OTC: What We Carry Everyday

What I Carry Picture OTC: What We Carry Everyday

OTC was recently asked to contribute a photo to the British site Everyday Carry UK showing what our editor-in-chief has in his bag and on his person any given day.  As bags and the stuff of life have always been a big part of OTC, we were happy to oblige.

While the sack may change based on need, style, and mood, what’s inside is fairly consistent.  When we tried to edit all the stuff down to a manageable representation of gear, one item inadvertently left out of the photo was a fantastic Chester Mox wallet that keeps his all-important Metro pass secure.  In addition, although out of view, the bag used that day was the Courier Messenger Bag from Frank Clegg.

This brief exercise reminded us of the many great brands, creative companies, and exceptional individuals we have met over the years.  We have linked to a few of those brands represented here.

Clockwise from top:

 

James Prosek: The Audubon of Fish

Jame Prosek Bonneville Trout James Prosek: The Audubon of Fish

James Prosek first gained notoriety back in 1996, when, as 19 year-old student at Yale University, he published Trout: An Illustrated History. Prosek’s ability to bring vibrancy and life to his watercolors, and his obsession with contextual and anatomical accuracy, won him quick comparisons to famed naturalist John James Audubon.  These accolades were no lighthearted atta-boys; Prosek was rightly identified as a truly gifted artist whose deeply felt connection with nature was both genuine and finely-tuned.

James Prosek in his Studio James Prosek: The Audubon of FishA Connective native, in many ways, he embodies the East Coast Ivy League ethos of intellectual meaningfulness.  James Prosek took a love of fly fishing, art, nature, history, and environmental awareness and created both a career and a movement that has influenced and motivated others.  His art is already included in the permanent collections of several museums.  And Prosek’s work is sought after by many a prep, complete with wall space in a suitable wood paneled, leather sofa-ed study-cum-office.

In the intervening years since his Ivy League days, Prosek has been a busy and prolific young man.

In 2003, he won a Peabody Award for his documentary on 17th-century author and angler Izzal Walton and his seminal book The Complete Angler, well-known to any fan of fishing.  In addition to the publication of several more books,  Prosek remains an accomplished artist, author, and naturalist.  He is a fellow of the Vermont Studio Center, and a visiting artist for the Yale Summer School of Art.  Prosek is also a curatorial affiliate of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale (where I spent many a grade school field trip), and a member of the board of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies.

Along with Patagonia co-founder, Yvon Chouinard, he also co-founded World Trout, an initiative that supports individuals and groups who protect native cold water fish and their habitats.  And, at a mere 38 years old, Prosek still has a long way to go.

 

James Prosek Brown Trout James Prosek: The Audubon of Fish

James Prosek Atlantic Salmon James Prosek: The Audubon of Fish

James Prosek Mid current James Prosek: The Audubon of Fish

James Prosek Brown Trout on Line James Prosek: The Audubon of Fish

Elizabethan Club of Yale James Prosek James Prosek: The Audubon of Fish

 

To Protect and Serve…Your Wardrobe

Elegant Wardrobe Retreat To Protect and Serve…Your Wardrobe

Assembling the perfect wardrobe takes a lot of time, effort, and of course, money.  When done the right way, it is an example of selective and ongoing curating; the building up of a collection that comes to frame and define how you present yourself to the world.  A meaningful, practical, and stylish wardrobe is not mere decoration or flash; it is equal to the art on your walls or the books in your study.  These things are all extensions and expressions of the stuff of life and the things we value in the physical world.

Of course, acquiring the ideal wardrobe is only one half of the battle.  The other half is properly looking after your investments. Keeping your clothing and accessories in great shape takes a little work but that effort will pay off in long-term enjoyment and in the wonderful, classic patina that only time can provide.

The natural aging of fabric and leather and the wearing down of cuffs and elbows are normal; where did you think elbow patches come from?  Still, having to deal with these inevitabilities should be held off as long as possible and doing so allows your possessions to keep their appeal while still developing the character that makes you want to keep them around for years to come.

HANGERS

First and foremost, invest in good wooden hangers.  This is a must – there is no way around it.  Solid wood hangers support your garments, help preserve their shape, and ultimately protect your investment.

kirby allison hanger project jacket hanger brown 300x290 To Protect and Serve…Your WardrobeUsing a solid and well sized wood hanger (suit hangers for suits, slimmer hangers for shirts and felted bar hangers from trousers) will add years to your clothing and help protect your garments from snags, wrinkles and stains.

While any sturdy wooden hanger is better than wire or plastic, hands down, some of the finest we have ever used come from OTC sponsor Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project.  These hangers are the equivalent of closet furniture and are built to last.  While this is clearly a luxury suit hanger and not inexpensive, as an investment in your fine garments a proper hanger will probably outlast you and be very much worth the cost.

Now that you have some good hangers, use them.  When done with your clothes for the day, hang everything up.  If something is dirty, throw it in the laundry or take it to the dry cleaner – just don’t pile things up on the floor.

THE CLOSET

Having a jaw-dropping closet like Ralph Lauren’s is the dream of many a style-focused man, but properly maintaining your possessions is rule number one no matter your budget.

Ralph Laurens Closet1 To Protect and Serve…Your Wardrobe

Whatever its square footage, make a point of keeping your closet in order.  Garments need room to breathe and space to air out, so try to avoid crowding.

You should able to identify and reach anything in your closet.  For items on upper shelves, keep a folding footstool handy.   If you are able to do so, consider investing in a customized closet system designed to maximize your closet’s unique shape and size.  There is a surprisingly wide range of possibilities out there, from fully custom built-ins to pre-packaged options.

A clean and orderly closet is both inspiring and practical.  If you open the door and see a curated collection of well-organized favorites, getting dressed is an enjoyable and fulfilling process.

DRY CLEAN or BRUSH?

In general, most suits and sport coats only need to be dry-cleaned once a year or so. Delicate fabrics and linens may need more attention, but on the whole brushing your garments with a clothing brush will remove most dust and dirt. Quick attention to spot cleaning can address minor stains and help avoid unnecessary trips to the cleaners. If your suit is looking a little too lived in, consider taking it in for a pressing only. It will look refreshed without being unnecessarily exposed to damaging dry cleaning chemicals.

KentTravelClothesBrush To Protect and Serve…Your WardrobeIn most cases, everyday wrinkles will work themselves out in between wearings, but a tried and true road-warier steaming can help too – just hang your day’s outfit next to the shower.  Of course, some people choose to invest in an actual steamer.  If you wear a suit regularly, it can indeed be a smart investment.

LAUNDERING SHIRTS

Though some people insist on dry cleaning their dress shirts, we are hardcore advocates of laundering them at home. When it comes to washing shirts, cold water is usually best, but always defer to the shirt’s care tag first.  Iron on a slightly cooler setting with steam and lay off the starch.

If you feel compelled to use it, starch only those areas that tend to become unruly, like cuffs, collars, and plackets.  If you regularly send your shirts off to the cleaners, pass on the starch there as well.  Commercial presses do a fine job of working out wrinkles without the need for extra chemicals that can over time degrade natural fabrics.  When ironing at home, always remember to iron the backside of the shirt’s collar.  For cuffs, iron the backside of barrel cuffs and the reverse (inside side) of French cuffs – also called double cuffs.

FOOTWEAR & CARE

Nowhere else does the concept of “investment clothing” hold forth than with footwear.  A good pair of quality business shoes can easily cost several hundred dollars and head north from there.  Though it can be a big financial hit up front, good shoes will always be in style and when properly cared for, can last a lifetime.  Custom shoes quickly reach into the thousands of dollars, and thought they may seem an extravagance (and for many of us they are), custom shoes in addition to looking great, will help keep your feet healthy.

As a general rule, you absolutely get what you pay for when it comes to good footwear.  Buy the best you can afford and consider shoes as a capital investment.  Keep your footwear in top notch shape and they will pay you back in dividends for years to come.

In addition to protecting your dress shoes’ leather with regular polishing, always use shoe trees. There are many variations, but the best are full-sized and made from untreated cedar. The shoe tree will absorb moisture and help maintain your shoe’s shape.

Fancy varnished trees are fine too – we are seriously partial the kind with heavy brass knobs or pull rings.

Bally Shoes Trees To Protect and Serve…Your Wardrobe

 

MA450i Black 02 The Perfect Earphones: RHA MA450i (Khakis for your Ears)

Many of you may recall us mentioning British brand RHA in the OTC 2012 Holiday Wish List. We highlighted the MA-350 earphones, which are the perfect running companion when you want to keep your tunes close at hand and comfortably crisp.

After several inquires about whether or not RHA carried a version with microphone and volume control, we wound up testing out the MA450i (and before you ask, no, we don’t know what all those letters and numbers mean).  Clearly, OTC is not a technology or audiophile site, but we do live in the real world and apply our outlook of classic style and functionality to all of life’s accessories.  So, we will not attempt to tout the brand’s technical prowess and dynamic audio capabilities.  You can check out their website for all that information and you can order them directly from Apple (which in and of itself is a darn good endorsement).

Simply put, we love these things.  Why do we love them? First, thanks to their aluminum construction they are incredibly light and fit exceptionally well in the ear.  These earphones themselves are not over-engineered with all sorts of gimmicky add-ons and technical features that really don’t mean much to most people.

Importantly, they do a great job of letting you clearly and crisply hear your music, NPR podcast (Planet Money and Marketplace are our favorites), or phone call.  As RHA puts it, “the signature aerophonic design delivers an impressively detailed, well-balanced sound experience.” Well, there you go.

Second, RHA’s unique fabric-braided cables seriously reduces the tangling which typically afflicts users of earphones and ear buds.  The fabric-wrapped cable also produces less friction than a rubber cable which helps prolong the product’s life.

The overall look and design of the earphones are equally pleasing in a minimalist kind of way.  They don’t stand out and scream “look at me.”  Instead, they have a functional, sleek, and timeless appeal; at least as timeless as an electronics accessory can be.

Lastly, at less than US$50, you can’t really beat the price.  These headphones quickly, and likely permanently, replaced another red-cabled bass-heavy pair without much argument.  So, in a way, they fulfill a certain New England sensibility: classic looking, functional, well-made, and affordable.

Kind of like a good pair of khakis.

 

OTC Recommends: New West Knifeworks

New West Knifeworks Fusionwood 2.0 Jessica 1024x279 OTC Recommends: New West Knifeworks

As we careen towards the holiday dining and shopping season, it is important to pause, take a deep breath, and remember that even during times of consumer excess a focus on quality and craftsmanship is still important.

While we are, of course, a resource for style and personal expression, OTC firmly believes that such a philosophy extends to the home. And, what better place to start than in the kitchen?

American-based brands that blend true craftsmanship with creative design and a dedication to outstanding quality have always been something that gets our attention.  Without question, Jackson, Wyoming-based New West Knifeworks is one such company.  Obsessed with making the best possible cutting tools for the kitchen, be it in a Michelin Star restaurant or servicing a backyard barbeque, New West knows from knives.  Feted by the likes of Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, and Fine Cooking, New West is considered by many discriminating experts to be one if the finest makers of hand-made knives on the market.

We recently had the chance to test out their new Fusionwood five-inch Chopper Chef’s knife, and in a word – wow. It’s not a large knife, but its functionality and versatility are quite impressive. As you might expect, the blade is razor sharp, but equally impressive is the knife’s exceptional balance in-hand.  It’s easy to work with and makes for a durable, compact, and – frankly – striking kitchen heirloom.

New West Knifeworks Blade Plunge OTC Recommends: New West KnifeworksConstruction-wise, it’s beautiful to look at and the knife-maker’s dedication to his craft is clearly evident. The elegantly finished wood handle is smooth and flawless.  It seamlessly blends with the blade’s tang to create an uninterrupted object of functional beauty. Layers of select dyed hardwood veneers are impregnated with a proprietary engineering grade resin. Since the resin is pulled into the wood using a vacuum process, there is no surface treatment to deteriorate. The handle is just fine sanded and buffed.

The blade’s steel is made with a unique powder metal technology that creates a carbide-rich, super fine grain structure that has exceptional performance characteristics compared to traditionally wrought steels.  The powder metal technology of Fusionwood 2.0 knives provide unparalleled edge holding combined with indestructible toughness and excellent stain resistance. It also allows for ease of sharpening and the ability to create an incredibly sharp edge.

To protect stray hands for that blade, each knife also arrives in a custom blade sheath.  Constructed of heavy leather, it keeps that super sharp edge away from any hands reaching into the kitchen tools drawer.

Last but definitely last least, New West is giving you a way to get your own four-piece knife set for free!  Just head over to their Facebook page and enter the Holiday Chef Knife Giveaway no later than December 10, 2012.