Recently, OTC had the chance to spend an evening with Glenn O’Brien, best known as GQ’s legendary Style Guy.  He was in town to celebrate the launch of the fall/winter GQ Style issue at DC’s elegant new nightspot, The Huxley.  Earlier in the day, we sat down with O’Brien at his suite in the Ritz Carlton.  While it is always fun to meet a well-known figure, perhaps the most impressive thing about Glenn is that style does not seem to impress him very much.

Without question, Glenn is on the inside of the fashion world.  He knows the people worth knowing and has access to the designers, brands, and luminaries we all read about.  Glenn is witty, wry, intellectual, and observant; traits which have served him well over the years.  However, for a “fashion” writer, he is an odd fit in the best of ways.  First and foremost, he’s a writer.  He is interested in people and stories, ideas and the world around him.  Glenn is far more curious about who you are than who you’re wearing.  If anyone has been there and that, it is Glenn.

Compared to the often overwrought dandies that populate the style blogosphere, Glenn O’Brien’s sense of style is wonderfully prosaic; suits, blazers, nice shirts, classic ties and jeans, and the occasional weathered biker jacket and Picasso beach shirt. He has a distinctive look and way of assembling these classic elements that reflect his own history and personality.  Glenn does not need to impress anyone with just-so outfits, skinny suits, or anachronistic dandyism.  Not that he is opposed to any of that, by the way; when asked about the landscape of today’s blog-driven fashion and vintage-inspired sensibilities, Glen embraced it all.  When is comes to trends and the vagaries of fashion, he’s very open-minded.  In fact, his favorite suit is actually from the mid 1990s.  “Yeah, it’s out of fashion, but I love it,” he says.

Blogs, he noted, have democratized the means by which style and fashion evolve.  “Say what you want about Scott’s [Schuman] site, but The Sartorialist has created a new way for people to explore fashion,” said O’Brien.  “The real-world nature of the photos is great; it allows you to experiment on your own and not rely on corporately constructed ensembles.”

That theme – the natural evolution of personal style, versus “assembled” style – was a thread woven throughout our conversation.  What the Style Guy appreciates most is personal expression and the willingness to value quality, construction, details, longevity, and patience.  Wear what you like and be proud of it.

This sentiment was best expressed when we chatted about mutual friend, the legendary menswear author and designer, Alan Flusser.  Alan, known for his impeccable style and ability to assemble beautifully classic wardrobes that best compliment the wearer’s coloration, physique, and personality, is also a fan of comfort.  One of his lesser appreciated skills is marrying the formal and informal – such as the day he sported a bespoke linen blazer and shirt, natty pocket square, electric blue Todd’s Gomminos, …and slate grey Nike wind pants.  Took about a half-hour to realize he was even wearing them because he made it work so seamlessly.

Such expressions of personal style are indeed personal, and they don’t work for everyone.  That’s OK; such is  the beauty of true style and importance of personal expression.  Real sartorial skills take time to learn and experience to develop.  Truly good style requires personal honesty, and when achieved is distinctive, admired – sometimes mocked – but often noteworthy.

We asked about something Flusser often states; that today there are no real male role models when it comes to style.  While there are celebrities who dress well, these stars are often outfitted by others who have mapped out a sponsored image for them.  Or, they dress by contract; disinterested in style themselves and playing the role of living mannequin to paying brands.

Gone are the days, says Flusser, when the likes of Cary Grant or Gary Cooper embodied the values of male sartorial attention to detail.  They had a keen appreciation of tailoring and personal expression and they understood the power of projection sophistication coupled with nonchalance.  True, notes O’Brien; but they also had the benefit of being studio actors who had at their disposal dedicated wardrobe departments.  Today’s celebrities are essentially freelancers, solo brands out to define and effectively telegraph their public persona – often for a fee.

When asked to name some leading male style role models, The Style Guy said that, frankly, the best dressed men he knows are often civilians – doctors, lawyers, businessmen. They simply have the interest, ability, and inclination to learn what works and what they actually like.  These everyday guys are not embarrassed to care about the details of fashion, and they appreciate its impact in their professions and how they are perceived.  That said, he did mention the likes of Andre 3000 and Rolling Stones drummer, Charlie Watts, as examples of well-known sartorial class acts.

Glenn is old school, and that is one of his strongest assets.  He is ecumenical when it comes to the breadth and depth of fashion out there today.  Never disparaging, he defended the popular “Made in Brooklyn” meme that is beginning to spawn its own bit of mockery.

“I’m tired of hearing about ‘ironic’ mustaches or ‘ironic’ Brooklyn shops.  There is no irony as far as I see,” he says.  “These folks looked around, saw the future, and said, ‘we don’t want that; we’re heading in the other direction.’  Good for them.”

All those handmade satchels, small batch suits, custom shirt makers, vintage fabric bow ties, and hand-welded city bicycles are what’s driving the resurgent interest in menswear and American urban style.  They are making real things that consumers want, and all that “irony” is being riffed on by the big corporate brands…ironically.

Watching Glenn work the room at DC hotspot, The Huxley, it was clear that he is someone comfortable in his own skin.  Overall, he was surrounded by a stylish crowd, although some guests were trying a bit too hard to be GQ-awesome while others appeared to have opted for a cautious DC law firm look.

Looking somewhat professorial in a simple Anderson & Sheppard grey suit, blue checked shirt, and yellow tartan tie he wore his famously inscrutable expression with aplomb.  When informed that we were chatting with O’Brien, Alan Flusser responded without hesitation, “Glenn is one of the few forces for intelligent manners and intelligent fashion.”

Gentlemen, all the way around.


Tennis Turns To Fashion Week

OTC’s trip to New York City, with the plan of covering back stage access to the US Open Women’s Final hit its first bump before the plane even left.

We sat on the runway for more than two and a half hours because of “weather issues” at LaGuardia.  Typically, these assertions can mean anything – or, to often, nothing.  But this time, I had an inside line to LGA.  My seat-mate, a youngish looking ex-military guy, had a friend in the tower who kept him abreast of the actual weather problem: tornadoes.

When we finally did make it to New York, I was whisked into the city and deposited at my hotel.  After freshening up, it was off to lunch at The Smith Midtown and meeting up with my fellow bloggers.  Then, we learned that the women’s final match had been postponed until late Sunday afternoon.  So, what to do?

Without missing a beat, our host had a new itinerary lined up in a flash: American Express’ private New York Fashion Week sky box.  So, off to Lincoln Center and through the back door into the tents.  We passed by the Mercedes Benz pavilion and turned down an unremarkable corridor, stopped at an unmarked door and, after appeasing security, passed through and entered the land of Amex.

Luckily, the outfit I had pulled together for the US Open also worked for Fashion Week (I had a little Fred Castleberry going on with the shirt).

Shirt:    J. Crew Washed Adler Tattersall
Pants:   Alpha Khakis by Dockers in navy blue
Belt:      Kiel James Patrick Hortock’s Compass Rose
Socks:  Dahlgren Metro Argyle
Shoes:  Remastered Converse Jack Purcell, by J. Crew
Bag:     Frank Clegg Signature Tote

After champagne and Tod English-catered appetizers (this is Fashion Week after all) we started with VLUV’s menswear show, not quite my or OTC’s taste, but exciting to see nonetheless. Then, we took a break to chat with Mimi Lombardo, style and fashion editor for Travel+Leisure magazine.

After that came the major show of the evening – Monique Lhuillier.  Anyone who has ever watched TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” should recognize this name.  Obviously not my forte, but the experience was pure New York glitz and glamor and a whole lot of fun for my female counterparts.

One thing I could not help but notice was the audience, above which we were perched, ensconced in luxury, and served by waiters (how many times in life will I get to say that?).  The women were for the most part decked out to the nines; elegant and trendy, no detail left to chance.  Even the more pedestrian attired ladies had a functional, classic feel to their ensembles.

The men, hover, seemed to embrace a “sloppy is cool” approach to their wardrobe with few exceptions.  Tees and jeans with fancy shoes seemed to be the rule.  Some were dressed quite smartly, but for the most part it was surprisingly schlocky for such an elegant affair.

That said, I did see a number of younger hipster dudes with the chunky Clark Kent glasses.  Their just-so college professor-inspired outfits were too often precious and overly scripted.  Cool, in a way, but forced; like they would go home and slip into some D&G black duds to loosen up.

Within the Amex Sky Box, it was a fun mix of people both enjoying the sights and sounds of Fashion Week and, for us at least, missing the US Open a little less.  Tomorrow – brunch with the charming and fascinating Richard Press, former CEO of the iconic J. Press.


Alpha Khakis and the US Open

We are actually combining two things here: a product review and collaboration announcement.  It’s all about Docker’s Alpha Khakis and US Open tennis.

OTC is excited to announce that we will be covering the women’s final match of the US Open this coming Saturday.  OTC is partnering with American Express to give our readers a behind-the-scenes look at Flushing Meadows and one of the biggest matches in the sport of tennis.  So keep an eye on OTC, our Twitter feed, and Facebook page over the next couple of days, because we are gearing up for a really cool time.

As part of this outstanding opportunity, we are pulling together an outfit appropriate for the sporty elegance of an evening tennis match that draws the likes of Jay Z and Ralph Lauren, not to mention the ever dapper Roger Federer – on court or off.  We’ll be looking to mix sport with casual elegance and with some thoughtful assistance from American Express, will be adding a couple of pieces to the OTC wardrobe.  First thing on the list? A pair of navy Alpha Khakis by Dockers.

Dockers has gone through a revival of sorts; from baggy office park casual Friday wear to a refreshed and resurgent brand now on the style radar of anyone looking for a solid pair of pants.  The Alpha is Dockers’ answer to the question of what to wear when you don’t want to wear jeans.  And, they nailed the answer.

Dockers likes to tout that Alphas are where, “jeans end and khakis begin.”  In many ways there are spot on.  The fit and feel of these pants is far more jeans thank khakis and the cotton itself feels dense and durable.  The fit is slim and the pants fit slightly below the waist – definitely a jeans-inspired waist.  The slim silhouette carries through to the seat and thigh, ending with a tapered leg.

For some the fit may be too slim, uncomfortably so.  So, don’t kid yourself; in terms of fit, think khaki jeans.  That said, we love them and get regular compliments for the clearly modern styling and overall neat and contemporary look. While not the best match for dressier occasions, when looking for a jeans-alternative, they are a great option and one we are happy to have.

And don’t forget to check out how we put our navy pair to work for the US Open.



What comes to mind when you hear, “Hart Schaffner Marx?” Perhaps you think of your dad’s two-button lawyerly-looking gray suit? You know, the one with the center-vent jacket, pleated trousers and conservative, boxy profile. Well made, yes; but certainly not anything to which you aspired.

The same often holds true for memories of that other built-in-America label, Hickey Freeman; quality, but not too much style. However, that’s all changed due to one very well-known menswear designer.

Yesterday, OTC and a select grouping of other menswear websites, had the chance to spend the evening with Image Granted’s Grant Harris and Cillian Shannon, manager of Streets of Georgetown, and learn more about Streets’ retail concept and the brands of HMX Group.

Under the guidance of legendary clothier Joseph Abboud, president and COO of HMX Group, the Hart Schaffner Marx and Hickey Freeman brands have been thoroughly re-thought, re-designed, and rebuilt. Parent company HMX Group – formed through the 2009 purchase of Hartmarx Corporation by Emerisque Brands UK and its partner SKNL North America – has brought back to life two of America’s most storied menswear labels with a decidedly modern twist.

These are not you dad’s suits.

The Streets retail concept is a way for HMX to bring together its entire collection of brands under one roof. The idea is the brainchild of Mr. Abboud himself, and is designed to showcase the modern, elegant, and quality-driven changes visited upon his family of brands. “Streets” references the high shopping street found in any major city and speaks to the tailoring of offerings that meet local demands.

Georgetown and Beverly Hills play host to the two active stores and more are planned in key markets such as Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.

The store houses both off-the-rack tailored clothing – Hickey Freeman, Hart Schaffner Marx, and Coppley – and sportswear, including the Bobby Jones golf collection and Palm Beach resort wear labels.

Core to the tailored clothing business model is Streets incredibly flexible Made to Measure shop up on the second floor. While they are still working to get an in-house tailoring shop set up, all customization, detail selection, mark-ups , and fittings are done in-store and the options made available, from fabrics to linings, is impressive.

Abboud’s deftly elegantly touch is especially apparent in the Hickey and Hart Schaffner products. Truly exceptional fabrics pair with a suite of suiting fits that subtly move from modern traditional to of-the-moment trim and contemporary. The stores collection of shirts, ties, and accessories are well chosen and compliment the bespoke feel of the space and quality of the tailored goods.

Washington D.C.’s Georgetown is itself in the midst of a retail renaissance. Major brands have moved in and the tone of the neighborhood is less college bar and more SOHO swank. Ralph Lauren, Rugby, Brooks Brothers, Rag and Bone, Jack Spade, Vineyard Vines, and a host of other major players and pricy boutiques are a good fit for the Streets of Georgetown.

Please make sure to stop by 1254 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, next time you are in town.


We here at OTC wish to offer up a big, sincere “Thank You,” to everyone who voted and supported our nomination!  OTC’s founder and editor-in-chief, Chris Hogan, made it to the winner’s circle and was crowned “Dandiest at the Derby” by Brooks Brothers’ fans!

Thanks are also due to our photographer par excellence, Mr. Steven Ritchie, and Mrs. OTC for her invaluable guidance when it comes to ties and choice of image entries (and, frankly, everything else).

Brooks Brothers is an American institution when it comes to classic Ivy League and American preppy styles, but it also leads the way in connecting with a new generation of customers fluent in Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and mobile e-commerce.  While we celebrate and promote the many outstanding start-up and boutique brands helping to redefine the best in menswear and American style, historic and invaluable brands like Brooks Brothers continue to set important benchmarks towards which we all race.

Last year, OTC ran a series of in-depth articles on the history and importance of Brooks Brothers.  Please take a moment and have a read:

Brooks Brothers: American Icon (Part I)
Brooks Brothers: American Icon (Part II)
Brooks Brothers: American Icon (Part III)
Brooks Brothers: American Icon (Part IV)