For this year’s OTC Holiday Style Guide, we look to some modern classics that are designed and built for how we live life today. That means timeless practical design, like Rotring mechanical pencils, or a handmade heirloom that will only get better with age, like a Frank Clegg bag. But it also means technical dress socks that keep your feet happy all day long and totally modern hunting jacket.
One of the enduring truths of real East Coast preppy style is that it’s based on the adoption of functional basics, re-imagining them for everyday life, and using them until they fall apart. Then, you keep on using them.
Our list this year is filled with the things of life that will keep you company day in and day out, and serve you well for years to come. Some are new to the scene and provide a modern take on something classic. Others are classics already and have already come to define their genre. Each in its own way is a stellar example of an investment that will last, if not a lifetime, pretty darn close. Except for the bourbon – that won’t last.
THE HANDMADE BELT, FROM LA MATERA
La Matera, specializes in authentic hand-made Argentinian belts and accessories. These exceptional belts are crafted in the United States by master leather worker Frank Clegg, using 100% vegetable tanned cognac leather, hand-stitched Argentine woven fabrics, and polished solid brass fittings.
Not only are these belts a new favorite of the personally stylish, even the coolest royals seem to like their internationally unique look – Prince Harry is often seen wearing his La Matera.
In addition to the great belts, we also like their tastefully branded canvas ball caps, which have the Argentinian flag discretely stitched the side.
FRESH + MODERN TIES, FROM BULL + MOOSE
Bull+ Moose was founded by an Army veteran and political world-refuge looking to create a company that both allowed him to express his stylish side and create a vehicle for supporting important groups like Kiva.
The result is a great collection of neck and bow ties that take a modern stab at classic fabrics and designs. We love this 100% wool tartan tie, it’s a limited edition and rendered in a lovely dead stock wool that has become B+M’s unofficial pattern. So, get yours now, because once it’s gone, its gone. Another thing, none of their ties are going to run you more than $39.00.
Having just partnered with the veterans support group “Got Your 6,” the B+M signature camo tie tie is also showing up all over the place, from actors and sports figures to former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. Take a close look, each aspect of the custom designed camouflage pattern on this not-too-slim silk tie is actually a slightly different weave and pattern. It’s pretty amazing when seen in person.
THE BEST MESSENGER BAG, FROM FRANK CLEGG
What can we say about Frank Clegg Leatherworks that has not already been said? Based in Fall River, Massachusetts, Frank is one of America’s leading leather craftsmen and an increasingly sought-after figure for “made in America” partnerships. Even the White House came calling when they wanted to give President Obama the perfect briefcase.
But Frank and his sons are also hitting the global beat, being highlighted in Monocle magazine (our favorite periodical, by the way) and carried in some of the world’s leading boutiques, including Hong Kong’s The Armoury.
This classic flap-over-body messenger bag has become our indispensable every day bag. It’s roomy but accessible, incredibly durable yet exceedingly refined. Typical airport comment: “Excuse me, where did you get that messenger bag?”
FUNCTIONALLY CLASSIC WRITING INSTRUMENTS,
Real New England preps know that much of what passes for classic and old-school style was most often co-opted from functional, real world stuff that simply worked well, was built to last, and, more often than not, was snagged from mom or dad when they weren’t looking.
That’s what makes Rotring pens and mechanical pencils so darn awesome; they are meant for architects, artists, draftsmen, and other people who actually draw stuff for a living. They are tools. And, they now happen to be iconic examples of an object whose appeal surpassed its original purpose. Heavy and purposeful, they add personality, practicality, and inspiration to your daily kit.
As with many personal items, they help convey a bit of what you value though their mere presence. That may also explain why they have a cult following among pen and design folks.
THE BROOKLYN, BY PROPER SOCKS
Socks are big right now. All over the place we are seeing new sock brands, subscription clubs, and clever/cheeky/classic/edgy designs popping out from under guys’ pants hems. And this is a good thing. Avenues for personal expression and individual style are often limited for men; a nice watch, a cool tie, or maybe a snazzy pocket square.
Socks provide some semi-public real estate to flash pattern and color that speaks to who you are. Remember all the attention former president George H.W. Bush received when his penchant for flashy hosiery became known?
Enter Proper Socks, literally started up in a D.C. basement. These exceedingly comfortable socks are right/left foot-specific, arch-friendly, and good to go all day long. In fact,the young inventor modeled the support and comfort features on his favorite athletic socks. Fun yet office-friendly designs make them a great way to keep your feet happy and your style on display. To learn more and get the gear, visit their Kickstarter page before January 8, 2014.
THE H&B BREAST POCKET WALLET
Ever guy has a wallet, but not every guy has a wallet that you can pass down to your kid. What truly sets H&B London’s wallets apart from others we have tested is the quality of the craftsmanship and materials. Each wallet is handmade in London by one of only three craftsman. The leather is impeccably smooth and supple and the wallet’s refined construction provides a firm structure without feeling stiff or unyielding. “Elegant” is the word we use to describe them.
The finish on our British Racing Green breast pocket wallet is both rich and translucent, allowing the natural pattern of the flawless hide to come through. Founder Stephen Brister feels that a luxury product should be made from the finest materials, be rare and exclusive, and adhere to exceedingly high standards.
For example, H&B London’s leather goods are made from the most exclusive Italian leather from the hides of cattle grazed in the Alps where there are no barbed fences or mosquitoes to blemish their skin. By definition, that’s a very small universe of leather supply.
EXCEPTIONAL BOURBON, FROM BLANTONS
If you like bourbon, than you know Blantons. In addition to the bottle itself being a small piece of art and worthy of your bar’s center stage, its contents are single barrel perfection. The famous mid-stride “jockey” bottle stopper speaks to its Kentucky heritage and the facet cut bottle reinforces the dedication to craft that Blanton’s has honed for nearly 100 years. Blanton’s literally created the single barrel bourbon premium market in 1984 and since then has been considered some of the finest in the world.
BONOBOS PREMIUM CONE DENIM JEANS
You probably already know that Bonobos makes great khakis. In fact, Bonobos more or less redefined the pants business when they created a signature curved waist band that thankfully eliminated what was artfully referred to as, “khaki diaper but.”
Such ardent supporters of khakis are Bonobos’ founders that they publicly scorned the very idea of jeans as a wardrobe component. So imagine our downright shock when the call came in that Bonobos now makes jeans.
Upon recovering, the next thought? They must be damn good jeans – and they are. As I type these words, I’m wearing my slim/straight premium jeans made from Cone denim, sourced at their North Carolina White Oak mill. Cut and stitched in Los Angeles, they remain true to the Bonobos’ ethos. These jeans are an updated classic, incredibly comfortable, and will be worn whenever possible.
EDDIE BAUER MICROTHERM STORM-REPEL
DOWN FIELD JACKET
This is one of the coolest jackets we have tested. Designed as a modern take on the classic field shooting jacket, it is incredibly lightweight and warm yet flexible, durable, and functional.
We tested this jacket nonstop for two weeks; in weather that ranged from lightly cool to full-on winter snow, and it remained a favorite through it all. Modified as a hunting jacket with a water–repellent coating and durable Cordura reinforcements, it actually started life meant for mountaineering. So, either way you look at it, it’s durable, practical and functional. Another nice characteristic of this jacket is its minimal footprint.
While it clearly references both its technical and field coat DNA, this jacket embraces a modern, urban look and fit. Nothing extraneous or gimmicky; just a great everyday coat that goes from field to town with equal style.
HERMES CAPE COD WATCH
We love watches. However, we are not big fans of overboard vanity collections that treat great timepieces as showy commodities to be acquired for social impact. For most of us, four or five should do it. Maybe a few more if you actually switch up your looks with some frequency, or you’re a real-life scuba diver.
One watch we would love to add to our collection is the truly timeless Cape Cod, by Hermes. This watch is simple in the most elegant of ways. Clearly inspired by Hermes’ equestrian heritage, it is nonetheless suitable for the tack room or boardroom. Its strong lines and balance of hand stitched leather and stainless steel create yet another classic from the house that quite literally defines the term. It is also available with a smartly casual double wrap strap, shown above.