Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

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

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

The blue blazer is universally useful and when it comes to meeting your needs in a sartorial pinch, it is chameleon-like. From casual cocktails to formal boardroom, a well-made, well-fitting blazer will get the job done.

Now, when they hear “blue blazer” most men tend to think “yacht captain.” The jacket sparking this dreaded stereotype would be the classic blue blazer featured in any number of Ralph Lauren ads or episode of Gilligan’s Island (see: Howell III, Thurston). Of course, this version is the most traditional in style and execution, and as such is a generally viewed as a 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. Even still, to casual observer, the core elements of a the classic blue blazer are obvious.

Rowing Blazers Facebook Image Basics 101: The Blue BlazerMost recently, that offshoot cousin of a garment, 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 such place of influence in today’s menswear, the blue blazers comes in a range of fabrics and styles that can work with almost anyone’s style – from lightweight linens to beefy flannels.

As the king of odd jackets, a blue blazer can 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 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, when 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. On the other hand, a single breasted sack jacket with no darting and patch pockets can project a more casual “drinks at the club,” New England 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 often 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 and command. 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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Belt One Out With ntandy

ntandy Belt Orange Belt One Out With ntandy

Too often belts are a serious business that must meet the daily requirements of understatement, sobriety, or at least a degree of conformity. The good thing is that when you sit back and take a look, there are many occasions when you can loosen up your wardrobe choices, put away the earth tones, and have some sartorial fun.

ntandy makes great belts for those times. Especially in the warmth of summer, these colorful and simply designed belts add some unmistakable personality while still holding up your pants. The great thing about them, at least from an OTC perspective, is that they happily straddle the line between outright fun and preppy functionality.

While they clearly reference a purposeful and utilitarian past, they also are just plain cool belts that speak to founder Napper Tandy’s laid back California lifestyle. It’s like Ivy League guy meets surfer dude, and they totally get along.

ntnady Logo Belt One Out With ntandyThe belts come in five colors and are all made from old-school nylon board short material wrapped around 1000 pound test nylon climbing webbing. The simple contrast stitching adds just the right amount of vintage charm.

As Napper describes his belts, “I like to think they’re aesthetically part Birdwell Beach Britches, part 70′s Patagonia with a little nip off the flask of the old prep school ribbon belt”

Worn traditionally, the belt’s loose end hides ntandy’s cool minimalist label. However, Napper’s got you covered; click here to learn the “triple fold” and let your inner preppy beach bum shine.

Seriously, we test out all sorts of stuff here at OTC and without question, this simple, fun, functional, and plain old cool belt is a hands-down favorite.

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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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The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull Lee

204 laydown The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull Lee

The last time we told you about Old Bull Lee, we made it clear that their shorts were some of our absolute favorites. Lee is committed to make the best shorts possible and approaches his craft as both an artist and technician. They were perfect.

It turns out he’s not done.

Lee sent along some of his new and improved shorts and we have spent the last month checking them out.  They are a bit shorter and trimmer, but still the built-to-last quality we remember. First, some details on the material and build.

The shorts are made from heavy Duck cloth, which is essentially canvas. Sourced from the finest Japanese mill (he won’t divulge exactly which one), the fabric starts out a bit stiff, but eases into a comfortable, personalized fit.

They are dyed and assembled in America using a wet “vat” process that is softer and longer lasting than dry pigment dying. The pocketing and waistband are made from a soft and smooth poplin and the button fly has been replaced with a zipper. Lastly, the shorts are pre-shrunk using water and dryers only, not chemical shrinkage.

205 laydown The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull LeeAs Lee likes to point out, everyone is trying to sell “your favorite pair of shorts,” but the truth is that it doesn’t work that way. The ones that come, “brand new, but lived in,” have actually been beat into that condition by chemicals. As a result, these pre-lived-in garments often start to disintegrate after a season or two; and not eloquently either.

A real favorite pair shorts has been around for a while. They just sort of know your body; it’s a relationship that takes time to develop. Because the Duck fabric lasts so long, they gave the color a little extra pop so that down the road when they are broken in, the short will still carry those fragile tones with which they started.

In fact, to accurately convey the fabric’s eventual color change, the website’s laydown shots are intentionally dull. Lee said, “it’s not to be misleading, but we feel that we are telling the truth by averaging the color out over it’s lifetime.

This guy lives and breaths shorts. They do pretty cool tees as well, but at it’s heart, Old Bull Lee is trying to turn shorts into a science.

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The J. Panther RollTote

 

jplc rolltote all 1024x1024 The J. Panther RollToteJ. Panther Luggage Company is a maker of classically modern American crafted bags. We have been fans of this brand for some time and still consider the original Courier Ruc to be one of the most innovative business bags to hit the boardroom.

The company’s portfolio is deliberately small and thoughtful. the collection represents a true balance among form and function, design and purpose, practicality and aesthetic. It is also a brand that successfully blends hipster cool with heritage sensibility.  It is one of the few bag makers that creates products which are forward-thinking while at the same time beholden to a craftsman’s hand. New but sort of vintage; modern but also timeless. Regardless of the stylistic lens through which you view J. Panther bags, that all built to take excessive abuse and in doing so, get better and better.

J. Panther’s new RollTote is a perfect example of this philosophy.

The signature three-way carry RollTote brings modern functionality, and a touch of refinement, to the classic, utilitarian roll-top backpack. To the standard Ruc Tote mode they have added two additional, flexible carry options.  Removable, adjustable leather shoulder straps attach via an ‘O’ ring for ruc (backpack)carry. Re-attach one of these straps across the top of the bag for tote-style use. A leather side handle offers the third option of hand carry.

J. Panther’s signature 21 ounce lightly waxed, water-resistant canvas works with the RollTote’s design to handle even the heaviest downpour. This heavy cotton canvas ages beautifully and the sturdy leather trim ads a functionally elegant finish to the bag.

Fully rolled down, the twin external pockets are protected from the elements, be it a rain storm or snow flurry.  Within, a single deep pocket neatly separates a laptop or documents from the roomy main compartment.

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