front khakis will give you a leaner silhouette and also tend to look dressier. A mid-rise fit and natural waist help to create a comfortable and crisp look. A classic strait or lightly tapered leg continues a more tailored and modern look and allow for a sight break that can work with oxfords or boat shoes. The no-break look favored by some seeking a tailored mod effect can work, but it makes no allowance for error or physical changes, so be forewarned.

In many ways, khakis are the all-purpose chameleons of your daily wardrobe. They can impart both the rumpled comfort of puttering around the library and the freshly pressed crispness of heading off to your office on a brisk fall day, tweed jacket in tow. So, it makes perfect sense to have both tailored and casual versions of khaki pants in the closet. Jack Donnelly makes classic khakis built on the traditional WWII-inspired silhouette, but updated for a contemporary fit.

Seasonality plays a role as well; lighter weight 5.6 ounce fabric are best for warm months just as classic 8.5 ounce pants can be pulled out for the fall and winter.

Khakis also fall into that rare (at least for us) “more is better” category, due to the plethora of colors and finishes available to men today. Try to round out your wardrobe with different shades of khaki – from light putty to deep British tan – and try out some colored varieties like olive, navy, and orange. For the New England purists, who value the classics, a pair of genuine Nantucket Reds from Murray’s Toggery Shop is, of course, mandatory.

 

DSCF9086 Paul Stuart Made to Order Footwear   The Fitting
“It all begins with the fit.” Peter Agati, Paul Stuart’s shoe buyer, is a shoe guy through and through.

He knows shoes and he knows that what matters most is fit. If the fit is off, nothing else matters. If the fit is right, everything else falls into place. His first trip to a shoe factory is what sealed the deal for Peter. Walking the floor and watching in amazement how many people’s hands touched each shoe hooked him. “Most people have no idea how much handwork goes into shoes, and how much well-made shoes matter.”

The main thing to understand about Paul Stuart’s shoe department is that is it a fully integrated component of Paul Stuart. It is not merely a licensed space operated by an outside brand. No, Peter has spent several years building up a service on par with their brand’s larger reputation. It’s a luxury service department that can fit you properly and provide a degree of customization that results in a pair of shoes that are truly made to order.

Chris Hogan Madison Avenue 10.21.14 735x1024 Paul Stuart Made to Order Footwear   The FittingOTC had been invited to participate in a special brand influencer Made to Order footwear event at Paul Stuart’s Madison Avenue flagship store. OTC’s founder and editor-in-chief, Chris Hogan, spent the day being fitted from their Italian Classic collection. These shoes are not inexpensive, but neither are they overly expensive. In fact, the quality, construction, fit, and materials are equal to most custom labels.

In addition to Peter Agati, Ron Rider, agent for some of the world’s leading shoe makers, was also on hand to ensure that Chris’ fit was spot one and help to create a unique pair of Paul Stuart shoes.

After testing out a variety of lasts, we settled on the one that indeed fit like a glove. As Peter noted, his main job was now done. The fit was right. Now, it was a matter of style, design, details, and finishes.

What did we come up with? We’ll get into that in the coming weeks as we share with you pictures of our Made to Order Paul Stuart shoes as they come to life.

As an added bonus, we also got to catch up with our old friend Mark Rykken, who runs Paul Stuart’s custom clothing department. Much as Peter has done with the company’s footwear department, Mark has created a custom clothing haven for the most discerning clotheshorse. We even met the lady who sews all the buttonholes by hand, no easy task.

Thanks goes out to our pals at Deo Veritas custom shirting and Bull + Moose for the fantastic dead stock tartan tie. Lumina Clothing Company provided the Cone selvage denim jeans, Beltcraft sent along a bespoke suede belt, and Dapper Classics is the source for those killer socks that everyone noticed. As always, those are Eye Buy Direct glasses.

The navy blazer is actually a family heirloom. It’s a vintage J. Press jacket that belonged to Chris’ father and still has his dad’s monogrammed brass buttons. The pocket square was a gift from Alan Flusser.

It’s all about things that last.

In the meantime, below are some more images of the day, captured by our talented – and stylish – photographer Sean Pressley. Many thanks to Sean for spending the day knee deep in shoes.

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Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

Prince Harry and NAcho Figueras Navy Blazer Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

Perhaps more than any other male garment, the traditional blue blazer is the backbone of any serious wardrobe. As versatile pieces go, it stands head and shoulders above almost any other piece of tailored clothing, and with good reason.

When it comes to meeting your needs in a sartorial pinch, the navy blazer is chameleon-like. From casual cocktails to formal boardroom, a well-made, well-fitting blazer will get the job done.

When they hear “blue blazer,” many men tend to think “yacht captain.” The jacket sparking this dreaded stereotype would be the most classic version of the blue blazer, featured in any number of Ralph Lauren ads or episodes of Gilligan’s Island (see: Howell III, Thurston). Of course, this incarnation is also the most traditional execution of the form, and as such is a generally viewed as a particularly dressy garment.

A more accurate historical context of the blue blazer lies in its adoption by the crew of HMS Blazer as a means to smarten up their formal dress. Since then, the ethos of the blue blazer has always held fast to its nautical roots, even as it was adopted by rowing clubs which gave birth to myriad variations of color, pattern, trim, piping, and badges.

Its classic design and balance of dress and function, formality and functionality, make the core elements of the blazer universally appealing and long lived. It is one of the most iconic and enduring examples of male habiliment.

Rowing Blazers Facebook Image Basics 101: The Blue BlazerMost recently, that offshoot cousin of the navy blazer, the rowing blazer, has been celebrated in an extravagant new coffee table book, “Rowing Blazers.” Written by  champion rower, Jack Carlson, with outstanding photography by our friend F.E. Castleberry, it is a celebration of the jacket itself, and the culture and stylistic influence it has spawned in both the worlds of fashion and sport. Although it occupies a specific place of influence in today’s menswear, the blue blazer comes in a range of fabrics and styles that can work with almost anyone’s style – from lightweight linens to beefy flannels, in deep navy all the way to pale sky blues.

As the king of odd jackets, a blue blazer can also fill the gap when you need to dress somewhere between a suit and a sweater, regardless of the season. It is in that vein that we here at OTC generally tend to think of the blue blazer as an informal piece of clothing. While any sport coat or odd jacket is by cultural definition formal when compared to a hoodie, for example, viewed through the lens of tailored clothing or even office casual, a blue blazer’s versatility means that it can dress up jeans and a worn-out oxford or tee shirt just as easily as it can dress down khakis and a repp tie.

Styles vary as much as material. Some blazers have horn or resin buttons and they can come with single, double, or no vents. Single breasted jackets typically sport notched lapels while double-breasted versions should have only those of the peaked variety.

With its nipped waist and dramatic massing of buttons, a double breasted blazer naturally imparts formality and command. On the other hand, a single breasted sack jacket with no darting and patch pockets can easily project a more casual “drinks at the club,” New England estate look.

Classic Navy Blazer Look Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

When it comes to shoulders, the variations are typically grounded in cultural patterns. American blazers typically have a soft natural shoulder, while English tailors tend to prefer them padded and more structured. This is particularly true with double breasted jackets; the shoulders of which can increase (padded) or diminish (natural) its sense of formality. Historically, American makers such as Brooks Brothers are arbiters of the natural shoulder.

When shopping for a blue blazer, approach it as a major investment. This should be a jacket that can carry you for years to come and something that you are happy to reach for in the morning. A well-constructed blazer made from good fabric will be as comfortable as your favorite sweatshirt and its classic styling will conquer the vagaries of many fashion cycles. That said, you do not necessarily have to break the bank when it comes to finding one that’s right for you – unless you want to.

Mass market brands like J. Crew have spent years perfecting their version of the blue blazer and in the process have converted it into a $425 hipster cool must-have wardrobe asset. At the other end of the pricing and delivery time spectrum, bespoke clothier Jon Green can make you a perfectly fitted, hand-cut blue blazer for a few thousand dollars. You will never want to take it off, ever.

In the end, the blue blazer works because of its inherent versatility and balance between formal and comfortable. It’s one of those rare garments that both stands the test of time and evolves to meet the needs of each generation.

Below are some additional examples of how you can take the blue blazer from street, to office, to drinks, to country club:

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Modern Take on Blue Blazer Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

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Emmett London Navy Linen 3 Emmett Shirts: English Style Meets British Flair

Typically, when one considers Jermyn Street, London’s storied home to menswear’s bespoke luminaries,  a particular expectation comes to mind. Elegance, craftsmanship, detail, and tradition. While all of these traits still hold true for the area’s established labels, some are working hard to bring Jermyn Street a little excitement, to boot.

Emmett Shirts is one of those firms that infuses classic style with contemporary flair. Nothing crazy, mind you; their business shirts are of a modern but perfectly acceptable cut. However, Emmett’s casual shirting typically sports unexpected elements, such as a signature contrasting under-cuff fabric. Founded in 1992 by tailor Robert Emmett, his designs seek to uphold the traditions of Jermyn Street tailoring, while at the same time embracing a fresh approach to dressing modern men.

Each shirt range is offered in a limited edition of 25 and new styles are introduced weekly. In addition to it’s ready-to-wear shirts, Emmett offers a popular Made to Measure service (in-shop only). In addition, they sell fine accessories, including handmade leather goods, ties, cufflinks, and even boxer shorts. The company has three stores in London and a robust e-commerce portal on its website.

OTC was already familiar with Emmett when they reached out for us to review some items; the British X Factor’s Dermot O’Leary being a customer. Emmett sent along a slim-fit navy Zepher Linen casual shirt and a buttery soft green leather wallet. Both items easily met and exceeded our expectations in terms of craftsmanship, quality, and usefulness.

The navy Zepher Linen shirt with a contrasting black under-cuff is a perfect casual summer shirt that balances dressy and casual. And, the slim fit is indeed slim, but proper washing and air drying prevented any shrinkage.

Emmett London Green Folding Wallet 1 Emmett Shirts: English Style Meets British FlairThe wallet has become a true favorite. Hand crafted in Florence, Italy, it is a classic eight-card model with two currency pockets. A unique feature is the divider for the currency pockets; typically grosgrain with leather trim, this one is completely leather. A functional, as well as stylistic, touch that increases durability and adds a measure of craftsmanship, since it some creates no additional bulk.

This is the kind of brand we love to hear about and promote, because it has a sense of personality and individuality. At the same time, there is a respect for history and quality and a dedication to craft. Last but not least, Emmett may be rightly serious about it’s reputation and products, but it does not take itself too seriously.

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Emmett Open Collar Emmett Shirts: English Style Meets British Flair

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DC Sock Collection 1024x468 One Last Fathers Day Find: Dapper Classics Socks

We actually introduced you to Dapper Classics, makers of outstanding men’s socks, back in 2013, but wanted to make a return visit as part of our 2014 Father’s Day series.

So, even though Father’s Day has officially passed, OTC is extending it one more day so that we can show you some of Dapper Classics’ snazzy, colorful, and fun socks that are just right for your spring wardrobe. In fact, most of their new Spring 2014 collection was knitted on a brand new linked-toe machine that produces seamless-toe socks that are more comfortable and stylish than your typical dress sock.

Our friends at Dapper Classics have received great feedback on the linked-toe socks, and OTC can report that our own wear testing was a very comfy experience.  This brand remains at the head of the class and an example of focused craftsmanship done right.  Socks are one of those things that either feel right or wrong, and Dapper Classics socks always feel great to us.

We already know that Dapper Classics make some of the finest made in America dress socks out there, and now also mid-calf socks for your casual wardrobe.  What we did not realize was that they could make them even better, which is exactly what they did.

DC Socks3 One Last Fathers Day Find: Dapper Classics Socks

DC Socks2 One Last Fathers Day Find: Dapper Classics Socks

DC Socks1 One Last Fathers Day Find: Dapper Classics Socks