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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 735x1024 Paul Stuart Made to Order Footwear   The FittingOTC 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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Spring Style: Out and About

OTC in DC Spring Style: Out and About

As warmer Spring weather finally begins to settle in, it’s time to head out into the city, take in the cherry blossoms and take care of a few errands.  Here, along Washington, D.C.’s 14th Street, NW, you will find some outstanding furniture, decorating, and accessories stores as well as a growing selection of exciting gastropubs, restaurants, and gelaterias.

For this day’s excursion, we opted for a casually simple and comfortable outfit that worked with the unexpectedly warm, breezy weather.  Remember, every day doesn’t have to be an exercise in Ivy League interpretation.  Sometimes, you just want throw on an easy outfit and head out the door.

Here, the vintage cotton J. Crew button down allows for freedom of movement and long sleeves for when the sun goes down.  The shorts are from Ecoths and while classically neutral in cut and color, they also have some nice urban touches, like a handy smart phone pocket. The ECCO BIOM Walk shoes are incredibly comfortable and lightweight – perfect for extended city roaming.

Athabasca 24 Spring Style: Out and AboutWe also took the opportunity to test out the Athabasca 24 day pack from Granite Gear, a maker of serious outdoor equipment.  Designed for use by both everyday consumers and avid hikers, this bag was just right for hauling purchases, snacks, and personal necessities.

Backpacks are best suited for casual outfits and practical needs.  Regardless of intent, a backpack – certainly a outdoorsy one –  never looks right with a coat and tie.  And, we are daily commuters, so we understand why people opt for them.  Remember to match your bag to your wardrobe and the level of formality, or informality, you are projecting that day.

Luckily, this day’s outfit was decidedly casual and the Athabasca was the right bag for the job.  It sat comfortably on the back and also stayed in place when slung over one shoulder, even filled-up.  The pack actually comes with an integrated hip belt for long day hikes, but we left it at home, opting for a slimmer, urban profile.

 

 

OTC Visits Ledbury

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Ledbury, the Richmond, Virginia, clothing brand best known for its exceptionally well-crafted shirts, is in expansion mode.  Founders Paul Trible and Paul Watson, who met while in graduate school at Oxford – and apprenticing with one of London’s well-known tailors.  They were committed to creating  an American tailored clothing brand with Saville Row quality, geared toward modern, discerning customers.  Located in a renovated tobacco warehouse built in 1866, Ledbury’s home base appropriately atmospheric and refined; it’s grounded in the past but re-imagined for today’s world.

Ledbury’s shirts are great-fitting, high-quality and can be worn in almost any setting and, as they like to say, “by any generation.”  The company’s collections are influenced by the studied tailoring of English tradition as well as the relaxed atmosphere of the founders’ Southeast U.S. roots.

Fabrics are sourced from Italian mills and all of their shirts are made in one small factory that has refined its craftsmanship through generations.  This focus on quality, comfort, and relaxed yet refined style shows through in the product.  There are a few features that make Ledbury shirts unique.  The fabrics are substantial but not heavy and possess a distinct drape and hand.  Details like thick mother-of-pearl buttons and specially sewn collars that hold their shape tie or not, all combine to create a great design. The shirt’s second button is dropped just enough to create a flattering “V” when worn without a tie.

2013 07 19 14.09.22 300x224 OTC Visits LedburyWhile we prefer the slim cut shirt – which is slim, not skinny – even the brand’s classic fit has an overall trimness that creates a flattering look for most men.

Ledbury also offers a range of tailored blazers, sweaters, and accessories that compliment their signature shirting.  For example, the crew neck sweaters have necks designed to be worn over a collared shirt and allow for a more comfortable and attractive fit.  The distinctive Free Union Belt is another Ledbury item that has received a fair amount of attention. It’s clever quick release lever, combined with a refined rustic aesthetic makes for a unique and locally hand made heirloom.

OTC stopped by their Richmond headquarters over the summer to check out the new retail space as well as their operations and design center.  Some of the items in these photos will be past season – like the swim trunks – but whatever Ledbury puts out, rest assured that it is bound to carry their signature American classic/elegant/casual style.

This is a smart company that is managing its growth and capital wisely; it’s got two businessmen at the helm after all.  So, when you combine smarts with a passion for a new sense of what American sportswear (in the traditional sense) means, the result is a brand that has some real potential.  And the Pauls are managing that potential in a way that slowly builds a brand focused on reputation and product – not hype or trends.

We see Ledbury as a transitional company that is part of a movement that is redefining American style for a global audience.  And that doesn’t just mean customers in other countries, although we are not surprised that the Japanese love Ledbury.  Americans who look to brands like Ledbury for design and quality also like them because they take what is best about American heritage and blend it with things like English construction and detail and Italian fabrics and fit.  They play with the basics to evolve clothing and design in a way that meets consumer desire and also retains classic elements.

The Ledburys of today’s menswear resurgence make what makes American style, better.

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ECCO: Your ‘Heading Out’ Shoes

ECCO Moc Toe 1 ECCO: Your Heading Out Shoes

Everyone needs a pair of shoes that serve as your default.  The ones that you pull on when heading out to the store, walk the dog, run some errands, or an afternoon antiquing.

ECCO makes those shoes, and they make them well.  In fact, the privately held Danish company is the only major shoe manufacturer in the world that owns and manages every step of the shoe making process.  As a reflection of that commitment, the company was just selected as the 2013 Best Shoe Manufacturer by the German footwear industry.  The award was presented last month at the prestigious Schuhkurier & step Award event, in Düsseldorf.

What does that mean to us?  For starters, it reinforces OTC’s commitment to being an ECCO brand ambassador, something we do very sparingly and only for brands with which we have a long relationship.  In addition, it reminds us of the ECCO commitment to developing shoes you want to wear when you really need to go somewhere.  While they have recently rolled out some very sharp business and business casual lines, we love their get-out-there-and-walk shoes.

First and foremost, ECCO’s shoes are made for walking and comfort, whether to a staff meeting or up a mountain.  There is something to fit everyone’s need.

So, what’s our choice for the OTC ‘heading out’ shoes? ECCO’s Fusion Moc Toe.  The combine the style of a low boat or camp shoe with the support and comfort of a serious walking shoe.  Equally important is that they fit and feel great with or without socks.  We have paired these with khakis, jeans, and cords and the ECCO’s functionally classic style has always worked well.

We love these shoes so much that when heading out Chicago to cover the Stella Artois Cidre launch party, they were the on shoes we took (below).

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Stella Cidre Throws a Party

Stella Cidre on Display Stella Cidre Throws a Party

One of the hallmarks of having personal style is knowing how to have a good time like a grown-up. So, when global brewing brand Stella Artois invited OTC, along with writers from around the country, to Chicago to help celebrate the recent launch of its new premium apple cider, Cidre, I gladly accepted.

The event was a genuinely fun time that reminded me about the importance of taking advantage of exciting and new opportunities. Did I think about what to wear? You bet, and Paul Watson at Ledbury made sure I had on the season-perfect cotton and linen blend checked button down. What to tote my stuff around in? Thanks to Frank Clegg for the messenger bag, which everyone eyed and asked about. As expected, it wound up being a fun evening with some good friends, stylish guests, and time to relax and connect.

Stella at EPIC Chicago Stella Cidre Throws a PartyThere is actually a back story to the Stella connection that made this a sort of full-circle occasion. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to tour Stella’s main brewery in Leuven, Belgium. It was an amazing time – meeting with company executives to discuss global marketing, visiting the main control room that looked the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, and tasting Stella Artois right out of the gigantic holding tanks. This was all before the beer had really arrived in the United States, so even now I have a “knew it when” soft spot for the brand.

As with fashion, the spirits industry has its trends and flirtations with coat-tailing what’s popular at the moment. For example, flavored beers are becoming more accepted, apple being on-trend right now. So, a cider product from Stella Artois sounded interesting.

Not sure what to expect, we all were pleasantly surprised with Stella Cidre’s crisp and refreshing lightness which has a clean and simple reference to apple. It’s distinct, but not at all overwhelming or effete. The consensus among our group was decidedly positive. We had more.

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Tasting Stella Cidre at EPIC Chicago Stella Cidre Throws a Party

Now, this is no food site, but we do know branding. Stella has positioned this product as a premium alternative to light beers or white wine – on a warm summer evening, for example. It was served in an white wine-styled stemmed glass, with an etched Cidre logo. They were also serving Stella Artois lager in traditional branded chalices. The Cidre product itself is presented in an oversized bottle akin to a limited edition microbrew or other small-batch spirit.

Cidre Logo Stella Cidre Throws a PartyThe setting was equally fun. Chicago is a stellar city with a distinctive sense of style and its own swagger.  Call it Chi-Town, The City of Broad Shoulders, or The Windy City, but Chicago has a charm that gets me every time I visit.  Perhaps it’s the geography; it has the vibrancy of a true metropolis but the relaxed attitude of a Midwestern town.

EPIC is an open air rooftop lounge that comes with its own boule court and stage. For the evening, our venue was transformed into a skyline orchard and Stella Artois-themed park. It was fun, crowded, and lively. We also ran into a bunch of sharp guys and even one cool hipster photographer.  As it turn out – and this should remind us that substance always matters more than mere style – that photographer was none other than Brian Powers.  Brian is a former staff photographer for the Chicago Sun Times, and when he all the other Times’ photogs were recently let go as part of cost-cutting, CNN commissioned him to profile each one of those exceptional documentarians.

Brian, we raise our glass to you.

OTC at EPIC Chicago Stella Cidre Throws a Party

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Stella Cidre -Made with Hand-Picked Apples

Compensation was provided by Stella Artois via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Stella Artois.