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Some things just say summer: sweet tea; old, faded Nantucket Reds; a seersucker suit and Panama hat; and to us, a nice pair of neutral suede correspondent shoes. Also referred to as spectator and co-respondent shoes, these classic warm weather brogues are both a throwback to the golden years of menswear – generally given to be the 1920s through 1940s – and a modern statement on the value of classic style.

A fantastic modern adaptation of this iconic shoe is the new Conard Wingtip from Johnston & Murphy. Available in three colorways, we chose the tone-on-tone grey and off-white suede palette. It’s a more casual combination that can be dressed down or up as desired and, as they become more weathered, will develop a careworn personality that speaks to our Ivy League sensibilities.

We have partnered with Johnston & Murphy to give away a pair Conards to one lucky OTC reader – see the details below.

For a more formal option, the tan calfskin and beige linen model is an on-point example of how to reference classic flair in a modern shoe. It possesses a lawn party sort of glamor, but the contemporary shape and styling read “today” without sacrificing the style and texture that make this a truly classic shoe. Lastly, the Conard comes in a tan, all-calfskin model.

2015-05-18 14.16.37Johnston & Murphy also took the time to modernize the shoe’s interior, making it all-day comfortable. This is not a minor point. While men are becoming more attuned to the style and design of their footwear, they are not women. If the shoes hurt, back in the box they go; it doesn’t matter how cool they look. In addition to a lightly cushioned foot bad, the shoe has good arch support and a firm but flexible fit overall.

We quite literally took the shoes out of the box, put them on, and walked around the city all day. Broken in comfort right from the start.

The full leather lining makes going sock-less an option and, by the way, the suede model looks great with shorts.

Win Your Own Pair of J&M Conard Wingtips

How would like your own pair of summer wingtips? OTC has joined forces with Johnston & Murphy to make it happen for one OTC reader. So, throw your hat in the ring and you may be walking in warm weather style!

Entering is quick and easy:

  1. Leave comment telling us why you need some summer footwear swagger
  2. Like Off the Cuff on Facebook
  3. Follow Off the Cuff on Instagram
  4. Follow Johnston & Murphy on Instragram

That’s it! The giveaway closes on Friday, May 29, 2015.

 

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High Marks for Low Boots

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Sometimes we just want something different. As we finally exit the grip of the most recent never-ending winter, it’s time to transition from heavyweight duds to a happier, lightweight wardrobe.

Yet, Springtime is also a season of fluctuation – so the smart man hedges his bets and pulls out some intermediate clothing tools, like the low boot. They come in varying forms and styles – from full dress boot to casual desert suede – but all have the benefit of a design that works with warmer, but sometimes wet, weather.

Low boots are often the forgotten child of men’s footwear, occasionally saddled with the style stigma of the 1970s. But when we think of low or short boots, we think of classics like the Clark’s Desert Boot, a legendary shoe that works with virtually every type of outfit you can put on. So, cast your gaze a little wider and add some truly transitional options to your shoe lineup. (And, by the way, they work just as well in the summer…)

2015-02-24 14.14.10-1Some of our hands-down favorite low boots were made especially for OTC by New York’s Paul Stuart. These made-to-order beauties fit perfectly, of course, and are a pleasure to wear. While such footwear is for many a true luxury, they are also an investment that maintained properly will serve you well – and fit you well – for decades to come.

To be sure, made to order footwear from the likes of Paul Stuart comes not only with a certain cache, but also the attention to fit and design that mark the difference between wearing simply nice shoes and wearing shoes that fit your foot, gait, arch, and shape. As with most things customized just for you alone, it’s  hard to go back to the rack.

Perhaps the most comfortable and stylistically versatile low boot is the iconic Clark’s Desert Boot. From khakis to jeans, shorts to a summer suit, these boots are the one piece of footwear that literally goes with almost anything. The classic suede back is of course the most well know, but these shoes now come a wide variety of finishes, like waxed leather, and colors, including electric blue.

When the weather turns and spring showers take over, a reliable pair of waterproof low boots, like the Rockport City Smart Waterproof Chukka, is a solid companion. The classic design fits with most dressy casual outfits and the innersole shock support technology by Adidas offers cushioning that protects the heel at impact. Rockport says they are, “perfect for the urban professional on the move.” Actually, we agree; these waterproof boots get the job done in comfort and style.

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Cobbler_Union_George_1We recently introduced OTC readers to Cobbler Union, a new footwear brand that creates bespoke quality shoes at perfectly attainable prices. The company was founded by luxury footwear industry veterans who know what goes into shoes costing thousands of dollars. Using their powers for good, these fellows set about the goal of allowing any stylish gent to be well turned-out from the ankles downward.

After our impressive experience with the Francis II double monkstrap, we turned our attention to a pair of Cobbler Union boots – the George. Dress boots offer much of the same style and classic form as a pair of brogues, but have the added flexibility of working equally well with stylish, but less formal outfits. Boots can more comfortably dress up jeans or khakis in a way that dress shoes, even those built along informal lines, can’t.

The George combines a Goodyear welt construction with Norwegian stitching, which creates a strong piece of footwear that’s handsome without being too dressy. It’s a dress boot, yes, but with a bit more on the “boot” side of the scale. In fact, to highlight it’s versatility, we are showcasing a #WeekWithGeorge on OTC’s Instagram page.

Boots like the George,  a plain cap-toe with sturdy but low-profile Vibram soles, also have the added advantage of being able to brave inclement weather while keeping your feet dry and comfortable. With a casually refined urban silhouette that belies its work boot qualities, the George is meant to take daily abuse with aplomb. In short, they are built to last and become better looking while doing so.

 

Constructed on the SOHO last, the George provides comfortable, but not too pronounced arch support. The leather is a French grained country calf that wears well and handles the inevitable bumps, scars, and abrasions nicely. The aforementioned Vibram sole, while studded and practical, is also non-marking and blends seamlessly into the boot. In addition, the color-matched Italian leather interior, quilted foot bed, and neatly attached pull tab, are all hallmarks of Cobbler Union’s fixation on craftsman-focused detail.

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Invest in: Cobbler Union Shoes

Cobbler-Union_FrancisIIaFootwear is, literally, the foundation of your wardrobe. Well made shoes matter, both in terms of aesthetics and practicality. We have all had the experience of heading out in a new pair of oxfords, trainers, boots, or loafers, only to discover too late that they don’t fit well or have the wrong last; they pinch, slide, shift, or simply feel off.

On the other hand, a pair of shoes that fit well and keep your feet supported and firmly in place, shoes that balance your proportions while also enhancing your wardrobe, are a true joy.

OTC is all about blending classic style with modern life. We love to introduce our readers to new and interesting brands, craft-oriented and heritage companies that might not yet be household name, and makers dedicated to providing men with something new and long-lasting.

Footwear maker Cobbler Union ticks all of those boxes. Their shoes are some of the best examples of ready-to-wear footwear we have come across, outside of a few luxury labels with the leverage to tightly control the quality of their own production operations. As with most examples of exceptional craftsmanship, all takes is one look, smell, or touch to instantly convey the level of quality, materials, and craftsmanship employed by Cobbler Union.

We have been testing the Francis II, a double monkstrap that is an excellent balance between dress and informal. The pebbled calfskin provides a relaxed counterbalance to the otherwise streamlined proportions of this classic shoe. Its Goodyear welted double sole created a sturdy base – literally and figuratively – that grounds the shoe, giving it broader proportions well suited for everyday use.

Cobbler-Union_FrancisIIWe found the Francis’ “City” last just right; its slightly raised arch and supporting heel being a good fit for this type of shoe. Interior finishing is of excellent quality, with full Italian leather lining and  quilted foot bed.

After several weeks of use, the shoes are a favorite and have been paired with everything from Nobile Denim jeans to a custom Aspetto suit. They are those rare breed of dress shoe that you want to wear, indeed look for reasons to wear.

One explanation for this unexpected and unerring level of quality is the team behind Cobbler Union. Founded by actual footwear guys with extensive design and production experience ranging from bespoke to luxury ready-to-wear, they know what goes into shoes costing thousands of dollars.

Translating that deep experience and demanding standards into an equivalent pair of shoes for less than $400, was a challenge. However, dedicated runs and direct lines of communication to suppliers, manufacturers, and industry experts, equals high standards and lower prices. The result is a fully defined collection of footwear that touches on formal dress, business dress, formal casual, and informal casual. The collection, which has limited numbers of each model, is comprised of boots, monkstraps, derbys, oxfords, and loafers. Within each of these broad categories are options that allow for almost every wardrobe necessity.

Cobbler_Union_SolesIt is a complete representation of a brand seeking to carve out its own space in a market that has been growing of late: affordable higher-end footwear marketed directly to consumers. Cobbler Union is different in that the people behind the brand have real experience in the luxury footwear industry and exercise the control and direction needed to produce a product for which they could easily justify a significantly higher price.

Should you have the desire and the funds, Cobbler Union also provides a made to order program. Take any shoe in the collection and rework it to meet your needs and wishes. While there is a minimum surcharge for the service added to the cost of your shoes, it’s a relatively small price to pay for creating some shoes you’ll want to wear for decades to come.

Cobbler Union LogoCobbler Union exemplifies genuine commitment to quality and craft, coupled with a desire to get their products into the hands of men who appreciate lasting relationships. That focus on creating a community of like-minded customers actually informs the company’s name. They see themselves and their customers as a union of cobblers; a brotherhood of men who appreciate and celebrate the art of making great shoes. So, to them, you actually aren’t just another customer – you’re a member of the cobbler’s union.

OTC recommends Cobbler Union without reservation. We hope to test out a pair of their boots at some point, and expect the experience to be no less impressive.

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2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

It’s that time of year again!

OTC has scoured the market and checked in with our many brand friends, looking for new and different holiday gift ideas. We also sought out products that have a little fun and creativity to boot.

From bags to books, jeans to key chains, shoes to shirts, OTC has something for everyone. We also kept our eyes peeled for great goods at surprisingly affordable prices. So, don’t be surprised if some of our holiday selections cost less than you might expect.

Explore, enjoy, and have a happy holiday season!i

 

IN YOUR POCKET

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KeySmart Key Holder
For once, someone put their industrial design education to work for the benefit of mankind. This is a clever and compact way to keep your key keys in one place. Talk about an easy stocking stuffer that can make everyone happy. You cna also purchase an expansion pack to fit extra key, and other handy add-ons.

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Ulterior Motive Slim Wallet
While they make a wide range of wallets and accessories, we love Ulterior Motive’s stylish, slim, and practical card wallet. It’s big enough for four credit cards and a few receipts or some cash in the center pocket. Other than that, the minimalistic design makes carrying the essentials easy and Swedish-ly cool.

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Hodinkee Crocodile Watch Strap
The eponymous blog for all things watch-related has also become home to a growing collection of tightly curated timepiece accessories, including watch rolls for travel, Jewelers loops, and even a watch oriented blue blazer. We suggest you check out their impeccable collection of watch straps to dress up your own family heirloom.

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THE WARDROBE

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Beltcraft Custom Belt
Going custom is something that truly changes your life. So, compliment your MTM suits, shirts, and trousers with a perfect-fit belt. Beltcraft can pretty much create exactly what you want and for a very fair price.

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Sebastian Ward Dress Shirt
While there are many makers of dress shirt on the market these days – from OTR to MTM to full bespoke – Sebastian Ward is something different. It’s a thoroughly modern shirt based on the design philosophies of the 1920s. Elements like a slightly fuller cut in the body, an extra long hem to stay tucked in place, longer arms ending in snug barrel cuffs, and a higher collar stance all make this it an indulgent shirting option. And the fabric – it’s just amazing.

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Cohen & Sons Crew Neck Tee Shirt
Lots of brands claim to make the best tee shirt in the world. As far as we are concerned, Cohen & Sons can back it up with the goods. Classic but trim-ish, super soft, and the perfect fit. We’ll wear ours until it falls apart.

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Bonobos Heritage Chinos
Call them chinos or khakis, but these are some fantastic pants. Classic and traditional on the one hand, but modern and fit-focused on the other. Bonobos is famous for its great fitting trousers and for good reason. These are not grand-dad’s khakis.

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Noble Denim Jeans
Founded by Chris Sutton, Noble Denim is recognized for making some of the finest hand-crafted Made-in-America jeans. Order off the rack, or they can make a custom pair of jeans to fit you perfectly.

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Cobbler Union Shoes
For what you pay, you will simply not find a better pair of shoes. Cobbler Union makes shoes and dress boots that could easily sell for twice what they charge. An affordable slice of genuine luxury and craftsmanship.

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Mountain Khakis Yak Shirt
Yes, a shirt made with Yak wool. It’s warm, comfortable, and feels a bit like Merino wool. It’s also perfect for hanging out by the fireplace with a nice single malt on a cold winter evening.

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MyVice Brooklyn Sweatpants
Whether you plan to head over to the gym or hang out at home, a great comfy pair of sweatpants is a necessity. MyVice makes great fleece pants that that are part sweats, part lounge wear. Loved by celebrities and average folks alike, they come in a plethora of designs and fabrics. We prefer the classic grey Brooklyn.

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CARRY YOUR STUFF

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Benchmark Bags Briefcase
Ever try and find a simple, well made business bag at a fair price? Seek no more, Benchmark Bags created an excellent entry-level briefcase that pairs well with most professional job descriptions. Soft full grain leather outside and a smart collection of pockets and sleeves on the inside; all for a very fair price.

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Sprayground Backpack
Just hear us out. No, this is not the sort of brand you would normally find on OTC. However, crazy skater interior graphics aside, Sprayground make a great everyday backpack for cruising around the city. The smart pocket layouts, big laptop sleeves, a solid build, and thick nylon impressed, and surprised, us. Stick with the solid colors and pass on the Spongebob one; that’s just wrong.

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Frank Clegg Executive Buckle Satchel
Frank Cleggg is the final word on American leather craftsmanship. One of the best out there, Frank designs and crafts his bags and accessories for customers across the globe. The president of the United States even carries a Frank Clegg briefcase. This elegant but masculine day bag is the perfect answer for porting your essentials in style. Beat it up a bit and it will look even better.

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Triple Aught Design Dispatch Bag
For many guys, commuting is a way of life, and finding a good work bag that fits their laptop and sense of style can be a challenge. One of our hands-down tactical brands, TAD created the Dispatch Bag – a perfect balance of operator cool and everyday practicality. Built for the field, it handles your daily office trek with 13 pockets, PALS webbing, and real world-friendly looks.

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FOR THE BOOKSHELF

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Rowing Blazers
Jack Carlson has done more in his young life than you did this morning. As a champion rower and trained archaeologist, he also did it in style. Rowing Blazers is an equally wonderful addition to the library of any fashion aficionado, sports historian, or cultural observer. The stories behind the iconic blazer are interesting, the rowing culture is eloquently captured, and the beautiful photos are timeless.

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Men in This Town
Street fashion photography changed forever when Scott “The Sartorialist” Schumann launched his now omnipresent blog. While many aspiring photographers have sought to emulate his particular brand of in situ framing, few have succeeded. Enter Giuseppe Santamaria, an Australian with a masterful take on menswear. With a masterful eye and quick shutter, his book examines men’s style in London, Tokyo, Sydney, Milan and New York. It’s must have.

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Cartier in the 20th Century
Few brands possess the global cultural force of Cartier. From jewels to timepieces, the name Cartier evokes dreams of luxury and stories instantly that translate into almost any language. Even the iconic red box so associated with the brand is in and of itself an ambassador and advertisement. This book beautifully captures the history and impact of Cartier throughout the 20th Century and is an invaluable resource for those looking to appreciate what brand value really means.

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