The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

Lumina Navy Polo 1 The Polo Shirt: An American ClassicFor generations now, the polo shirt has been a cornerstone of any classic, Ivy League-inspired wardrobe. While most people who hear “polo shirt,” tend to think “Polo ™” shirt, the first branded version was actually developed in 1929 for tennis legend Rene’ “Le Crocodile” Lacoste.

Lacoste wanted a comfortable shirt to replace the traditional, but impractical, dress shirt and tie worn by tennis players at the time. In doing so, he unwittingly gave rise to one of the most versatile garments ever conceived. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

With its unique ability to straddle the elusive line between casual and formal, the classic polo can carry you from the office to the country club with little difficulty. Of course, while it’s not always right for every occasion, when paired with a sharp outfit the polo shirt pretty much has you covered for anything short of a black tie dinner. Jeans, grey flannels, Nantucket Reds, and shorts all play well with polos. It’s more dressy than tee shirt, yet less formal than an oxford button down – itself another shirt that has universal serviceability.

JFK Polo and Khakis The Polo Shirt: An American ClassicThe genuinely timeless combination of a well loved polo shirt and khakis is about the most classic look you can opt for and usually works just fine for most situations in which you need to be presentable. In fact, it’s so versatile an outfit that it works equally well with worn-in, beat-up favorites or pressed and crisp, off-to-cocktails-on-the-lawn togs.

Pass on overly logoed or pre-aged polos and instead opt for classic solids or simple stripes. While the hyper-preppy look might work for image fixated teens, simple and timeless is what makes the polo shirt so universally useful and why it continues to be such a wardrobe staple of East Coast adherents.

We are particularly partial to Lumina Clothing’s Carolina Garment Dyed Polo in navy (shown at top). It’s a nice blend of classic styling and an easy, everyday modern design. The fit is trim but comfortable while the shirt’s rougher finishing is casually informal. With hemmed sleeves, a longer three-button placket, and finished collar, this polo’s look is less tennis court and more JFK sailing off Hyannis.

When going “nice” casual, keep the overall feel less stuffy by choosing clean boat shoes or penny loafers and a woven leather or ribbon belt. For a more business look, try a dressy belt with a silver monogrammed buckle, blue blazer, and high-grade slip-ins from Alden. A black polo paired with a grey or pinstriped suit is actually very sharp, in a George Clooney sort of way. If you are going to give that look a try, make sure to opt for a fine-gauge shirt in a silky finish, like KP MacLane’s Signature Men’s Polo.

One of the best things about the polo shirt is its versatility. It comes in a variety of styles and almost any color under the sun, from basic white to jet black, solids or preppy stripes.

Polo shirts also happen to age very well. So, that beat up old polo at the bottom of the shirt drawer – the one with the seriously frayed collar and torn hem – will look just great at a clam bake with some faded khaki shorts and a cold beer.

Rene Lacoste 1 The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

JPM Tennis White Polo The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

JPM Black Polo The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

Stacked Lacoste Polos The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

 

Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

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

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

When it comes to meeting your needs in a sartorial pinch, the navy blazer is chameleon-like. From casual cocktails to formal boardroom, a well-made, well-fitting blazer will get the job done.

When they hear “blue blazer,” many men tend to think “yacht captain.” The jacket sparking this dreaded stereotype would be the most classic version of the blue blazer, featured in any number of Ralph Lauren ads or episodes of Gilligan’s Island (see: Howell III, Thurston). Of course, this incarnation is also the most traditional execution of the form, and as such is a generally viewed as a particularly 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.

Its classic design and balance of dress and function, formality and functionality, make the core elements of the blazer universally appealing and long lived. It is one of the most iconic and enduring examples of male habiliment.

Rowing Blazers Facebook Image Basics 101: The Blue BlazerMost recently, that offshoot cousin of the navy blazer, 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 a specific place of influence in today’s menswear, the blue blazer comes in a range of fabrics and styles that can work with almost anyone’s style – from lightweight linens to beefy flannels, in deep navy all the way to pale sky blues.

As the king of odd jackets, a blue blazer can also 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 tend to 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, 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 and command. On the other hand, a single breasted sack jacket with no darting and patch pockets can easily project a more casual “drinks at the club,” New England estate 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 typically 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. 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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Ralph Lauren Preppy1 Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

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Modern Take on Blue Blazer Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

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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.

ntandy Belts Belt One Out With ntandy

2014 07 19 16.32.32 Belt One Out With ntandy

 

Paul Stuart Opening in DC, Spring 2015

PS dc store rendering Paul Stuart Opening in DC, Spring 2015
Paul Stuart, the venerable Manhattan-based luxury apparel retailer, announced that it will be opening a new store in Washington, D.C.

Scheduled for early Spring 2015, the new store is set to occupy a prominent location in the heart of the District at the new CityCenterDC project, a 2.5 million square foot neighborhood development enlivened with a vibrant mix of condominiums, apartments, offices, public spaces, hotels, restaurants and shops. The new store will join the Madison Avenue flagship and two outposts in Chicago as the fourth destination for the company within the U.S. market.

CapitolNightjackmcguire Paul Stuart Opening in DC, Spring 2015The fact that such a storied menswear brand is setting up shop in DC – and a good sized shop at that – speaks to the ongoing emergence of the nation’s capital as a strong menswear and luxury goods market that appreciates quality, craftsmanship, and history.

The nearly 10,000 square foot store is being designed by Charles Sparks + Company, which created both Paul Stuart locations in Chicago. The firm boasts a client list that includes Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, the MOMA Design Store and The Art Institute of Chicago.

The new space will be executed in a clean, contemporary vernacular with an abundance of open space, glass, bronze, marble and zebrano wood.

Paul Stuart has long considered Washington, D.C. a logical location for expansion. According to President and CEO, Michael Ostrove, “D.C. makes perfect sense for us; it is a city that values style, refinement, and sophistication over the constantly shifting vagaries of fashion. We believe that our unique and definitive approach to Anglo-American menswear—and the fact that we value quality and substance in every aspect of our business—will be particularly well received in the District.”

new york style paul stuart custom 1 Paul Stuart Opening in DC, Spring 2015The primary focus of Paul Stuart’s product mix in the new store will encompass the company’s long-standing affinity for classic British-inspired fabrics and silhouettes—but viewed through a decidedly Paul Stuart prism.

Located just east of the White House (on the 10-acre footprint of Washington, D.C.’s former convention center), and close to the region’s best cultural destinations, two of the city’s busiest Metro stations and the new Convention Center, the location stands to become the undisputed centerpiece of Downtown D.C.

In addition to Paul Stuart, the center will be home to a virtual ‘who’s who’ of leading luxury brands.

For additional information please visit paulstuart.com/dc.

 

psdc header1a Paul Stuart Opening in DC, Spring 2015

 

 

First Take on Summer Style

OTC Spring 2014 2 First Take on Summer Style

What often works best for men’s warm weather fashion is simplicity and classic style.  Basics can make almost any guy look and feel that much more polished, put together, and comfortable. Think of it as updated Ivy League or modern preppy without all the gimmicky noise.

Summer style – even though it’s technically Spring, it sure has felt like July recently – does not have to mean old shorts, a tee shirt, and worn out sneakers.  While all those things all have their place, looking nice when it is hot is actually pretty simple.

Here we have an easy, go-to look that is both straight-forward and sharp, in a casual and comfortable way.  While polished, this outfit is neither too dressy nor overly casual.  Instead, it strikes a nice balance between formal and informal.  It’s the kind of look that works very well when meeting friends for drinks, heading out to a nice brunch or dinner, or just Friday at the office.

To add some easy polish to this look, just toss on a blue blazer or lightweight sweater and swap out the driving loafers for cordovan slip-ins.

The components of this functionally classic ensemble are basics that every guy’s wardrobe should contain.

The checked button down shirt is from Richmond, VA, maker, Ledbury.  It is actually a super lightweight linen/cotton blend that is fantastic in warm weather.  The shirt shown here is a short run from 2013 and may not currently be available.  We are big fans of Ledbury and their decidedly American take on British shirtmaking.  The construction is excellent and their fabric selections are always impressive.  Regardless of where you get yours, a few blue, purple, and red checked button downs are invaluable to your wardrobe.

OTC Spring 2014 3 300x225 First Take on Summer StyleSeveral pair of well-fitting and properly hemmed khakis should also be a core staple of any guy’s closet.  These slim fit Daltons from Jack Donnelly are a great option.  This small brand has created an updated version of the classic tailored khaki.  That does not mean “dress pant,” although they do iron up quite nicely.  They are light, comfortable, nicely finished, and can handle almost any scenario short of needing a suit.  These pants have the construction and detail of dressier trousers, but the fit and feel of classic wear-whenever khakis.  And, they are sourced and handmade in America.

A great pair of driving loafers can serve you well all day long.  While Tod’s iconic Gomminos may have created the driving moccasin/loafer category, we also love these Austen Heller Kingston loafers.  OTC has written about this brand before and their new collection only reinforces our appreciation of their comfortable, fun, and easy to wear footwear.  Opt for classic brown if you want to keep it low key, or try out some of the more adventurous color combinations.

Warm weather dressing is also the time to have some fun with your accessories.  Belts from Tucker Blair are a great way to impart some personality and Ivy League needlepoint into you look.  Other than that, strive to pare down and use more color as the day only get warmer from here.

Ledbury Purple Parker BD First Take on Summer Style

Tucker Blair Nantucket Needlepoint Belt First Take on Summer Style

Jack Donnelly Dalton Pant 640x1024 First Take on Summer Style

Austen Heller Kingstons First Take on Summer Style