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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Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

DSC 05471 Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

When the innovative technology company Dyson approached us and asked that we write about what a dream space means to OTC, we quickly agreed. Often, “dream space” is associated with the ideal female getaway, but men often want the same thing too. It can be described as an office, library, retreat, man cave, workshop, or even just “my room.” However, we prefer the the more refined and light-filled description of a “study.”

The label of study reflects a place of thoughtfulness and meaningful introspection.  It is not where you go to retreat from the world so much as a place to explore it; recharge and reflect on important ideas, thoughts, issues, topics, and pastimes. A study is not simply where you keep your stuff. It is akin to a library, yet not all libraries are studies. Where a library can sometimes be a mere repository of ideas and information, a study is a living, breathing place that feeds your creativity and curiosity.

No wonder then that the heart of OTC is a small, book- and sample-filled study.

DSC 05301 Dream Space: A Study of Your OwnTo us, a study is not simply a work space; it is a living place, a thinking place, a writing place, and a home base for ideas. Even though every study is personal and unique, they all tend to have some things in common.

Collections: One of the key purposes of a study is to serve as a physical repository for your ideas and passions. It is a home for important collections such as books, papers, pens, watches, or pictures – whatever they may be. Some studies are a study in precise order and control. Others are an explosion of color and stuff; a cacophony of objects that to an outsider have no meaning or cohesion. Yet, to the owner, everything has a purpose and a role. Every item is cherished.

To us, the study is very much a home for ideas and personal expression. It’s a place to keep your thoughts and materials together. The OTC study is home to hundreds of books, art, and a ton of collateral from brand that span the globe.  We have an extensive menswear library and piles of publications covering the menswear, luxury goods, and lifestyle markets. Our wall of books cover all sorts of subjects and disciplines, and many of them have been in the family for close on 100 years.

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Art: Pictures and sculptures are something else that make a study more personal and interesting. Art is a true expression of personal interest, and each piece often has a story and meaning. For us, art is what makes a space and it is a physical way to express the things you value in life. The OTC study is chock full of old water colors and oil paintings, classic equestrian prints, family photos from the 1920s, historic keepsakes, trophies, globes, and even a cherished portrait of Napoleon.

Work Space: You need a place to write, stack, organize, and sort. A traditional desk, of course makes sense, but if you have the space, we also like the  idea of a large open work table. Position your work space near the natural light of a window or ensure that your task and indirect lighting provides proper illumination. Think about storage and shelving too, as organization is key to keeping your space clean and orderly.

Seating: Apart from your desk chair, a good lounge chair for sitting, reading, thinking, or researching is always helpful. It also has a way of transforming your room from a spare space to a true intellectual retreat. Here, her have a simple small club chair in a light tartan, but you can opt for something more substantial, like a beefy duck cotton or leather. If you have the space, and the budget, create a separate reading area in your study; a small sofa and coffee table or circle of occasional chairs,  make a nice place to sit and work.

Restoration Hardware Library Sofa 300x144 Dream Space: A Study of Your OwnFor our money, you can’t do much better than Restoration Hardware’s sprawling Kensington Sofa. Part leather couch, part daybed, it’s an ideal place to think and spread out – if you have the room!

Personalizing your space and making it comfortable and productive are essential tasks for creating a study that meets your needs.  Keeping it clean and organized are equally important to ensuring that your study evolves in a positive and useful fashion. To that end, we are running a very cool giveaway contest.

You can win your very own Dyson DC59 Motorhead vacuum. This flexible and efficient cleaning tool is perfect for compact spaces or general cleaning and it’s cordless design makes it that much more versatile. In fact, it’s the latest Dyson Digital Slim™ cordless vacuum and designed for maximum performance, ease of use and versatility, it has a direct-drive motor in the cleaner head.

Dyson on Wall Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

We are true fans of Dyson and are long-time users. The cool thing about the Dyson DC59 Motorhead is that it’s designed for floor-to-ceiling cleaning. The center of gravity is located towards the grip for easy handling up top, down low, and in-between. So, with a hand tool like that, there is no excuse for not keeping your study clean and organized.

To enter the giveaway contest, all you have to do is leave a brief comment to this post answering the question: “What is your dream space and what Dyson DC59 Motorhead feature do you enjoy the most?”

Thanks to Dyson for sponsoring today’s discussion.

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 Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

 

Seeing New Things: EyeBuy Direct Glasses

2014 07 02 16.47.07 Seeing New Things: EyeBuy Direct Glasses

Glasses are a very personal thing. If you need them, then you understand how completely they impact your life. Eyeglasses are also very trendy at the moment, which is a bit odd to those of us saddled with taunts of “four eyes” throughout most of childhood.

The right pair of glasses makes life immeasurably better, and the right looking pair of glasses are that much sweeter. So, when the web-based company EyeBuy Direct reached out and asked that we review a pair of their glasses, and the service behind them, we quickly agreed.

The eyeglass market is moving into new territory, with disruptive brands like Warby Parker upending the stodgy and ridiculously expensive traditional limited-access retail model. Glasses can now be viewed through the lens, as it were, of a fashion accessory. Prices for perfectly fine prescription glasses are in some cases less than for plain old mass luxury brand sunglasses.

For those who must wear glasses to actually see, it is liberating to say the least.

2014 07 02 16.52.21 Seeing New Things: EyeBuy Direct GlassesHandmade horn frames will still cost you a small fortune, of course, but for everyday glasses things have dramatically changed.

The glasses we chose to try out, the Darcy, are a slimmed down version of the classic intellectual heavy black bookworm-ish frames. They are made from lightweight Ultem plastic and we found them to be well constructed. The lenses fit perfectly in the frame and overall, the fit and feel when worn are excellent.

With prescription glasses, the lens is all that really matters. We were curious to see the finished product, in part because these are progressive lenses, which are complicated to produce and if not expertly made, uncomfortable to wear. Buying online only increases the potential problems.

As it turns out, the lenses just fine; they transition smoothly and each prescription seems to be spot on. We have been very please with the finished product; from every angle.

Though provided to us at no cost, the final tab for these glasses was $138.00, including the progressive lenses, various special anti-glare and anti-streak coatings, and an option for extra-thin lenses. Shipping was included. At the end of the day, an absolute steal by any definition.

The Darbys arrived in about 10 days and we received regular automated email updates about the glasses’ progress, which was a nice touch that also helped put the wait in context.

The website’s selection of frames is good, but perhaps lacking in quirky, bookish character, which is what we look for in a frame design. While the offering may seem a bit generic, that’s not necessarily a negative. For the price, we were not necessarily expecting anything dramatic or exclusive. We went in looking for a good pair of everyday glasses and the ones we selected were exactly was was promised.

If you are looking to add to your eyeglass wardrobe, EyeBuy Direct is a great, fairly priced resource. Check them out.

Below are some images from the unboxing:

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DSC 05561 Fathers Day Find: The Quixotic Pocket Square

Creating a space for yourself in a crowded market is always a tough situation.  The menswear furnishing business is particularly popular right now, with new brands planting their stylishly vintage flags every day. Enter Quixotic, a brand that caught our attention for all the right reasons.

What better way to celebrate Father’s Day, or any day for that matter, with a company dedicated to, as they put it, “inspiring gentlemanly action.”  It’s a rousing thought and reminds us that dressing well does not make you a gentleman; that goal is reached through action.  In fact, they back up those words with action of their own.  If perchance, you somehow lose or sully your Quixotic square in the act of performing a gentlemanly service, the company will send you a new one.

After all, it’s the gentlemanly thing to do.  In addition, they also believe that companies have an obligation to give back to the communities supporting them. So, Quixotic has committed to donating 10% of sales proceeds to U.S. organizations addressing domestic violence.

The pocket squares themselves are classic and casually modern. They are also made in America, each with a discrete red circle stitched into the corner; a visual signal that you do your best to be a stand-up kind of guy.

We tested out the Monday and Wednesday squares and found them to be excellent companions.  In fact, the Monday square joined the party at our recent Art of Style event in Washington, D.C.

DSC 05531 Fathers Day Find: The Quixotic Pocket Square

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Fort Belvedere: Luxury in the Details

DSC 05521 Fort Belvedere: Luxury in the Details

Fort Belvedere is the storied historic residence of England’s eternally stylish but morally fuzzy former King Edward VIII.  It is also a new luxury goods brand recently launched by Sven Raphael Schneider, founder of The Gentleman’s Gazette.  As with Gentleman’s Gazette, the brand and its carefully selected collection of products are unique, elegant, and expertly crafted.

You can find a nice pair of gloves anywhere, but only at Fort Belvedere will you see a collection of exquisite unlined Peccary suede gloves, the very symbol of a stylish gentleman.  The tightly edited collection also includes unique bow and neck ties, collar pins and ties bars, a rotating selection of wonderful pocket squares, hosiery, and signature leather goods.  The offerings call to mind a more refined time when a man aspired to be a gentleman and when sporting attire included coat, tie, and fedora.

The two items we selected for the inaugural review are the signature business card case for men and feather light a wool challis pocket square.  The business card case is truly unique and something you are not likely to run across anywhere else.

The case is fashioned around a lightweight metal frame and opens in a traditional clam shell fashion.  It is covered in embossed long-grain leather and lined with beautiful, contrasting red goat velour leather.  The button clasp can be opened with one hand and the two interior compartments allow for storage of your own cards and those you receive.

2014 04 18 16.03.32 2 300x300 Fort Belvedere: Luxury in the DetailsWe are such fans of this little case that it played a prominent role when we recently introduced OTC’s new business cards, as you can see here.

We also fell in love with the 100% wool challis pocket square in orange with green polka dots.  The hand-printed English fabric is silky smooth and lightweight, sized perfectly for folding or arranging as you prefer.  The hand-rolled edges are expertly finished and the red-orange color is both striking and complimentary to many of our outfits.

It should also be noted that one of things which signaled the quality to come was that when our samples arrived, they were presented in a sturdy, gold embossed bottle green cloth covered box which has found a new home on the dressing table.  It has been happily pressed into service as a repository for our favored daily accessories.

DSC 05451 Fort Belvedere: Luxury in the Details

DSC 0544 Fort Belvedere: Luxury in the Details