2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

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.




La Matera Mendoza Belt2 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern ClassicsLa 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.






Bull+Moose Morrissey Tie 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

Bull+Moose Camo Tie 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics


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.





Frank Clegg Messenger Bag 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

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?”





Rotring Rapid Pro Family 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics


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.




Proper Socks Brooklyn3 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern ClassicsSocks 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.




british racing green breast pocket wallet 1 1024x1024 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

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.





Blantons Bourbon2 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

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 Denim2 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

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 Down Field Jacket 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

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 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

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.


Holiday Gift? In the J. Panther Bag

JPLC Courier Ruc Tan Canvas Holiday Gift? In the J. Panther Bag

J. Panther Luggage company makes one of our all time favorite brief bags, the Courier Ruc.  With a design based on the classic zip-around form and a build made to handle New York commutes, the Courier Ruc is an elegantly durable hybrid.

J.Panther Logo Holiday Gift? In the J. Panther BagNow, the JPLC folks have added to the Ruc family, rending their flagship bag in 21 ounce military-spec canvas and finished with premium Horween leather trim.  In either sand or olive canvas, the bag is a functional work of art that carries what you need for the day in style.

The water-resistant canvas ages beautifully while fully retaining its durability, and the heavy-duty coil zips keep even the heaviest rain at bay.  An elegantly designed interior opens up in book-like style to offer a perfect fit for a laptop, while a variety of compartments and pockets neatly store daily tools ranging from iPad to iPhone, pens to business cards.

So, even though our 2013 OTC Holiday Wish List is right around the corner, we wanted to give our friends at JPLC a special thumbs up for expanding their core line the right way.  All the well thought-out elements of the Ruc’s design are in place, now wrapped in an elegant, casual, and durable body that we are sure will age fantastically.

JPLC Courier Ruc Olive Canvas Holiday Gift? In the J. Panther Bag


OTC Father’s Day Guide

Looking for some last-minute Father’s Day gift ideas?  OTC has pulled together a few great options that will make it look like you spent days, not minutes, tracking down the best ideas.

From a gift box subscription to the perfect shirt, some sharp watches to an exceptional pen, we’ve got you covered.  Even some amazing headphones made from cherry wood.

Birchbox Men
$20.00 / Month


2013 05 21 16.05.05 1024x768 OTC Fathers Day Guide


Citizen Primo Chronograph

Citizen Primo Chronograph OTC Fathers Day Guide

Timex T2N932 Chronograph


Timex Chronograph T2N932 OTC Fathers Day Guide


LSTN Troubadour Headphones


LSTNCherryTroubadour 1024x640 OTC Fathers Day Guide


Hugh & Crye Firefly Shirt

HughandCrye Firefly Shirt OTC Fathers Day Guide


Baltz Exemplar Pen

Baltz Exemplar1 OTC Fathers Day Guide


2012 OTC Holiday Wish List

This year, OTC went looking for some great classic items that add to your sense of style, fill a real need, and posses the kind of quality that lets them last a good long time.  When we looked for this year’s choices, we turned to some brands yo know and some we hope you’ll get to know.  We also made a point of focusing on the basics, the stuff that sometimes gets lost along the way as well as some uniquely exceptional gifts for your self.

Regardless, a once-in-a-lifetime bespoke suit, a great pen, an exceptional tote, or some killer earphones can each make a big difference in your day-to-day life.

- Happy Holidays from the OTC team!


Birchbox Man

sev birchbox mens de 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListWe have had a chance to check out several gift box subscription services and the one which consistently stands out from the pack is Birchbox.

These folks always seems to find truly unique, useful, and stylish stuff for guys.  Our most recent box contained a set of whiskey stones to keep our Blanton’s Original Single Barrel bourbon chilled, a lovely little flack for a snoot on the go, and a sharp Rumba diver watch on a jaunty nylon strap.  And, for $20 a month, it is indeed the gift that keeps on giving.


A Jon Green Bespoke Suit

Jon Green Bespoke Fitting StyleForum 2012 OTC Holiday Wish List“Bespoke” is a term that every online MTM site seems to throw out with abandon.  You know how many of those “custom tailors” actually turn out anything remotely resembling bespoke? None.

Bespoke is a defined, established code of exacting craftsmanship achievable by only a rarefied few.  The making of a true bespoke suit takes time, money, patience, and a willingness to focus on what works for you and your physique.  In the United States, one of the finest bespoke clothiers around is Jon Green, of New York City.  Jon is both an obsessive craftsman and engaging gentleman.

Starting around $7,500 for a two-piece suit, these are not for everyone.  But, if you demand truly customized perfection in your garments, and you have several months to spare, Jon Green will provide you with the suit of your dreams – and your life.  And, when you look at it the context of your life, that is a fair price to pay for something you will always want to put on, year after year.


Baltz Exemplar+ Writing Instrument

Baltz Exemplar 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListA good pen is a lifelong companion.  With time, it’s useful functionality is gives way to familiarity and comfort.  It becomes part of your kit, your stuff; those things that go with you wherever it is you go.

Baltz Writing instruments are handmade in Raleigh, North Carolina, by former college pals, Bart Creasman and Cass Baltz.  They are dedicated to creating unique pens that stand apart from the masses, perform flawlessly, and through their distinctive design create a sense of expectation. Ranging in price from $175 to $280, they are an affordable luxury, and cost just enough to make sure you never misplace your pen.


Frank Clegg Signature Working Tote

FC Signature Working Tote 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListAnyone who reads OTC knows that we are huge fans of Frank Clegg, and have profiled several of his iconic pieces.  Frank’s commitment to handmade excellence is well-known, and owning a Clegg bag is a lifelong investment.

If there is one Frank Clegg bag that embodies both practical function and timeless style, it’s his Signature Working Tote ($680).  Beautiful and sturdy, this is a tote bag that you can use every day; from the boat to the boardroom.

Frank is more than the name on his bags’ very discrete labels.  If you have any questions, call the workshop and chances are, Frank will be the guy on the other end of the phone.


Hugh & Crye Shirts

HC 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListThe guys who run Hugh & Crye out of their Georgetown, DC, home base – Pranav Vora and Philip Soriano –  are passionate about their shirts, getting guys to to try them on, and developing the perfect fit.  In fact, Pranav and Philip are so passionate about what they do that American Express highlights the company in its small business TV commercials.

Hugh & Crye shirts (around $85) are cut for a generally athletic build, are solidly constructed, and made from outstanding fabrics Pranav and and Philip source themselves.  Their ever-expanding selection of business and casual shirts are work well with your favorite jeans or your best suit.  Hugh & Crye also carries a growing collection of small-batch neckties, pockets squares and other natty accessories.


Austen Heller Loafers

Whalers   Beauty Edited grande 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListAusten Heller loafers bridge the gap between dressy and casual dress shoes. They are decidedly dressy but in a relaxed, deconstructed way; part American boat shoe, part European driving moccasin.

Started by a guy who simply could not find the kind of shoes he wanted, Austen Heller combines old world craftsmanship with distinctive style.  The shoes are handmade in Europe using premium leathers, with a simple design that focus on style, comfort, and quality.  And, with a price tag of $195, picking up some practical footwear flair won’t knock you off your feet.


Timex Ironman Run Trainer GPS

Timex Ironman Run Trainer  962x1024 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListOur editor-in-chief has been working pretty hard for the past couple of months to drop about 30 pounds from around his middle, and running has played a big part in the effort.  For the past several weeks, the new Timex Ironman Run Trainer GPS ($275) has been a regular companion and helped make all that running count for something.

Ironman is the de facto king of training watches, and with reason.  They are built like tanks, do what they are built to do, and – during down time – speak to one’s athletic predisposition.

The new GPS model has moved the brand in an upscale, more technically polished direction.  It can track your workout progress, monitor your heart rate, and split laps.  But it can also dress up a casual look with sporty flair that says, “yes, in fact I really do work out.”


RHA MA-350 Earphones

RHA Earbuds 1024x682 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListRHA is a small British company that makes some great headphones and ear buds.  In fact, Apple thinks enough of them to carry the brand in its stores.  We had a chance to check out the MA-350 ear buds ($39.95), and are pretty impressed.

The aluminum bodies are light and sturdy and the signature fabric-wrapped cords reduce annoying tangles.  These are just earphones, so there is no microphone or volume control, but we don’t care.  The sound is what matters, they sound great.  They also make excellent in-ear running companions – our preferred test method.  Pick up a pair for yourself.


Mack Weldon Underwear & Tees

Mack Weldon Tee 1024x845 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListWe were recently introduced to Mack Weldon, a new men’s collection ($19.50 to $32) that features tee shirts, undershirts, underwear and socks; fundamental pieces to create the base for any outfit.

This is an undergarment brand that is solely devoted to producing top-notch products that perfectly combine luxury and performance features to create a one-of-a-kind item. And we wholeheartedly agree. Their undershirts are best we’ve ever tested and the tee shirts fit, well, perfectly.


Kiel James Patrick Lanyard Hitch Bracelet

KJP Lanyard Hitch Oliver Hazard 2012 OTC Holiday Wish ListOur friend Kiel James Patrick continues to build on his brand’s preppy, wind-tossed reputation.  And while it may seem his days are spent lounging around scenic photo ops and strolling along deserted beaches, bear in mind that he built KJP with his (and girlfriend Sarah Vicker’s) hands.

The brand has been a success both because of his perpetually photogenic visage and the obsessive amount of energy that goes into creating his made by hand, made-in-Rhode Island accessories.

Case in point is the new Lanyard Hitch collection ($40).  Available in classic solids and preppy patterns, they are simple, manly, and easy to wear; even if you’re not at the beach.

And as we were recently shown by an industrious four year-old, these bracelets can also be used to hang a Christmas stocking off of a ladder, decorate a newel post, and tie together some favorite toys.