Trackline Belt: Casually Sharp

Trackline Belt Trackline Belt: Casually Sharp

Lately, micro-adjust belts seem to be making more and more appearances, and for the most part it’s a nice chance of pace for many men.  Too often we have to deal with a belt that lands exactly between two holes and neither is comfortable.  Either it’s too loose or too tight – usually because we have eaten too much.  For whatever reason, an ill-fitting belt can ruin your day.

Belts that adjust without holes and instead rely on an adjustable track built into the backside of the belt’ strap can be a tricky endeavor.  Even though they are really just an evolutionary step forward from  friction or box frame buckles, their inherent mechanical design dictates a buckle of a certain form and bulk.  Also, they have typically been less than stylish and less than comfortable to actually wear.

We have previously highlighted a more formal version of the adjustable belt, but until now have not found a good casual version worthy of OTC’s readers.  Kore has come up with a great option for casual wear with its Trackline belt.  The simple and low-profile 16 gauge stainless steel buckle is available in a variety of designs and you can choose between brown and black  1 3/8 inch full grain leather straps.

We are particularly partial to the Evolve buckle because of its design reference to a classic engine turned belt buckle.  With clearly marked waist measurement increments on the back of the strap, it’s easy to size and quickly attach the buckle.  The larger size of the buckles pair well with jeans and khakis, and with 40 size positions from which to choose, your belt will fit just right.

While we typically err on the side of classic and timeless, at only $69.00, adding this modern take (and function) on a classic style is something we wholly endorse.

 

Evolve Buckle with Brown Strap Trackline Belt: Casually Sharp

 

OTC Lauded by Refinery 29, Real Men Real Style

431C2357 OTC Lauded by Refinery 29, Real Men Real StyleWe here at OTC are honored and humbled by the fact that two top style websites, Refinery 29 and Real Men Real Style, recently selected Off the Cuff as one of the best style blogs out there.

Both of these websites are serious fashion and lifestyle authorities in their own rights, so being chosen by either as a leading site is pretty darn great.

Refinery 29, a certified style powerhouse and serious influencer, named OTC one of the “Seven Men’s Bloggers Ruling the DMV Style Scene.”  They wrote, “If you’re a fan of classic design, check out OTC, which covers everything from workout gear to suits and briefcases.  Author Chris Hogan curates a healthy mix of general news and D.C.-based fashion info, so all of your bases are covered.”

The hugely popular Real Men Real Style named OTC a Top Ten Style Blog for 2014.  Their review was incredibly thoughtful, noting that our “posts are always detailed and lengthy, and you can count on their writers to dive deep into whatever subjects they handle,” and that “their attention to detail and their exacting standards for men’s attire keep them in this year’s Top Ten.”

Our thanks go out to both websites for their votes of continued confidence and extremely kind words.  We also thank our thousands of readers around the globe – about 40 countries last time we checked.  Without all of you, the world would be a little less dandy.

OTC already has eight years under its belt, and we look forward to the next eight. Cheers.

 

Find the Right Bag for You

OTC J.Panther Ruc Open 1024x685 Find the Right Bag for You

Everyone has their odd interest; that particular thing you love and obsess over, the subject that’s never far from your thoughts. For example, a friend of mine is obsessed with anything related to trains. He is always coming across books on trains or railways, or finding china from famous lines for sale on eBay. He even train spots in movies that are not about trains. Once, he identified a particular engine by the sound of its whistle. We checked; he was correct.

For me, it’s bags – or more accurately, containers. I have always found things like luggage, desks, furniture, and boxes fascinating. I am a fan of museums, architecture, and interior design; all natural extensions of this proclivity. I am also a natural organizer, which makes sense given this longitudinal interest.

Bags, however, have always been a point of particular fascination to me, especially bags that have a function or purpose. The idea of a bag as a portable office or hold-all for one’s daily needs and wants has always interested me. Even document cases, pen cases, zippered pouches, and coin cases all fascinate me. Each has a purpose and role; sorting, organizing, containing.

Indiana Jones Bag Find the Right Bag for YouGrowing up, one of my idols was Indiana Jones. He traveled the world, defied death, and taught archeology at Princeton to adoring girls. He had an awesome leather jacket, that great fedora, and a whip.

He also had a bag. Indy’s bag held notebooks with ancient Egyptian calendar translations, golden statues, and grail journals. It was really cool, but totally practical. It made sense; where else would all that stuff go? It went everywhere with him.

The First OTC Bag

The ability to pare down one’s daily necessities and take them with you is another concept that continues to interest me, and in fact helped lead to the creation of OTC. One of our earliest posts was about the Counterfeit Mailbag, from the J. Peterman Company.  In fact, John Peterman himself sent over for review. It was one of the first everyday bags positioned specifically for a man; a tool for safeguarding and transporting the things you needed.  It was rugged, manly, functional, and steeped in history. It had a story, purpose, and background. These are still the key elements that speak directly to many male consumers; and that bag is still a favorite.

While bags for nearly every guy’s need are now a mere mouse click away, the proper balance needs to be struck. To our mind, function should always edge out form because what ultimately make a great man’s bag so compelling are its roots, design, provenance, and construction.  These qualities transcend style and materials because a well-made bag is obvious no matter what kind of bag it is.

Four Bags

That said, we feel there are four basic bags to consider when looking for an everyday bag: the briefcase, the messenger bag, the tote bag and the duffel bag. Each one of these has an inherent function at its design core, yet each can easily adapt to most men’s needs.

The Briefcase

Frank Clegg English Briefcase Find the Right Bag for You

The briefcase can be strictly business, as with a Swaine Adeney Brigg lid-over-box briefcase or entrepreneurially flexible like the J. Panther Courier Ruc (also shown at the top). The definition of a modern briefcase has shifted to match the changing role of the man who carries it. Simply put, a typical man in a grey flannel suit needs room for more than just a pen and some folders, and it often his bag needs to be malleable and commuter friendly.

While the traditional box briefcase is elegant, sturdy, and ideal for the transportation and protection of files and paperwork, it is also limiting. A man’s accessory in most iconic way, its heyday is unfortunately past. The box briefcase is today more often an ironic steampunk accessory, corner-office aspirant security blanket, or, rarely, a true work tool carried by those unencumbered with too much day-to-day materiel (read, CEO or law firm partner).

A great truth about a great briefcase is that it becomes an heirloom. And a great modern briefcase is epitomized by the Frank Clegg English Briefcase shown here. Based on the iconic English dispatch case, it is formal yet rugged, polished yet waiting to be aged by life.

The Messenger

OTC Messenger Bag 1024x685 Find the Right Bag for You

Perhaps the most influential modern example of a daily bag is the messenger bag. As with many social innovations, the now-ubiquitous messenger bag began life as purely functional tool used by bike messengers. When they first started showing up at the office, these purpose-designed bags telegraphed that the owner was creative, edgy, and had maybe even had access to the cool but sketchy bike messenger world.

Indeed, messenger bags were the perfect hybrid for many men; not a briefcase, not a backpack, bur decidedly masculine. They helped to define a new category that moved freely from home to street to office to Starbucks. They were also utilitarian; one big compartment, maybe a small zippered pocket and that was it. Bag makers quickly revisited their interior landscapes and today’s messenger bag now has pockets, sleeves and flaps for every conceivable gadget.

We feel that a classic Timkuk2 messenger is the best choice for a traditionally styled bag. Jack Spade also makes some great clean, modern messenger bags for those with an urban aesthetic.

The grown-up messenger bag is also very popular and thoroughly practical for many men. Rendered in leather or sturdy canvas, these bags are perhaps the closest thing there is to a man’s version of a purse. Two that we really like are the Keith Messenger Bag by ECCO and the Frank Clegg’s classic Messenger Bag. The Frank Clegg bag is exceptionally crafted and timeless in design. With few pockets but a huge amount of space, it is on the larger side, but if you are looking for that “one” bag, this is it. The ECCO bag is similar in design, although smaller and it has more pockets. Designed to carry a variety of everyday stuff, it is very much a “man bag,” in the best of ways.

The Tote

Porter x Monocle Tote Bag Find the Right Bag for You

The iconic canvas tote bag is as practical as it is ubiquitous. Tote bags are big right now and come in any manner of style and material. Perhaps the most famous version of this functional workhorse is made by L.L. Bean – the Boat and Tote. In fact, L.L. Bean essentially invented the canvas tote bag category. The bag was originally developed to carry blocks of ice (back in the day when block ice was used to keep foods fresh in the ice box).

The tote bag survives and thrives because its design is simple and universal. The open top, occasionally zippered or buttoned, is easy to fill up and empty out and when well-tweaked, can morph into a modern bag while holding on to its utilitarian roots. Notebooks, tablets, and magazines are easily found and the wide-open space encourages you to toss in a few leather zipped pouches for pens and other small items.

A great example of this thoughtful updating is found in this elegant tote bag from the Japanese brand Porter, in collaboration with Monocle magazine. A practical tote at heart, its carefully placed interior pockets and sturdy top snap make it the perfect office or globe-trotting companion.

J. Panther Luggage has beautiful example of a modern classic tote about which we recently wrote, the Ruc Tote.  It’s possibly one of the coolest bags OTC has ever reviewed.

The Duffel

Frank Clegg Duffel OTC Find the Right Bag for YouA duffel bag in the office? Yes. But we are talking about smaller, carry-on style duffels, not the ones used for military deployment. Intended as a personal travel bag, the duffel has the advantage of being designed to both carry a good amount of one’s stuff and be easily portable, fitting into tighter spaces.

Typically simple in design and construction, a duffel bag also blends in well with most outfits and styles. Short of a full-pads business suit, it can handle the office with hipster aplomb and then head off with you on vacation.  And, frankly, some duffel bags from Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Bally, Hermes, and Frank Clegg (pictured here) are elegant enough for any setting.

While not for everyone, using a smallish duffel as a work bag is a fun way to bring a utilitarian – or, dare we say, bohemian – bent to your daily routine.  Bear in mind that by design they generally consist of one large open space, sometimes with a small zippered drop pocket.  Consider capturing smaller items in pouches and small zip bags, keeping tem easy to find and access.

 

 

2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

For this year’s OTC Holiday Style Guide, we look to some modern classics that are designed and built for how we live life today.  That means timeless practical design, like Rotring mechanical pencils, or a handmade heirloom that will only get better with age, like a Frank Clegg bag.  But it also means technical dress socks that keep your feet happy all day long and totally modern hunting jacket.

One of the enduring truths of real East Coast preppy style is that it’s based on the adoption of functional basics, re-imagining them for everyday life, and using them until they fall apart.  Then, you keep on using them.

Our list this year is filled with the things of life that will keep you company day in and day out, and serve you well for years to come.  Some are new to the scene and provide a modern take on something classic.  Others are classics already and have already come to define their genre.  Each in its own way is a stellar example of an investment that will last, if not a lifetime, pretty darn close.  Except for the bourbon – that won’t last.

 

 

THE HANDMADE BELT, FROM LA MATERA

La Matera Mendoza Belt2 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern ClassicsLa Matera, specializes in authentic hand-made Argentinian belts and accessories. These exceptional belts are crafted in the United States by master leather worker Frank Clegg, using 100% vegetable tanned cognac leather, hand-stitched Argentine woven fabrics, and polished solid brass fittings.

Not only are these belts a new favorite of the personally stylish, even the coolest royals seem to like their internationally unique look – Prince Harry is often seen wearing his La Matera.

In addition to the great belts, we also like their tastefully branded canvas ball caps, which have the Argentinian flag discretely stitched the side.

 

 

 

FRESH + MODERN TIES, FROM BULL + MOOSE

 

Bull+Moose Morrissey Tie 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

Bull+Moose Camo Tie 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

 

Bull+ Moose was founded by an Army veteran and political world-refuge looking to create a company that both allowed him to express his stylish side and create a vehicle for supporting important groups like Kiva.

The result is a great collection of neck and bow ties that take a modern stab at classic fabrics and designs. We love this 100% wool tartan tie, it’s a limited edition and rendered in a lovely dead stock wool that has become B+M’s unofficial pattern.  So, get yours now, because once it’s gone, its gone.  Another thing, none of their ties are going to run you more than $39.00.

Having just partnered with the veterans support group “Got Your 6,”  the B+M signature camo tie tie is also showing up all over the place, from actors and sports figures to former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. Take a close look, each aspect of the custom designed camouflage pattern on this not-too-slim silk tie is actually a slightly different weave and pattern.  It’s pretty amazing when seen in person.

 

 

 

THE BEST MESSENGER BAG, FROM FRANK CLEGG

Frank Clegg Messenger Bag 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

What can we say about Frank Clegg Leatherworks that has not already been said?  Based in Fall River, Massachusetts, Frank is one of America’s leading leather craftsmen and an increasingly sought-after figure for “made in America” partnerships.  Even the White House came calling when they wanted to give President Obama the perfect briefcase.

But Frank and his sons are also hitting the global beat, being highlighted in Monocle magazine (our favorite periodical, by the way) and carried in some of the world’s leading boutiques, including Hong Kong’s The Armoury.

This classic flap-over-body messenger bag has become our indispensable every day bag.  It’s roomy but accessible, incredibly durable yet exceedingly refined. Typical airport comment: “Excuse me, where did you get that messenger bag?”

 

 

FUNCTIONALLY CLASSIC WRITING INSTRUMENTS,
FROM ROTRING

 

Rotring Rapid Pro Family 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

 

Real New England preps know that much of what passes for classic and old-school style was most often co-opted from functional, real world stuff that simply worked well, was built to last, and, more often than not, was snagged from mom or dad when they weren’t looking.

That’s what makes Rotring pens and mechanical pencils so darn awesome; they are meant for architects, artists, draftsmen, and other people who actually draw stuff for a living.  They are tools.  And, they now happen to be iconic examples of an object whose appeal surpassed its original purpose.  Heavy and purposeful, they add personality, practicality, and inspiration to your daily kit.

As with many personal items, they help convey a bit of what you value though their mere presence.  That may also explain why they have a cult following among pen and design folks.

 

 

THE BROOKLYN, BY PROPER SOCKS

Proper Socks Brooklyn3 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern ClassicsSocks are big right now.  All over the place we are seeing new sock brands, subscription clubs, and clever/cheeky/classic/edgy designs popping out from under guys’ pants hems.  And this is a good thing.  Avenues for personal expression and individual style are often limited for men; a nice watch, a cool tie, or maybe a snazzy pocket square.

Socks provide some semi-public real estate to flash pattern and color that speaks to who you are.  Remember all the attention former president George H.W. Bush received when his penchant for flashy hosiery became known?

Enter Proper Socks, literally started up in a D.C. basement.  These exceedingly comfortable socks are right/left foot-specific, arch-friendly, and good to go all day long.  In fact,the young inventor modeled the support and comfort features on his favorite athletic socks.  Fun yet office-friendly designs make them a great way to keep your feet happy and your style on display.  To learn more and get the gear, visit their Kickstarter page before January 8, 2014.

 

 

THE H&B BREAST POCKET WALLET

british racing green breast pocket wallet 1 1024x1024 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

Ever guy has a wallet, but not every guy has a wallet that you can pass down to your kid.  What truly sets H&B London’s wallets apart from others we have tested is the quality of the craftsmanship and materials.  Each wallet is handmade in London by one of only three craftsman.  The leather is impeccably smooth and supple and the wallet’s refined construction provides a firm structure without feeling stiff or unyielding.  “Elegant” is the word we use to describe them.

The finish on our British Racing Green breast pocket wallet is both rich and translucent, allowing the natural pattern of the flawless hide to come through.  Founder Stephen Brister feels that a luxury product should be made from the finest materials, be rare and exclusive, and adhere to exceedingly high standards.

For example, H&B London’s leather goods are made from the most exclusive Italian leather from the hides of cattle grazed in the Alps where there are no barbed fences or mosquitoes to blemish their skin.  By definition, that’s a very small universe of leather supply.

 

 

EXCEPTIONAL BOURBON, FROM BLANTONS

 

Blantons Bourbon2 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

If you like bourbon, than you know Blantons.  In addition to the bottle itself being a small piece of art and worthy of your bar’s center stage, its contents are single barrel perfection.  The famous mid-stride “jockey” bottle stopper speaks to its Kentucky heritage and the facet cut bottle reinforces the dedication to craft that Blanton’s has honed for nearly 100 years.  Blanton’s literally created the single barrel bourbon premium market in 1984 and since then has been considered some of the finest in the world.

 

 

BONOBOS PREMIUM CONE DENIM JEANS

 

Bonobos Premium Denim2 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

You probably already know that Bonobos makes great khakis.  In fact, Bonobos more or less redefined the pants business when they created a signature curved waist band that thankfully eliminated what was artfully referred to as, “khaki diaper but.”

Such ardent supporters of khakis are Bonobos’ founders that they publicly scorned the very idea of jeans as a wardrobe component.  So imagine our downright shock when the call came in that Bonobos now makes jeans.

Upon recovering, the next thought?  They must be damn good jeans – and they are.  As I type these words, I’m wearing my slim/straight premium jeans made from Cone denim, sourced at their North Carolina White Oak mill.  Cut and stitched in Los Angeles, they remain true to the Bonobos’ ethos.  These jeans are an updated classic, incredibly comfortable, and will be worn whenever possible.

 

 

 

EDDIE BAUER MICROTHERM STORM-REPEL
DOWN FIELD JACKET

 

Eddie Bauer Down Field Jacket 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

This is one of the coolest jackets we have tested.  Designed as a modern take on the classic field shooting jacket, it is incredibly lightweight and warm yet flexible, durable, and functional.

We tested this jacket nonstop for two weeks; in weather that ranged from lightly cool to full-on winter snow, and it remained a favorite through it all.  Modified as a hunting jacket with a water–repellent coating and durable Cordura reinforcements, it actually started life meant  for mountaineering.  So, either way you look at it, it’s durable, practical and functional.  Another nice characteristic of this jacket is its minimal footprint.

While it clearly references both its technical and field coat DNA, this jacket embraces a modern, urban look and fit.  Nothing extraneous or gimmicky; just a great everyday coat that goes from field to town with equal style.

 

 

HERMES CAPE COD WATCH

 

Hermes Cape Cod Watch 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide: Modern Classics

We love watches.  However, we are not big fans of overboard vanity collections that treat great timepieces as showy commodities to be acquired for social impact.  For most of us, four or five should do it.  Maybe a few more if you actually switch up your looks with some frequency, or you’re a real-life scuba diver.

One watch we would love to add to our collection is the truly timeless Cape Cod, by Hermes.  This watch is simple in the most elegant of ways.  Clearly inspired by Hermes’ equestrian heritage, it is nonetheless suitable for the tack room or boardroom. Its strong lines and balance of hand stitched leather and stainless steel create yet another classic from the house that quite literally defines the term.  It is also available with a smartly casual double wrap strap, shown above.

 

Nantucket Brand’s Half-Zip Sweater

0054 Nantucket Brands Half Zip Sweater
The tiny but enchanting island of Nantucket has long been a magnet for lifestyle and aspirational brands.  The handsomely rugged location and windswept geography, combined with the island’s historically East Coast patrician aesthetic, make for an irresistible backdrop.

Apart from the Kennedy compound-ish positioning that often accompanies Nantucket themed marketing or product shoots, the island has a deeper and more appealing personality that we really admire: hardiness.  While there is certainly an ever growing contingent of millionaire and billionaire residents snapping up prime land for their Gatsby-worthy estates, as far as we are concerned, the time-worn functionality of everyday hard working essentials holds far more character and style.

Nantucket Brand Logo Nantucket Brands Half Zip SweaterAnd, for that reason, OTC is particularly fond of Nantucket Brand’s navy half-zip pima cotton sweater.  It is a classic layering sweater in the best of ways.  Simple and well-made, functional, pragmatically stylish, and it works with a variety of outfits in different seasons.

We’ll be the first to say to that the website’s pictures do not really do it justice, which is a shame.  However, once in hand, it quickly became a favorite and has been regularly put to use in both dressy and casual situations.  We like to pair it with jeans and a simple tee shirt or khakis and an oxford cloth button down.

The soft cotton has a mid-weight sweatshirt quality to it while the unique rounded standing collar, worn up or folder down, provides a signature and somewhat vintage feature.  The self colored YKK zipper seems to disappear into the sweater and in doing so gives it a cleaner, simpler look.

The Nantucket Brand company was founded in 2005, and built on a family history with ties to Nantucket stretching back to 1945.  In addition to the website, the company has three Nantucket-based shops and product ships from either the island itself or the equally charming and historic New Bedford, Massachusetts.

0060 682x1024 Nantucket Brands Half Zip Sweater