OTC x Honourmark

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Here at Off the Cuff, we have the privilege of meeting some pretty extraordinary craftspeople. The one thing they all have in common is a deep-seated desire to be the best in their chosen field of expertise. Suits, shirts, khakis, denim, leather goods, footwear, handmade bags, ties, and even grooming supplies.

We founded this site with the goal of helping men find a natural balance between classic, East Coast Ivy League style and the modern, contemporary life we all lead in the world today. To us, this is an expression of love and respect for tradition, combined with an appreciation for the realities of our modern lives. We see it as making the classic practical and even new again.

Unique among the many brands we are honored to call friends is a company especially tied to the original intent of OTC. So, in that vein, we are very exited to announce that OTC is the Brand Ambassador for menswear company, Honourmark.

Honourmark is obsessed with creating casually polished executive-level clothing that meets technical, performance level standards. To us, it’s the epitome of OTC’s mantra:“classic style meets modern life.”

We take this sort of relationship very seriously – which is why we are also publicly announcing it.

Honourmark’s goal, to create exceptional made-in-America garments that celebrate the Monday-Friday lives that all men lead, is born out in their dedication to craft the c-suite equivalent of technical adventure clothing. And yes, that’s a quote from our review of the British Motorcycle Jacket post on Honourmark’s homepage. However, we had nothing to do with it’s prominent selection (thrilled regardless).

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What this means for OTC readers is that, as we have been doing for some time, we will test and review various products, support the Honourmark brand through our social media channels, and occasionally promote special events, such as the current Father’s Day special during which you can save 30% on your order.

We also wear their clothes a lot, because we love their stuff, plain and simple. There is the potential for other OTC x Honourmark activations down the road. Should they come to pass, we will of course clearly disclose them.

While we have and will continue to collaborate with other brands that closely match OTC’s mission, this is our first formal Brand Ambassador relationship and we wanted to make sure you know about it.

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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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“It all begins with the fit.” Peter Agati, Paul Stuart’s shoe buyer, is a shoe guy through and through.

He knows shoes and he knows that what matters most is fit. If the fit is off, nothing else matters. If the fit is right, everything else falls into place. His first trip to a shoe factory is what sealed the deal for Peter. Walking the floor and watching in amazement how many people’s hands touched each shoe hooked him. “Most people have no idea how much handwork goes into shoes, and how much well-made shoes matter.”

The main thing to understand about Paul Stuart’s shoe department is that is it a fully integrated component of Paul Stuart. It is not merely a licensed space operated by an outside brand. No, Peter has spent several years building up a service on par with their brand’s larger reputation. It’s a luxury service department that can fit you properly and provide a degree of customization that results in a pair of shoes that are truly made to order.

Chris Hogan (Madison Avenue, 10.21.14)OTC had been invited to participate in a special brand influencer Made to Order footwear event at Paul Stuart’s Madison Avenue flagship store. OTC’s founder and editor-in-chief, Chris Hogan, spent the day being fitted from their Italian Classic collection. These shoes are not inexpensive, but neither are they overly expensive. In fact, the quality, construction, fit, and materials are equal to most custom labels.

In addition to Peter Agati, Ron Rider, agent for some of the world’s leading shoe makers, was also on hand to ensure that Chris’ fit was spot one and help to create a unique pair of Paul Stuart shoes.

After testing out a variety of lasts, we settled on the one that indeed fit like a glove. As Peter noted, his main job was now done. The fit was right. Now, it was a matter of style, design, details, and finishes.

What did we come up with? We’ll get into that in the coming weeks as we share with you pictures of our Made to Order Paul Stuart shoes as they come to life.

As an added bonus, we also got to catch up with our old friend Mark Rykken, who runs Paul Stuart’s custom clothing department. Much as Peter has done with the company’s footwear department, Mark has created a custom clothing haven for the most discerning clotheshorse. We even met the lady who sews all the buttonholes by hand, no easy task.

Thanks goes out to our pals at Deo Veritas custom shirting and Bull + Moose for the fantastic dead stock tartan tie. Lumina Clothing Company provided the Cone selvage denim jeans, Beltcraft sent along a bespoke suede belt, and Dapper Classics is the source for those killer socks that everyone noticed. As always, those are Eye Buy Direct glasses.

The navy blazer is actually a family heirloom. It’s a vintage J. Press jacket that belonged to Chris’ father and still has his dad’s monogrammed brass buttons. The pocket square was a gift from Alan Flusser.

It’s all about things that last.

In the meantime, below are some more images of the day, captured by our talented – and stylish – photographer Sean Pressley. Many thanks to Sean for spending the day knee deep in shoes.

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OTC Goes Handmade With Paul Stuart Footwear

Making Shoes

True personalization is the epitome of luxury. The idea of something crafted specifically and uniquely for you – to fit your particular body in all of its glorious imperfection – is what makes the world of bespoke so special, attractive, and often expensive.

Perhaps nowhere is the true benefit of customized fit more evident than with footwear. A bespoke suit is a wonderfully comfortable expression of a tailor’s craft; a garment that can change how you feel about yourself and how others see you. Made to measure shoes, however, are another thing all together.

Well crafted shoes are utilitarian as well as practical, functional, and vital accessories that can quite literally make or break your day. Even the best looking, most elegantly crafted brogues are worthless if it hurts too much to walk or they simply do not fit your particular feet.

PS Classic LogoPaul Stuart, already the byword for elegant comfort that speaks to a classic landed gentry aesthetic, has recently launched a made to order shoe program, taking up the banner of luxury footwear personalization. Blending their signature landed gentry style with the precision of the cobbler’s art, Paul Stuart’s exceptional English and Italian footwear is something to notice.

OTC in NYC

OTC has been invited to try out and document the Paul Stuart custom footwear experience and we’d like to bring you along for the ride.

On Tuesday, October 21, 2014, we will be in-house at the Paul Stuart flagship store at 354 Madison Avenue to meet the shoe-makers. OTC editor-in-chief Chris Hogan will learn about what goes into their made to measure Italian Classic footwear, get measured, and pick out all the details for our personalized pair.  Mark your calendars to stop by, say hi, and possibly look into ordering a pair for yourself.

Afterwards, we will be updating you throughout the entire process; as the shoes are formed, crafted, finished, and delivered. We are thrilled to be part of this outstanding event and look forward to showing you how the kick-off consultation at Paul Stuart goes.

In addition to OTC, the Paul Stuart team selected four other leading style influencers to be part of this project: Jake Metzger of Downeast and Out, Skylar Bergl of Four-Pins, Max Twitty of Gents Among Men, and Christopher Fenimore of his eponymous blog.

You can become an integral part of this social media experience too by following Paul Stuart, all of the influencers, and tagging @paulstuartny and #paulstuartshoes.

Those wishing to schedule an appointment during the shoe event or requiring more information are invited to contact Peter Agati at 212.682.0320 (ext. 546) or Peter.Agati@paulstuart.com.

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The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull Lee

The last time we told you about Old Bull Lee, we made it clear that their shorts were some of our absolute favorites. Lee is committed to make the best shorts possible and approaches his craft as both an artist and technician. They were perfect.

It turns out he’s not done.

Lee sent along some of his new and improved shorts and we have spent the last month checking them out.  They are a bit shorter and trimmer, but still the built-to-last quality we remember. First, some details on the material and build.

The shorts are made from heavy Duck cloth, which is essentially canvas. Sourced from the finest Japanese mill (he won’t divulge exactly which one), the fabric starts out a bit stiff, but eases into a comfortable, personalized fit.

They are dyed and assembled in America using a wet “vat” process that is softer and longer lasting than dry pigment dying. The pocketing and waistband are made from a soft and smooth poplin and the button fly has been replaced with a zipper. Lastly, the shorts are pre-shrunk using water and dryers only, not chemical shrinkage.

As Lee likes to point out, everyone is trying to sell “your favorite pair of shorts,” but the truth is that it doesn’t work that way. The ones that come, “brand new, but lived in,” have actually been beat into that condition by chemicals. As a result, these pre-lived-in garments often start to disintegrate after a season or two; and not eloquently either.

A real favorite pair shorts has been around for a while. They just sort of know your body; it’s a relationship that takes time to develop. Because the Duck fabric lasts so long, they gave the color a little extra pop so that down the road when they are broken in, the short will still carry those fragile tones with which they started.

In fact, to accurately convey the fabric’s eventual color change, the website’s laydown shots are intentionally dull. Lee said, “it’s not to be misleading, but we feel that we are telling the truth by averaging the color out over it’s lifetime.

This guy lives and breaths shorts. They do pretty cool tees as well, but at it’s heart, Old Bull Lee is trying to turn shorts into a science.

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