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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OTC x Jack Spade

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OTC and influential menswear lifestyle brand  Jack Spade teamed up as part of the recent Georgetown Blogger Crawl, a viral marketing event to promote and celebrate the storied and historic retail hub of America’s Capitol City. As part of the #GTBloggerCrawl, OTC was honored to be the brand ambassador for Jack Spade’s DC presence.

The event was conceived and executed by NeuProfile and the SCDC Agency. While we had the chance to explore and promote the best of Georgetown, Jack Spade is a universal brand that represents a classically turned out sense of urban style.

In fact, Jack Spade has long been a particular favorite of ours. Founded with a deliberate and prescient nod toward the principles of function, durability, practicality, and simplicity, the brand staked out an early role in the American workwear movement.

GTBloggerCrawlLookBook5(OTC)Even though founder Andy Spade has moved on to new and equally impressive endeavors, Jack Spade’s well-known focus on the refined intellectual urban preppy market remains strong as ever. Like Jack Spade? Then you probably have opinions on geopolitical instability, college rowing, and how the Romans co-opted Greek architectural principles. It’s just that sort of brand.

Their iconic bags and purposeful accessories have been joined by an elegantly simple collection of menswear staples, including suits and overcoats, denim, and classic oxfords. Walking to into Jack Spade’s Georgetown store makes you want to teach a university level art history class followed by an evening of brewing your own beer. It feels a bit like a cross between a private club and the city apartment you always wanted; cozy and airy all at the same time.

We were especially appreciative of the very kind gift of a Waxwear Davis Brief, a signature Jack Spade bag. It’s quickly become a personal favorite; perfect for casual toting and everyday portage. The Halley Stevensons waxed canvas fabric will get better with use and abuse and soon enough it will have that worn-in look and feel. We will be showing you more of this great bag soon.

If you’re in town, make sure to take some time and wander through Georgetown’s historic sites and check out the ever expanding roster of menswear shops, pubs, and old-school retailers. It’s a great please to live, visit, and hang out with friends and the occasional ambassador, world famous reporter, Supreme Court justice, or Vice President of the United States.

More pictures from Jack Spade’s DC outlet are below, many shot by the talented Sebastian Marin.

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The Noble x Bulleit Barrel-Aged Jeans Project

As many of you may recall, OTC is part of a very cool experiment being conducted by craft distiller Bulleit and premium jeans maker Noble Denim.

Cincinnati, OH, based Noble made us a pair of their fantastic jeans that were then specially aged in well-worn barrels, located somewhere out in the Tennessee woods, normally used for making Bulleit whiskey. This project is especially fun because while the idea was a great one, no one had any clue as to what the end result would be.

These jeans were made in a very small limited-edition batch, and we should be receiving the final product soon. We are particularly excited because, frankly, we have no idea what to expect. Once the jeans were assembled, into the barrels they went for a couple of months. When we get these truly unique jeans in our hands and see how they turned out, we’ll make sure to show them to you.

We are also happy to announce that in addition to their classic 13.75 Cone Mills denim hand-cut and sewn in Tennessee, Noble will be offering a Holiday limited edition jean made from a 15 oz. Japanese denim, available in the Truman Regular and the Earnest Slim fits.

We would be remiss if we did not also point out that Bulleit Bourbon, Rye and 10-Year also make great gifts and stocking stuffers. The Bulleit brand continues to set the bar for rye-forward whiskeys that are perfect for sipping on the rocks or mixing into classic holiday cocktails.

Check out some great images from the Noble Denim x Bulleit Barrel Aged project:

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HonourMark_OTC
There are certain things in life that immediately speak to you. It’s the way you know with a single touch or glance that something is special, an example of craftsmanship set apart from others.

A Frank Clegg leather bag stands alone in the world of daily portage. A Jon Green bespoke suit is a sartorial second skin so expertly executed that it looks and feels molded to your body in flawless perfection.

And, now we can say that the British Motorcycle Jacket from San Francisco-based HonourMark is the standard for exceptional daily outerwear. Crafted from the best materials available and built with neurotic attention to detail, this jacket fits like a piece of tailored clothing yet is capable of taking on an adventure in the African veldt.

Moreover, this is a jacket that gets noticed all the time. We have lost track of all the “nice jacket,” “who makes that jacket,” and “oh my gosh, that’s beautiful” comments we have received. It really is that good.

THE BEST

When OTC first received the Motorcycle Jacket, we wrote, “Perhaps one of the single best garments we have ever had our hands on. You know when you just look at something and know it’s one of the best out there? Before you even touch it? That’s this jacket.”

That opinion still holds, and then some.

HonourMark’s goal, to create exceptional made-in-America garments that celebrate the Monday-Friday lives that all men lead, is born out in their dedication to craft the c-suite equivalent of technical adventure clothing. Expensive by most guy’s standards, these are meant to be jackets in which you invest, and which you wear day in and day out.

They are executive quality outerwear to replace the well-made but out of place mountaineering shells and jackets to which many men are drawn. Such gear is fine for the weekend, felt founder Michael DeNunzio, but they don’t work for the office.

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The jacket’s body is crafted from Ventile, a naturally wind- and-water resistant material developed during World War II for the British Royal Air Force. This material has a substantial and sturdy hand, but is also pliable and quick to break in. The weave is so tight that you can quite literally pour a glass of water on the jacket and it will bead up and roll off.

DETAILS

The fit is particularly interesting because, while this jacket is based on an iconic design – a dashing but practical jacket for adventurous motorcycle riders – designer and co-founder Shaun Aharam re-imagined it as a refined and modernized classic. To de-clutter the body, he ditched the traditional belt and collar straps. The slimmer silhouette, higher armholes, and a shorter fit together create a fresh design that is both heritage-driven and thoroughly contemporary.

The British Motorcycle Jacket is also lined with an amazingly soft and durable Japanese yarn-dyed cotton. The hand-warmer pockets are also lined with with this fantastic and lightweight fabric. Sometimes, we just want to keep our hands in there to enjoy that perfect, soft coziness.

navy-moto-handwarmers_largeThis unique lining also allows the jacket to maintain a comfortable mid-weight heft; not too think and not at all bulky. It’s just right with everything from a simple button down oxford to a beefy wool sweater. The sleeves are lined with a silk-like synthetic fabric from the same Japanese mill. The cuffs, collar, and flaps to the bellows pockets are also lined with a dense British corduroy, just right for cold, breezy days.

The slanted chest pocket, a trademark motorcycle jacket feature designed to facilitate easy access while on the road, has a handy inner sleeve that can securely hold your smart phone, pen, or keys. A no-snag bi-directional zipper stays secure behind the full-length storm flap.

One detail that really speaks to HonourMark’s fixation on creating something unique and quality-driven are the snaps. Forged in Kentucky, each snap is military grade and backed with a perfectly cut Napa leather washer. This combination creates a durable closure and also protects the jacket’s Ventile fabric for years to come.

As with every other feature, even the particular shade of colors offered (navy and black) are designed to compliment almost any wardrobe pairing. Ours is the navy blue model and truth be told, it goes with everything – even our favorite navy Read Wall chinos.

BRAND POSITIONING

Grounded in classic, functional workwear, HonourMark has elevated the everyday, multi-season jacket to a wardrobe essential. Production runs are small, meaning that each of the three jacket styles (and one fantastic vest) offered, is a limited edition. The other jacket styles are also elevated versions of classic menswear pieces: the car coat and the quilted estate jacket. Their quilted vest is an equally office-elegant rendition of a traditional field garment.

Quality, durability, and understated luxury are the brand’s focus and we are happy to say that in the British Motorcycle Jacket, they have nailed each one.

HonourMark is very much the type of brand you would expect to see in the pages of Robb Report or Monocle – in fact, that’s exactly where we hope to see it someday. But, this is also the type of brand that can back up such attention and hype with world-class products that are worth every penny. We expect to see a lot more from HonourMark.

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Ledbury Pops into Georgetown

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Richmond, Virginia, based shirt-maker extraordinaire, Ledbury, is back in the national capitol for the 2014 holiday season.

The brand, best known for its e-commerce approach to Jermyn Street quality shirting, opened up a seasonal pop-up shop at 1254 Wisconsin Avenue. Situated in the historic retail heart of DC’s menswear shops, it will run from November 15, 2014 through January 25, 2015. The shop also boasts a sharp new design concept that’s a minimalist take on its annual Ledbury Quail Hunt. It’s the living room-cum-wardrobe you’ve always wanted.

Another exciting feature is that they are debuting the limited run Georgetown Collection. Ledbury designed four limited-edition shirt styles that will be sold exclusively in the pop-up shop – along with the rest of the Ledbury range – and are inspired by the notion of a winter weekend in the District. The collection features flannels and brushed twills.

Although we, very regretfully, had to miss the big opening shindig last week, the Ledbury crew sent along the first shirt available from the Georgetown Collection (pictured above). It’s an incredibly soft flannel, with an awesome blue, white and pink plaid. This slim-fit shirt is casually sharp and sports a natty short point collar.

Do yourself a favor and make time to visit America’s Capitol city this holiday season, and don’t forget swing by Georgetown and pick up a limited edition shirt from an equally capital brand.

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