Men’s Grooming Original: American Crew

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While not our typical focus, OTC does on occasion highlight grooming products that make life a little easier and help you turn out in your best form. Being aware, educated, and confident when it comes to your hair and skin is very much a part of leading a well-rounded and stylish life.

American Crew is a stalwart brand that carved out a niche in the men’s grooming space way back in 1994. Founder David Raccuglia started with his original Daily Shampoo and it’s now back, featuring a new and improved formula that uses naturally derived cleansing agents to break down and gently rinse away your hair’s excess oil. According to the American Crew crew, the new formulation gives hair softness and manageability without build-up, while Sage Leaf and Chamomile extracts provide shine and reduce bacteria. Sounds pretty good to us.

We have indeed testing out this new and improved Daily Shampoo for a few weeks and feel that, in fact, it really does do a better job that some other brands we have have field tested of late. It’s a solid performer that is worth the money.

As we are also product design and branding junkies, we delved a bit into American Crew brand value and positioning. The overall branding and product imagery remains in place and projects a masculine, confident image.

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The label and bottle design reference a manly spirits bottle, think hip flask or small-batch bourbon. The overall appearance and brand value is that of functional reliability underpinned by a sense of heritage and simple quality – all attributes that appeal to the core menswear market that doesn’t want too many flowery extras when it comes to grooming products. In fact, the American Crew lineup has significantly expanded to touch on all facets of men’s grooming, from haircare and styling , to skincare, and shaving.

They are even getting into the scent market; but then again, who isn’t?

Sold primarily through salons (U.S. customers can also purchase through a dedicated online retail site), the label is marketed as limited-access professional quality styling products. When it first hit the shelves, most men were more than a decade away from even thinking about men-focused grooming products. That prescient move by Mr. Raccuglia helped position American Crew as a core player in men’s grooming long before other brands even thought about the space.

While often viewed as being middle-market, it’s not positioned as a luxury line, American Crew’s price points are solidly in the salon product-purchase range. And, to our honest surprise, we feel it performed better than some other super niche-y men’s grooming brands that cost at least twice as much.

 

OTC x Jack Spade

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OTC and influential menswear lifestyle brand  Jack Spade teamed up as part of the recent Georgetown Blogger Crawl, a viral marketing event to promote and celebrate the storied and historic retail hub of America’s Capitol City. As part of the #GTBloggerCrawl, OTC was honored to be the brand ambassador for Jack Spade’s DC presence.

The event was conceived and executed by NeuProfile and the SCDC Agency. While we had the chance to explore and promote the best of Georgetown, Jack Spade is a universal brand that represents a classically turned out sense of urban style.

In fact, Jack Spade has long been a particular favorite of ours. Founded with a deliberate and prescient nod toward the principles of function, durability, practicality, and simplicity, the brand staked out an early role in the American workwear movement.

GTBloggerCrawlLookBook5(OTC)Even though founder Andy Spade has moved on to new and equally impressive endeavors, Jack Spade’s well-known focus on the refined intellectual urban preppy market remains strong as ever. Like Jack Spade? Then you probably have opinions on geopolitical instability, college rowing, and how the Romans co-opted Greek architectural principles. It’s just that sort of brand.

Their iconic bags and purposeful accessories have been joined by an elegantly simple collection of menswear staples, including suits and overcoats, denim, and classic oxfords. Walking to into Jack Spade’s Georgetown store makes you want to teach a university level art history class followed by an evening of brewing your own beer. It feels a bit like a cross between a private club and the city apartment you always wanted; cozy and airy all at the same time.

We were especially appreciative of the very kind gift of a Waxwear Davis Brief, a signature Jack Spade bag. It’s quickly become a personal favorite; perfect for casual toting and everyday portage. The Halley Stevensons waxed canvas fabric will get better with use and abuse and soon enough it will have that worn-in look and feel. We will be showing you more of this great bag soon.

If you’re in town, make sure to take some time and wander through Georgetown’s historic sites and check out the ever expanding roster of menswear shops, pubs, and old-school retailers. It’s a great please to live, visit, and hang out with friends and the occasional ambassador, world famous reporter, Supreme Court justice, or Vice President of the United States.

More pictures from Jack Spade’s DC outlet are below, many shot by the talented Sebastian Marin.

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The Noble x Bulleit Barrel-Aged Jeans Project

As many of you may recall, OTC is part of a very cool experiment being conducted by craft distiller Bulleit and premium jeans maker Noble Denim.

Cincinnati, OH, based Noble made us a pair of their fantastic jeans that were then specially aged in well-worn barrels, located somewhere out in the Tennessee woods, normally used for making Bulleit whiskey. This project is especially fun because while the idea was a great one, no one had any clue as to what the end result would be.

These jeans were made in a very small limited-edition batch, and we should be receiving the final product soon. We are particularly excited because, frankly, we have no idea what to expect. Once the jeans were assembled, into the barrels they went for a couple of months. When we get these truly unique jeans in our hands and see how they turned out, we’ll make sure to show them to you.

We are also happy to announce that in addition to their classic 13.75 Cone Mills denim hand-cut and sewn in Tennessee, Noble will be offering a Holiday limited edition jean made from a 15 oz. Japanese denim, available in the Truman Regular and the Earnest Slim fits.

We would be remiss if we did not also point out that Bulleit Bourbon, Rye and 10-Year also make great gifts and stocking stuffers. The Bulleit brand continues to set the bar for rye-forward whiskeys that are perfect for sipping on the rocks or mixing into classic holiday cocktails.

Check out some great images from the Noble Denim x Bulleit Barrel Aged project:

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HonourMark_OTC
There are certain things in life that immediately speak to you. It’s the way you know with a single touch or glance that something is special, an example of craftsmanship set apart from others.

A Frank Clegg leather bag stands alone in the world of daily portage. A Jon Green bespoke suit is a sartorial second skin so expertly executed that it looks and feels molded to your body in flawless perfection.

And, now we can say that the British Motorcycle Jacket from San Francisco-based HonourMark is the standard for exceptional daily outerwear. Crafted from the best materials available and built with neurotic attention to detail, this jacket fits like a piece of tailored clothing yet is capable of taking on an adventure in the African veldt.

Moreover, this is a jacket that gets noticed all the time. We have lost track of all the “nice jacket,” “who makes that jacket,” and “oh my gosh, that’s beautiful” comments we have received. It really is that good.

THE BEST

When OTC first received the Motorcycle Jacket, we wrote, “Perhaps one of the single best garments we have ever had our hands on. You know when you just look at something and know it’s one of the best out there? Before you even touch it? That’s this jacket.”

That opinion still holds, and then some.

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. Expensive by most guy’s standards, these are meant to be jackets in which you invest, and which you wear day in and day out.

They are executive quality outerwear to replace the well-made but out of place mountaineering shells and jackets to which many men are drawn. Such gear is fine for the weekend, felt founder Michael DeNunzio, but they don’t work for the office.

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The jacket’s body is crafted from Ventile, a naturally wind- and-water resistant material developed during World War II for the British Royal Air Force. This material has a substantial and sturdy hand, but is also pliable and quick to break in. The weave is so tight that you can quite literally pour a glass of water on the jacket and it will bead up and roll off.

DETAILS

The fit is particularly interesting because, while this jacket is based on an iconic design – a dashing but practical jacket for adventurous motorcycle riders – designer and co-founder Shaun Aharam re-imagined it as a refined and modernized classic. To de-clutter the body, he ditched the traditional belt and collar straps. The slimmer silhouette, higher armholes, and a shorter fit together create a fresh design that is both heritage-driven and thoroughly contemporary.

The British Motorcycle Jacket is also lined with an amazingly soft and durable Japanese yarn-dyed cotton. The hand-warmer pockets are also lined with with this fantastic and lightweight fabric. Sometimes, we just want to keep our hands in there to enjoy that perfect, soft coziness.

navy-moto-handwarmers_largeThis unique lining also allows the jacket to maintain a comfortable mid-weight heft; not too think and not at all bulky. It’s just right with everything from a simple button down oxford to a beefy wool sweater. The sleeves are lined with a silk-like synthetic fabric from the same Japanese mill. The cuffs, collar, and flaps to the bellows pockets are also lined with a dense British corduroy, just right for cold, breezy days.

The slanted chest pocket, a trademark motorcycle jacket feature designed to facilitate easy access while on the road, has a handy inner sleeve that can securely hold your smart phone, pen, or keys. A no-snag bi-directional zipper stays secure behind the full-length storm flap.

One detail that really speaks to HonourMark’s fixation on creating something unique and quality-driven are the snaps. Forged in Kentucky, each snap is military grade and backed with a perfectly cut Napa leather washer. This combination creates a durable closure and also protects the jacket’s Ventile fabric for years to come.

As with every other feature, even the particular shade of colors offered (navy and black) are designed to compliment almost any wardrobe pairing. Ours is the navy blue model and truth be told, it goes with everything – even our favorite navy Read Wall chinos.

BRAND POSITIONING

Grounded in classic, functional workwear, HonourMark has elevated the everyday, multi-season jacket to a wardrobe essential. Production runs are small, meaning that each of the three jacket styles (and one fantastic vest) offered, is a limited edition. The other jacket styles are also elevated versions of classic menswear pieces: the car coat and the quilted estate jacket. Their quilted vest is an equally office-elegant rendition of a traditional field garment.

Quality, durability, and understated luxury are the brand’s focus and we are happy to say that in the British Motorcycle Jacket, they have nailed each one.

HonourMark is very much the type of brand you would expect to see in the pages of Robb Report or Monocle – in fact, that’s exactly where we hope to see it someday. But, this is also the type of brand that can back up such attention and hype with world-class products that are worth every penny. We expect to see a lot more from HonourMark.

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Your Guide to Choosing A Wallet

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From billfolds to pocket secretaries, a wallet is one of the most personal items a man carries all day, every day. In addition to credit cards and cash, IDs, and licenses, your wallet is often home to those personal scraps of memory and nostalgia unique to you.

Unlike a favorite bag, shoes, or even the clothes on your back, a wallet is often so personal an accessory that for many men it never crosses their mind to get a new one, unless prompted by sheer necessity.

It’s true for us too. The wallet our editor-in-chief carried for years was from R. Horns, a small leather luxury goods brand based in Vienna, Austria. It is a classic international billfold model with two currency sections and eight credit card slots. The thick yet supple leather is a rich, nutty brown that has darkened with age. It’s distinct in both style and personality, imparted through years of faithful service.

Like many of the personally unique things in one’s life, this wallet would be hard to replace. Sure, a call could be made and a new wallet shipped, but it would not really be the same one, and that’s what makes this type of accessory so special.

Wallet Styles

Still, there comes a time when curiosity or functionality forces one to examine new options. And, as with menswear in general, the options are expanding. The actual form a man’s wallet has changed too much – billfold, pocket secretary, slim, or card sleeve – but the variety of materials and designs within those categories make choosing a new or alternative wallet much more interesting.

Broadly speaking, there are three types of wallets: the pocket secretary (tall and thin, it is designed to fit into the inside pocket of a suit coat; the international billfold (essentially a large square, this is a wide wallet with room for multiple cards and varying currency sizes); and the slim card sleeve (a minimalist wallet designed to hold only a few credit cards and identification).

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Depending on your needs any one of these gets the job done on a day to day basis. Choosing a wallet today is actually easier than even a few years ago. While women have always had the luxury of a handbag in which to carry their everyday accouterments, men long suffered though bulging pockets and overstuffed wallets.

However, the rapid growth of the men’s everyday bag market means that there is less need to try and fit everything on earth into your back pocket. Your wallet, along with all the other stuff that historically weighed you down, can now be tossed in your bag.

On The Road

A variation on the breast pocket wallet is the travel or zip wallet. Typically oversized and intended to be carried in a bag, rather than on your person, these wallets serve a variety or purposes. From cash to boarding passes, to passports, travel wallets are a sort of one-handed holdall.

We have a fantastic version of this style from New York maker BillyKirk. The No. 217 is a large clutch-style wallet that zips open to reveal card slots; a zippered coin pouch; and space for tickets, currency, and receipts. Do women carry it too? Sure – but we don’t care. It was recommended by a very testosterone-heavy friend who who uses it as a “home base” wallet in his everyday bag.  We often do the same, paired with a simple slotted card case for the more frequently used ID and a metro pass. BillyKirk 217 openAesthetically, it’s a beauty. Daily use has lightened the bright tan belting leather aged into a scarred and worn medium brown. It still gets a lot of compliments, as does BillyKirk’s mastery of simple lines and clean functionality.

Staying Trim

With the wallet now freed up, simplify the things you carry on your person. Opt for that slim card case – as mentioned above – or a pared-down billfold and carry just the necessities – maybe just a credit card, driver’s license, and insurance card.

2014-11-06 08.50.04-1Swedish brand Ulterior Motive makes a range of minimalist card case wallets for when you only need the essentials. They come in a variety of colors and materials, including leather and nylon. While simple and practical, UM’s design and personality show through in the brigh interior linings and occasional signature tag.

American maker Chester Mox (shown at top) offers a range of low-profile wallets that are both practically minimalist and casually elegant. The precise laser-cut designs, perfectly finished leathers, and flawless stitching are a bit mesmerizing. Really, a fantastic brand that should be better known.

Lastly, some men carry their cash in a classic money clip. This elegant option keeps cash separate from your credit cards, which is a good idea when traveling. We have previously delved into the money clip discussion in some detail. Click here to read our article on this timeless accessory.

Whatever type of wallet you choose, in whichever configuration best matches your needs, choose something you really like. A wallet, like all your most personal accessories, should be an investment. So, invest wisely.

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