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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OTC Goes Handmade With Paul Stuart Footwear

Making Shoes OTC Goes Handmade With Paul Stuart Footwear

True personalization is the epitome of luxury. The idea of something crafted specifically and uniquely for you – to fit your particular body in all of its glorious imperfection – is what makes the world of bespoke so special, attractive, and often expensive.

Perhaps nowhere is the true benefit of customized fit more evident than with footwear. A bespoke suit is a wonderfully comfortable expression of a tailor’s craft; a garment that can change how you feel about yourself and how others see you. Made to measure shoes, however, are another thing all together.

Well crafted shoes are utilitarian as well as practical, functional, and vital accessories that can quite literally make or break your day. Even the best looking, most elegantly crafted brogues are worthless if it hurts too much to walk or they simply do not fit your particular feet.

PS Classic Logo OTC Goes Handmade With Paul Stuart FootwearPaul Stuart, already the byword for elegant comfort that speaks to a classic landed gentry aesthetic, has recently launched a made to order shoe program, taking up the banner of luxury footwear personalization. Blending their signature landed gentry style with the precision of the cobbler’s art, Paul Stuart’s exceptional English and Italian footwear is something to notice.

OTC in NYC

OTC has been invited to try out and document the Paul Stuart custom footwear experience and we’d like to bring you along for the ride.

On Tuesday, October 21, 2014, we will be in-house at the Paul Stuart flagship store at 354 Madison Avenue to meet the shoe-makers. OTC editor-in-chief Chris Hogan will learn about what goes into their made to measure Italian Classic footwear, get measured, and pick out all the details for our personalized pair.  Mark your calendars to stop by, say hi, and possibly look into ordering a pair for yourself.

Afterwards, we will be updating you throughout the entire process; as the shoes are formed, crafted, finished, and delivered. We are thrilled to be part of this outstanding event and look forward to showing you how the kick-off consultation at Paul Stuart goes.

In addition to OTC, the Paul Stuart team selected four other leading style influencers to be part of this project: Jake Metzger of Downeast and Out, Skylar Bergl of Four-Pins, Max Twitty of Gents Among Men, and Christopher Fenimore of his eponymous blog.

You can become an integral part of this social media experience too by following Paul Stuart, all of the influencers, and tagging @paulstuartny and #paulstuartshoes.

Those wishing to schedule an appointment during the shoe event or requiring more information are invited to contact Peter Agati at 212.682.0320 (ext. 546) or Peter.Agati@paulstuart.com.

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Going Custom With Allen Edmonds

Screenshot 2014 10 06 12.42.15 Going Custom With Allen EdmondsWe are working on an exciting project with iconic American footwear brand, Allen Edmonds.

“Custom” is the big buzzword throughout the fashion and menswear world right now: custom suits, custom shirts, custom trousers, even custom watch straps. To this ever-growing world of specialized fit and individual uniqueness now add customized shoes.

Of course, bespoke footwear has been around for centuries. One can still ring up John Lobb and set an appointment to begin the lengthy, and suitably expensive, process of creating a pair of shoes that will literally fit you feet like gloves. If, however, you require something more logistically and financially manageable, Allen Edmonds has the online tool for you.

Dubbed, the “shoe configurator”, this new tool offers you several footwear models, from casual boat shoes to dress cap toes, that can be tweaked and sized on a variety of levels never before offered. From changing the shoe’s color or type of leather to selecting two different sizes should your feet vary, to swapping soles. You can even mix and match leathers and colors to create some seriously customized (and potentially vibrant) shoes. Allen Edmonds plans to roll out even more features for the configurator soon.

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To be sure, it’s not inexpensive. Although compared to taking the bespoke route, it’s certainly a fair price for what you get – a pair of shoe far more customized to your fit and likes than would be available almost anywhere else; and from a company with a track record that bespeaks quality.

The tool’s interface is easy and intuitive. You start out with the standard model, and the variations you choose dictate the eventual cost of the final product. We gave it a try and settled on the classic wing McAllister wing tip. As we now are heading into autumn, the logical choice was a dark brogue suede. And, since inclement weather comes with the territory, we selected the mini-lug sole.

Simple and classic? You bet. But also, exactly what we wanted, right from the easy chair – and that’s the point.

We eagerly await the results (expect to wait about four weeks), and will show you the shoes once they arrive. Even more exciting for you is that we will be conducting a special giveaway that will let one lucky OTC reader create their very own pair of custom Allen Edmonds shoes!

So, stay tuned and check back.

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Totally Unique: Da Luca Watch Straps

DSC 0543 Totally Unique: Da Luca Watch Straps

Handmade and totally unique, Da Luca watchstraps are one of a kind. Sourced from new and vintage leathers, they are equal parts  investment and a celebration of craftsmanship. Each watch strap is one of a kind – literally. Every one of this San Diego-based company’s watch straps is an individual creation, never to be duplicated. While there are certain styles and patterns used as guideposts, each Da Luca watch strap is its own singular creation and when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

That’s one thing that makes our Cabrone strap so special. At 22mm wide, it perfectly fits our 44mm vintage pilot-inspired mechanical timepiece from Avier, the micro brand founded by Jeff Bernard, of Bernard Watch. Crafted from American alligator, the strap is thick and substantial, balancing the watch and creating a harmonious sense of scale and proportion.

DSC 05482 Totally Unique: Da Luca Watch StrapsThe skin is finished in a slightly dulled gloss that highlights the exceptional detail while keeping the look elegantly subdued, instead of flashy.  Stitching is self-colored to maintain the simple, uniform  design.

The clasp is polished silver of a Panarai design and includes the small Da Luca hallmark; the only visible concession to branding on the entire strap.

In appearance and execution, Da Luca watch straps are a great alternative to the often generic options out there. Our strap has begun to break in nicely and is comfortable to wear. Because it is such a thick watch strap, it’s going to take a little while to soften up, but that’s fine. The length is just right – not too short or too long – and the keeper holds the strap snugly in place.

Da Luca sources their leathers from some pretty unusual places. In addition to traditional virgin leathers, their line of Vintage straps come from old bomber jackets, ammunition pouches, belts, and even worn out shoes. The worn-in nature of such leathers makes perfect sense and the one-of-a-kind production model means that these limited sources are not a problem. To the contrary, such a dearth of unique and interesting materials and finishes adds the the brand’s cache and value. While not inexpensive, the Cabrone went for US $180.00; for what you get, it’s a fair price indeed.

In addition to its ready-to-wear straps, the company can also craft you a made to order watch strap. You can choose the type of skin, width, length, and even the strap’s thickness. Da Luca also offers a variety of other strap styles, including some amazing and colorful suede NATO straps, belts, and a selection of small leather accessories.

While we don’t say this too often, companies like Da Luca straps are one of the reasons we founded OTC to begin with. Total commitment to their craft, a dedication to excellence and quality, made in America, and products that live up to the expectation. Such companies should be celebrated, and that’s what we do.

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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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