Norhtern Grade DC 2015

From Friday, May 29 through Sunday, May 31, Northern Grade – the nationally-acclaimed roving marketplace, featuring brands that manufacture their goods in the U.S. – will land in Washington, DC, for the first time. The two-day, free and open-to-the-public retail experience will take place inside of Union Market’s Dock 5 space, located adjacent to the market. Dock 5, home to previous fashion events, including the Gilt Warehouse Sale and Thread, will be transformed once again into a bazaar-like journey, showcasing a variety of local and national Men’s and Women’s fashion creatives, along with music, spirits and fine cuisine.

Northern Grade DC will welcome on-trend brands, including:

  • Filson (Seattle, WA)
  • Chippewa Boots (Fort Worth, TX)
  • The Brooklyn Circus (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Brookes Boswell (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Gamine Workwear (Boston, MA)
  • United by Blue (Philadelphia, PA)
  • HEUCY (New York, NY)
  • Coronado Leather (San Diego, CA)
  • Pierrepont Hicks (Brooklyn, NY)
  • 1775 Clothing (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Stock Manufacturing Co (Chicago, IL)
  • Krammer & Stoudt (New York, NY)
  • Shockoe Atelier (Richmond, VA)
  • Lumina (Raleigh, NC)
  • Throne Watches (Brooklyn, NY)
  • 440 Supply (Raleigh, NC)

Several local DC brands will also be part of the fun:

  • Gordy’s Pickle Jar
  • Appointed, Florescent Co.
  • Boldfoot Socks
  • Be Clean
  • Gitli Goods
  • Mallory Shelter Jewelry
  • Kicheko Goods
  • Caryn Cramer
  • Local men’s boutiques Mutiny DC and Federal

Style setters may recognize the exclusively-made in the USA market from cities such as Austin, Moscow, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Minneapolis. “After collaborating last year with GQ and Fashionsita for separate men’s and women’s marketplaces last year, we are beyond excited for the launch of our first combined event in Washington DC at Union Market”, says Northern Grade Co-founder Katherine McMillan. “We have produced 21 events all around the country over the last few years, but this will be the most diverse line up of brands we have ever had involved in terms of style and product offerings”.

Northern Grade will set-up-shop adjacent to Union Market, at Dock 5, on Friday, May 29 from 3-8pm; Saturday, May 30 from 11am-7pm;Sunday, May 31 from 11am-5pm.


OTC x Honourmark

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Here at Off the Cuff, we have the privilege of meeting some pretty extraordinary craftspeople. The one thing they all have in common is a deep-seated desire to be the best in their chosen field of expertise. Suits, shirts, khakis, denim, leather goods, footwear, handmade bags, ties, and even grooming supplies.

We founded this site with the goal of helping men find a natural balance between classic, East Coast Ivy League style and the modern, contemporary life we all lead in the world today. To us, this is an expression of love and respect for tradition, combined with an appreciation for the realities of our modern lives. We see it as making the classic practical and even new again.

Unique among the many brands we are honored to call friends is a company especially tied to the original intent of OTC. So, in that vein, we are very exited to announce that OTC is the Brand Ambassador for menswear company, Honourmark.

Honourmark is obsessed with creating casually polished executive-level clothing that meets technical, performance level standards. To us, it’s the epitome of OTC’s mantra:“classic style meets modern life.”

We take this sort of relationship very seriously – which is why we are also publicly announcing it.

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. And yes, that’s a quote from our review of the British Motorcycle Jacket post on Honourmark’s homepage. However, we had nothing to do with it’s prominent selection (thrilled regardless).

What this means for OTC readers is that, as we have been doing for some time, we will test and review various products, support the Honourmark brand through our social media channels, and occasionally promote special events, such as the current Father’s Day special during which you can save 30% on your order.

We also wear their clothes a lot, because we love their stuff, plain and simple. There is the potential for other OTC x Honourmark activations down the road. Should they come to pass, we will of course clearly disclose them.

While we have and will continue to collaborate with other brands that closely match OTC’s mission, this is our first formal Brand Ambassador relationship and we wanted to make sure you know about it.



There is a common truth among men who wear dress shirts for a living: most undershirts are terrible. Too heavy, loose, baggy, boxy, or ill-fitting. They bunch, and they don’t really fit all that well. Our friends at Underfit have worked long and hard to develop a better undershirt, and by all accounts, they have succeeded.

Underfit developed a technically advanced made-in-America undershirt built to keep you comfortable and stylish all day. Now, building on that achievement, the company is set to add some additional innovations to their signature shirts.

A Kickstarter campaign was recently launched, and although we don’t typically promote these sorts of efforts, we are big fans of Underfit, their product, and their story. Please consider backing this great brand and innovative menswear company.

The updated design will have a deeper v-neck for when you wear open collared dress shirts, an even better quality fabric and additional fit adjustments. And, at about US$25.00, these are still a good deal when it comes to performance underwear.

The new Underfit design incorporates a blend of 95% ProModel and 5% spandex. It’s a lightly stretching material which offers a close and light body-hugging fit. While not compression shirts, they do feel closer than other undershirts we have tested, but in a soft, non-constricting fashion.

Underfit the-fit-no-buttonThe shirts are wider at the shoulders and chest and narrower by the waist, which follows the true shape of most men’s bodies. This design reduces bulk and under-shirt billowing. The shirt also has an extra three inch drop, which helps keep these undershirts stay tucked in all day long.

The fabric used by Underfit is made by Lenzing, a leading specialty fiber manufacturer, and employs modern technology to make your day a comfortable one. It is exceptionally soft, provides temperature regulation, moisture absorption, and due to its particular moisture wicking features, is even odor resistant.

The ProModel fabric also possesses a high tensile strength, which means it is hard to tear, retains its shape, and lasts for years.

We have already tested both the v-neck and crew neck versions and found each to be comfortable and well-fitting. After a couple of months of wearing and laundering, we see no signs of weakness. So, take a look, back the effort, and get some shirts.


OTC Recommends: Christensen Bags

Christensen No13_1Most lifestyle brands seek to improve upon a time-tested design or known functionality; a better shirt, hipper jeans, or a cooler laptop case. Christensen Bags, the brainchild of a creative husband and wife team, took a path less traveled and we think it’s made all the difference.

Rather than mimic something obviously traditional, these mid-century inspired bags and folios are unique, well designed, and irresistibly useful. They stand out from the portage crowd for all the right reasons.

Christensen bags are a third space when it comes to holding things. Crafted from a dense twill waxed cotton canvas, they are minimalist and sturdy – built for the work of carrying. While masculine in overall form, the brand’s carryalls and satchels evoke a clean lined, artistic aesthetic that make them perfectly appropriate for men or women. At at the same time, the purposeful materials and robust construction call to mind something you would expect to find in the field or in the hands of an architect at a construction site.

More so than any other bags we have tested, Christensen’s perfectly straddle the line between form and function. Tough yet refined, rugged but clean, pragmatically functional and aesthetically compelling. These bags work equally well hauling papers to the office or hauling tools.

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The carryall line in particular exemplifies this dual personality. Depending on how you use the bag, its functionally minimalist design naturally adapts to the chores and at hand. We have used a No. 28 Olive Carryall at a suit-and-tie conference and for porting sports equipment; it blended into each environment with notable ease.

Our No. 13 Platypus Satchel has become a go-to everyday errand bag. It’s the perfect size; compact but just roomy enough to carry the essentials with space to spare. The design is casually cool and can work with shorts and a polo shirt or with smart office wear. As with the carryalls, a simple panel of pockets and leather pen loops keep smaller items at bay, while the large, open interiors hold more than you might expect.

Construction-wise, the bags are actually double-thick due to the black cotton canvas lining used in all Christensen bags. The carryalls have thick leather bottoms and handles, and an equally sturdy detachable shoulder strap. We are still enamored with the No’ 28’s clever leather wrap handle closure.

The unique tab and stud closure on the No. 13 is also part of its appeal. Distinctive and practical, it is a design element for sure, but also keeps thing well-contained.

Overall, these bags continue to engage our creative side and keep us looking for reasons to put them to use. The company’s stated inspiration of Danish mid-century modern esthetics carries through all its products and underlies their ability to always look like the right choice.

It comes as no surprise that we highly recommend Christensen Bags.

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Christensen No13_2

Christensen No28_2

Christensen No28_3

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While familiarity may breed contempt, exclusivity can engender affinity, curiosity even. To wit, where Ralph Lauren may suffer the slings and arrows of ubiquity and accusations of wannabe-classism, clothing brands known to only a few often retain genuine affection and social pull.

Such is the case with American clothing label, Boast.

First, a botany lesson; it’s a Japanese Maple leaf. Really. Second, a little history. To anyone who grew up around a country club in the 1970s and ’80s, Boast was that brand. Playing tennis on the dusty clay courts, all the cool guys wore Boast polo shirt or shorts. Racquetball (perhaps the WASPiest of all sports)? A Boast headband or socks. That leaf logo was, in an exclusive sort of way, ever present, which makes it that much more interesting.

So many brands like to try and build a preppy/vintage/heritage culture off a near-nugget of truth. Others create from whole cloth a background that somehow grounds them in Americana or Ivy League culture. Boast doesn’t need to; it’s the real deal.

Created in 1973 by a group of Ivy League All-American squash and tennis players, including the tennis pro at Greenwich, Connecticut’s Field Club, Boast was an American answer to fancy European sportswear that was at the time dominating the pro shop market. Selling from the back of a station wagon, they grew the brand into a staple of leading country clubs. If you played squash or tennis, you knew Boast.

Boast_Greg_NormanFrom there, the brand grew and was adopted by a certain strata of society and the sports world. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, iconoclasts everywhere were wearing Boast, from John McEnroe on the court to Greg Norman on the links to George W. Bush stumping for his dad. Boast, in no small part due to people misconstruing the leaf logo, was seen a badge of individualism and irreverence- yet almost always within the context of the upper crust.

That, of course, was the hook that kept the brand within a circle of a certain culture. You only really knew about Boast if you ran in the country club crowd at some level. And sporting Boast displayed your edgy independence to a familial menage that would metaphorically nod its head and, with a little wink, grab another G&T or Bloody Mary and mosey on over to the 19th Hole.

Boast never really went away, but it never really grew beyond what it was. And that’s OK. Boast was always about culture and people more than commercialization. Then, with some new owners at the helm determined to preserve all that makes it unique, Boast was re-born in 2012. It was, and still is, a brand for folks who appreciate grabbing a beer or two after a match, not a sustainably-sourced-gluten-free-vegan-detoxyfying-power-smoothie.

These new owners cherish the brand’s history and the philosophy behind what makes it such a special slice of American sportswear.

We tested out a few Boast items over the past couple of weeks and are more than happy to say that Boast is still very much a classic, country club inspired brand that is meant to be worn every day.Boast _Solid-Pique-Polo-Navy-580x580The classic Boast polo shirt is a blast from the past – 1985 (or thereabouts) to be specific. Thick cotton with some real texture, just like they used to be. Want enzyme washed and broken in? Not here. You’ll have wear this shirt to break in, thank you very much. And we like that, because it’s a polo that you are going to wear for years to come and cherish the work it took to build some personal character. It’s made to last and if that means you don’t need to buy another for some time, they’re cool with that.  It even has an old-school drop tail hem; love it.

We also have the navy Pique Sport Coat. It’s like wearing a blue blazer made from your polo shirt. How preppy is that?

Boast_Pique_Sport_Coat_Navy2-580x580This version was inspired by a jacket Boast made as a one-off collaboration with Andy Spade. That collaboration, Boast X Mr. Ned, was dreamed up by Partners & Spade of which Mr. Spade is a principle. Mr. Ned is a beloved tailor in Manhattan where the likes of acclaimed director Wes Anderson have their suits made.

The original was constructed from a heavy navy canvas with red elbow patches. It took a while to break in and literally creased when he bent his arms, but everyone loved it and asked for it. After a little tinkering, this easier to wear version emerged. Patch pockets and unlined with baby blue taped seams. Like if a blazer and a cardigan had a child; informally dressy. If Mory’s still had a jacket rule, this would be what you wore to brunch after a morning workout at Payne Whitney.

Boast is a slice of real American Ivy League, preppy, East Coast, country club life you can wear. That leaf may be mistaken for a lot things, but not for being a poser. Grab a cocktail, grab a seat, and hang out for a little while.