OTC in Brooks Brothers Contest Finale

We are thrilled to have made it to the final stretch of Brooks Brothers’ “Dandiest at the Derby 2012″ contest!  While we have received some great support from OTC’s family, friends, readers, and supporters, we aren’t taking anything for granted!

And neither are our friends.  Keep reading to learn how you can win too – your very own Frank Clegg coin wallet just for supporting the effort!

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Even though our support has been strong, there is still one more day of voting on Brooks Brothers’ site, so please make sure to like our photo!

As an added bonus, our good friend master leather designer Frank Clegg is giving away a handmade coin wallet to one lucky winner of his own contest.  To enter, just like our “Dandiest at the Derby 2012″ photo.

So, help OTC take home the brass ring and get yourself a handmade treasure from Frank Clegg!

 

 

An Evening of Cocktails & Classic Style

Last week, Off the Cuff teamed up with One Medical to host an OTC Live event, An Evening of Cocktails & Classic Style.  It was a chance for OTC readers and local style aficionados to gather, celebrate, network, and learn about some of the outstanding brands which have been highlighted on OTC.

Joining us at the private club-like Clyde’s at Gallery Place, in the heart of Washington, DC, were Hugh & Crye shirt makers, Proper Suit, Lotuff Leather, and Image Granted style consultants.  Guests were able to meet with the owners of these outstanding companies, chat about their brands, learn about the beautiful products and, in some case, put in orders right on the spot!

The crowd arrived early and stayed throughout the night.  Manhattans and martinis were mixed at the bar and the constant din of conversation and story-telling filled the room.

Thanks to all who joined us and made the night a huge success; and keep an eye for future events and collaborations.

Below are a selection of images from the evening – enjoy!  All photos by Joy Asico.

 

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Cocktails & Classic Style

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3.1.12: Join Off the Cuff and One Medical for a relaxed, elegant evening of great style.

Meet the people behind some of the outstanding brands you’ve read about on OTC, enjoy classic cocktails, learn more about DC’s newest innovative doctor’s office, and receive a complimentary first-year membership to One Medical.

Over drinks and hors devours, chat with the founders of custom tailor Proper Suit and DC-based shirt maker Hugh & Crye.  Learn about refining your own personal style with Grant Harris of Image Granted and meet the man behind luxury leather goods brand Lotuff Leather.

Click on the invitation above to learn more and register or just click on this link: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2848851993

 

Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style

Preppy Cover 226x300 Preppy: Cultivating Ivy StyleWhen first reading my copy of Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style, I was reminded of how omnipresent the whole preppy thing has become.

OTC hit the internet back in 2005.  Back then, there were very few men’s fashion blogs out there.  And there were even fewer sites dedicated to the preppy/Ivy League/East Coast style so familiar to me.

Over the intervening years, the appeal of preppy style and East Coast lifestyle – at least as seen through the eyes of Lisa Birnbach – gained wider appeal and the proliferation of online experts and opinion-makers ensued.  Back in the 1980s, when The Preppy Handbook first gave birth to a new, aspirational preppy phenomenon, the style was bombastic and over the top, colorful and caricatured.   Today, it’s serious business.  And I mean that both figuratively and literally.

Companies from J. Crew to Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers to J. Press are all rediscovering their uber-preppiness.  New smaller brands that fancy themselves cultural artisans and holders of the “true” preppy standard are popping up by the day.  Of all these modern labels only Brooks Brothers, J. Press and L.L. Bean can really lay claim to a physical connection to the genuine preppy aesthetic.  At the same time, many fashion bloggers and armchair fashion historians extol the virtues of being “authentic” focusing on “heritage” brands.

I’ve seen some of this exuberant tut-tutting in the reviews of Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style and find it a little perplexing.  Some are critical of the book’s lack of historical gravitas and its apparent concession to modern (and apparently blasphemous) interpretations of preppy style.  Too much Ralph Lauren – that’s not authentic prep!  Does that make Polo/Ralph Lauren, founded twilight years of original Preppy, any less preppy?  Is it less authentic?  Of course not, Polo is the bedrock of modern preppy style.

All of this came quickly to mind as I unpacked the book, sent to me through the kindness of its authors, and started to leaf through the pages.  I, and several other bloggers mentioned or quoted in the book have been aware of its development since last year.  When I was contacted for permission to use a quote from my Roots of American Preppy article – for the introduction no less – I was intrigued.  I liked the idea  behind the book and the authors’ approach to creating a modern understanding of the style.

Turns out I also like the book.  Preppy Cover2 225x300 Preppy: Cultivating Ivy StyleIn fact, I think it’s a great resource for anyone looking to better understand and adopt preppy style.  Preppy’s authors, very aware of bloggers’ influence and impact on modern preppy style, also reached out to some of the leading online influencers and mined our archives and writings.  That perspective adds to the larger picture of preppy style today.

I don’t know if some people were expecting the Ivy League equivalent of Alan Flusser’s Dressing The Man -  a book so detailed, complete and authoritative as to garner only criticisms about its obsessive detail.  This book is more of an elegant and somewhat contextual style guide that shows you how to dress and accessorize in the preppy fashion.  It’s not an exhaustive tome dedicated to the intricate nuances of preppy culture and history, pedigree and monogramming rules.  Rather, it is a visual reference for achieving the preppy aesthetic.

Preppy runs the gamut of Ivy League influences and trends, styles, luminaries and brands.  It also goes somewhere most books on this subject do not – to modern times.  Photos from Fred Castleberry are mixed with references to the gritty cool urbanity of Street Etiquette.com.  Modern influences have taken the preppy look in new directions, J.Crew being the standard bearer of the “New Prep.”  In fact, even though J.Crew strives to break its generic “preppy” label, no other brand has so forcefully defined what kids today understand to be preppy.

What makes the preppy style of today so resilient and ubiquitous is that it’s not static – it’s not the old 1980s caricature.  Through style blogs and social media, consumers have decided what they like and how they want to blend looks and even eras.  Creating personal signature looks by blending new and old brands, mass market and small run specialty pieces, old school preppy and new school ironic keeps things fresh.

And that’s the way is should be.  “Real” American preppy has always been about practically, function and quality.  Together, those elements yielded the timeless and classic looks we so covet today.  From bags to dogs, footwear to navy blazers, preppies created a distinctive style by finding what worked, sticking with it and evolving to include new elements that matched their style.  Same thing with this book.

Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style takes vintage and modern preppy, blends them up and gives us the recipe for achieving a look, a style and, sort of, a life style.  It’s a lovely book and a great addition to a collection or coffee table.

 

alexbeh 231x300 Gentleman Prefer Blogs: OTC Featured in Washington Post ExpressOff the Cuff was recently interviewed for a Washington Post Express article (below) on the impact of blogs on how men dress.  Assistant Styles Editor Katherine Boyle, pulled together a great piece explaining how the rise of the menswear blog has helped guys become more comfortable with style.

More importantly, many blogs, including OTC, provide the kind of context men seek when building their own personal style.

Please be sure to view the original article, at this link.

 

There’s one in every workplace. He sits at the cubicle across from you. Gregarious and well- groomed, he’s the star on your office’s kickball team. But he’s also a secretive character, hunched over his keyboard, closing windows with the haste of a hunted gazelle. Is he dabbling in soft-core pornography or high-stakes gambling?

A secret agent? Arms dealer? EBay overlord? No, chances are that innocent young dandy is just browsing men’s style blogs.

Long ago, in the old country, males visited trusted tailors for tips on fit and style. In the 20th century, fashionable fellows read lifestyle bibles such as GQ or Esquire in the seclusion of their own bathrooms; yet even there, a 100-page monthly couldn’t break the standard, sartorial tropes imposed upon them. Man was divided: urban or rural, white- or blue-collared.

The valiant wore vibrant flourishes such as studded cuff links or magenta socks, but, mostly, men dressed like their forefathers, who passed down style heritage like they would a good pocket watch: “[Suits] have to be new, yet they must look old. Filling the pockets of one’s new suit with stones and hanging it out in the rain is one possible solution,” said John Robert Russell Bedford in the 1965 classic “The Duke of Bedford’s Book of Snobs.”

But times have changed.

“Guys today have lost all sense of occasion. They’re not taught to dress for different circumstances,” says Glenn O’Brien, “The Style Guy” columnist at GQ magazine.

O’Brien’s newest fashion-cum-philosophical treatise, “How To Be a Man: A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman” ($25, Rizzoli), links men’s wardrobe downfall to laziness, bad manners and rejection of history.

But man, ever the entrepreneur, found that the blog is mightier than the sword. The same Web culture that gave way to one-click purchases and 13-year-old viral pop stars preserved a culture of anonymity, a haven for eccentric alter egos once relegated to AOL chat rooms.

And so the stylish man emerged, posting on anonymous forums such as “Ask Andy About Clothes,” a 2001 precursor to menswear blogs, where style enthusiasts debate the construction of calfskin tassel loafers or flap- pocket oxfords. Shortly after, the style blogger arrived, making it hip, or, at least, socially acceptable for men to make videos called “How To Wear an Ascot.” Now, independent blogs such as “A Continuous Lean” (Acontinuouslean.com) or “Put This On” (Putthison.com) offer advice, as do popular brand offshoots such as UrbanDaddy Kempt (Getkempt.com).

“Some guys are shy to admit they’re interested in clothes, but we all want to look good and appropriate. Men want that information instantly,” says The Style Blogger (Thestyleblogger.com) founder Dan Trepanier, who was voted “The Best Dressed Real Man in America” by Esquire in 2009. “While a magazine will take a couple months to publish a story, bloggers publish within days and give men the vocabulary they’re looking for.”

And for men, immediate encyclopedic knowledge is the key for making fashion a masculine endeavor. Chris Hogan, who started the D.C.-based menswear blog “Off the Cuff” (OffthecuffDC.com) five years ago, finds that men are comfortable talking about clothing, so long as they’re given historical context. “It’s different than the way women talk about fashion. Men want context for what they buy. That information is now available. It’s not, ‘I’m wearing these jeans because Brad Pitt bought them,’ it’s more, ‘I’m wearing these jeans because they were made in a factory in Raleigh, N.C., using traditional techniques.’ The heritage, updated preppy movement put menswear in a new context, especially in Washington.”

Trepanier finds that men are more forthcoming about their interest in clothes because so many bloggers are average Joes. “There’s still a stigma surrounding the fashion industry, but blogs have done a service for regular guys,” he says. “I grew up on a farm in Canada and played basketball. That makes fashion seem more OK.”

Retailers and designers view blogs favorably, too. Philip Soriano of D.C. men’s shirt company Hugh & Crye (Hughandcrye.com) sees that guys are more familiarized with styles and taste. “In the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of our customers reading specialized fashion blogs. They know the collar and fit they want. Any blog that highlights fit is a bonus for us.”

Besides providing a shame-free place for dudes to scour trends or watch “how-to videos,” blogs have democratized men’s style, making eccentric sartorial choices available to any guy, whether he lives in Williamsburg or Wichita. “TV sort of homogenized everyone, and for a while, everyone dressed the same,” O’Brien says. “But the Internet changed that. It’s the great cultural medium that’s taking things out of the hands of monopolies.”

And even Washington, one of the last bastions of baggy suits and Dockers, is changing with the times. “I’ve noticed a lot of younger guys in D.C. dressing great,” Hogan says. They’re more comfortable with customization. It’s almost as if they’re rebelling against their parents by dressing well.