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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.

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Invest in: Cobbler Union Shoes

Cobbler-Union_FrancisIIaFootwear is, literally, the foundation of your wardrobe. Well made shoes matter, both in terms of aesthetics and practicality. We have all had the experience of heading out in a new pair of oxfords, trainers, boots, or loafers, only to discover too late that they don’t fit well or have the wrong last; they pinch, slide, shift, or simply feel off.

On the other hand, a pair of shoes that fit well and keep your feet supported and firmly in place, shoes that balance your proportions while also enhancing your wardrobe, are a true joy.

OTC is all about blending classic style with modern life. We love to introduce our readers to new and interesting brands, craft-oriented and heritage companies that might not yet be household name, and makers dedicated to providing men with something new and long-lasting.

Footwear maker Cobbler Union ticks all of those boxes. Their shoes are some of the best examples of ready-to-wear footwear we have come across, outside of a few luxury labels with the leverage to tightly control the quality of their own production operations. As with most examples of exceptional craftsmanship, all takes is one look, smell, or touch to instantly convey the level of quality, materials, and craftsmanship employed by Cobbler Union.

We have been testing the Francis II, a double monkstrap that is an excellent balance between dress and informal. The pebbled calfskin provides a relaxed counterbalance to the otherwise streamlined proportions of this classic shoe. Its Goodyear welted double sole created a sturdy base – literally and figuratively – that grounds the shoe, giving it broader proportions well suited for everyday use.

Cobbler-Union_FrancisIIWe found the Francis’ “City” last just right; its slightly raised arch and supporting heel being a good fit for this type of shoe. Interior finishing is of excellent quality, with full Italian leather lining and  quilted foot bed.

After several weeks of use, the shoes are a favorite and have been paired with everything from Nobile Denim jeans to a custom Aspetto suit. They are those rare breed of dress shoe that you want to wear, indeed look for reasons to wear.

One explanation for this unexpected and unerring level of quality is the team behind Cobbler Union. Founded by actual footwear guys with extensive design and production experience ranging from bespoke to luxury ready-to-wear, they know what goes into shoes costing thousands of dollars.

Translating that deep experience and demanding standards into an equivalent pair of shoes for less than $400, was a challenge. However, dedicated runs and direct lines of communication to suppliers, manufacturers, and industry experts, equals high standards and lower prices. The result is a fully defined collection of footwear that touches on formal dress, business dress, formal casual, and informal casual. The collection, which has limited numbers of each model, is comprised of boots, monkstraps, derbys, oxfords, and loafers. Within each of these broad categories are options that allow for almost every wardrobe necessity.

Cobbler_Union_SolesIt is a complete representation of a brand seeking to carve out its own space in a market that has been growing of late: affordable higher-end footwear marketed directly to consumers. Cobbler Union is different in that the people behind the brand have real experience in the luxury footwear industry and exercise the control and direction needed to produce a product for which they could easily justify a significantly higher price.

Should you have the desire and the funds, Cobbler Union also provides a made to order program. Take any shoe in the collection and rework it to meet your needs and wishes. While there is a minimum surcharge for the service added to the cost of your shoes, it’s a relatively small price to pay for creating some shoes you’ll want to wear for decades to come.

Cobbler Union LogoCobbler Union exemplifies genuine commitment to quality and craft, coupled with a desire to get their products into the hands of men who appreciate lasting relationships. That focus on creating a community of like-minded customers actually informs the company’s name. They see themselves and their customers as a union of cobblers; a brotherhood of men who appreciate and celebrate the art of making great shoes. So, to them, you actually aren’t just another customer – you’re a member of the cobbler’s union.

OTC recommends Cobbler Union without reservation. We hope to test out a pair of their boots at some point, and expect the experience to be no less impressive.

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Aran Irish Sweaters: Did You Know?

Aran sweaters are classic winter wear for generations of Irish men and women. But do you know what makes them so special?

Quill’s Woollen Market, a family run business established in 1938 and source of all things Irish, has created this handy graphic to answer all your pressing Aran questions.

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The Rowing Blazers Tie, Get Yours

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When Jack Carlson penned Rowing Blazers, he created a unique and elegant anthology of the hard-charging yet tradition-bound rowing culture.

An instant classic, it’s a welcome edition to any gentleman’s classic style and menswear library. The book also showcases the vibrant and eccentric designs of the world’s rowing clubs’ historic and in some cases, iconic, blazers.

As a personal homage to his love of the sport and appreciation of its history and culture, Jack began doodling mini blazers in his spare time; different colors, different designs, different badges. Just for fun.

Well, that pastime turned into a personal talisman when he had a one-off version of the necktie made and then sported it in his Rowing Blazers book. It proved a bit of an obsession with some readers asking where they too could get one.

Well, now you can – at least for a brief time.

Get your own limited edition Rowing Blazers Necktie and channel your inner oarsman. It looks pretty cool in the picture above and even nicer in person. The one Jack sent us is a fantastic heavyweight silk navy twill, made in England, and looks great with just about anything. The blazers are amazingly detailed and each one has a personality all its own.

This is a special tie and we love it – an heirloom that’s a unique as it is a bit of preppy inspired fun.

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Gift Idea: The Nautical Hoodie

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Need some last-minute gift ideas? We have a few up our sleeves, including this great nautically-inspired hooded sweatshirt from Nantucket Brand. It’s a classic made-in-America piece of lounge wear that injects a little Ivy League fun into your informal wardrobe.

Soft and comfortable with a trim fit, this is a nice lightweight layering piece for hanging out at home, running a few errands, or grabbing a beer with friends. It’s a great gift idea for the guy, or gal,  in your life – or for yourself!