Khakis: Pants to Live By

 

JD Khakis 640x1024 Khakis: Pants to Live ByFor many of us, khakis are the real backbone of our wardrobe. Workplace to casual wear, they go with almost anything, can be dressed up or down, and travel well. In many ways, they are the perfect pants.

Jeans have their place, no question, but khakis have that preppy, laid back good-with-a-sweatshirt-or-blazer thing that’s hard to define.

Choosing the right pair of khakis at the right time is an important challenge for some men, and the risk of looking like a chain restaurant waiter can be a real one. A good way to start the process is to treat your choice of khakis as a grown-up one. Think about this wardrobe staple as you would any other clothing investment and make a smart choice based on quality, fit, style, material, and cost.

When you think about it, unless obligated to wear a suit every day, the go-to staple of most mens’ office wardrobes are khakis. Also referred to as chinos, especially when denoting dressier versions, these ubiquitous trousers are available in myriad styles, from loose and comfortably old school to trim and tailored.

Generally speaking, “khakis” encompass a broad range of pants that fall into a category that traces its lineage to military trousers from the 1940s. American soldiers brought these beloved and functional pants back home and created a trend that eventually morphed into the ironically classic “Ivy League” look. These days, the term encompasses the general style of pant now available in an endless range of colors, finishes, weights, and cuts.

Your own goal with these endlessly versatile pants should be to look dressed up but still comfortably relaxed. Ideally, this translates into khakis that are reasonably trim and have a flat front. While pleats are very much a personal choice, for many men they remain unflattering and dated when applied to casual pants. While they are making a bit of a comeback for suit trousers, the heavier cotton fabric of most khakis cause the pleats to add visual weight and bulk to the wearer’s midsection.

Bonobos in particular makes an excellent range of khakis that employ the brand’s signature curved waist that removed much of the pants bulk. The result is a very comfortable and well-fitting pant that also looks trim and modern.

 Khakis: Pants to Live By

Flat front khakis will give you a leaner silhouette and also tend to look dressier. A mid-rise fit and natural waist help to create a comfortable and crisp look. A classic strait or lightly tapered leg continues a more tailored and modern look and allow for a sight break that can work with oxfords or boat shoes. The no-break look favored by some seeking a tailored mod effect can work, but it makes no allowance for error or physical changes, so be forewarned.

In many ways, khakis are the all-purpose chameleons of your daily wardrobe. They can impart both the rumpled comfort of puttering around the library and the freshly pressed crispness of heading off to your office on a brisk fall day, tweed jacket in tow. So, it makes perfect sense to have both tailored and casual versions of khaki pants in the closet. Jack Donnelly makes classic khakis built on the traditional WWII-inspired silhouette, but updated for a contemporary fit.

Seasonality plays a role as well; lighter weight 5.6 ounce fabric are best for warm months just as classic 8.5 ounce pants can be pulled out for the fall and winter.

Khakis also fall into that rare (at least for us) “more is better” category, due to the plethora of colors and finishes available to men today. Try to round out your wardrobe with different shades of khaki – from light putty to deep British tan – and try out some colored varieties like olive, navy, and orange. For the New England purists, who value the classics, a pair of genuine Nantucket Reds from Murray’s Toggery Shop is, of course, mandatory.

 

old campus rain Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

If there is any one “look” or style that best defines East Coast Ivy League, or OTC for that matter, it is that of the iconic college professor. When most people think of college professors (or indeed prep school teachers), the classic look comes to mind: tweed and corduroy, grey flannel, well-worn leather shoes, a beat-up satchel, and some wire framed glasses.

For many, that is what a college professor should look like. The reality is often at odds with the ideal; some look exactly as you might expect and some are in desperate need of sartorial help. Yet, the image of Dr. Jones in his classroom or Mr. Keating, imploring his charges to “seize the day,” persists.

So, what exactly is the “college professor” look and why is it so interesting? This classic Ivy League style can also be described as a sort of 1930s prep school teacher look. It combines two unique elements: a timeless, idealized version of the privileged life and the intellectualness of an exclusive liberal arts education.

IndianaJonesClassroom Personal Style: Creating the College Professor LookThough it may sound a little dramatic, this is a very emotional and evocative style of dress. Think of the outfits worn in such films as Dead Poets Society or A Beautiful Mind, or in any Harry Potter movie. The clothes themselves provide an emotional touchstone that quickly defines where you are and who you are. It is a sort of intellectual uniform, a symbol of belonging that is both timeless and very appealing.

Ralph Lauren in particular has captured the college professor look; in deed it is virtually synonymous with the brand. The now-defunct Rugby sub-brand moved from the lectern to the desk with richly detailed, prep school inspired clothing and accessories. The Rugby stores, often located close to college and university campuses, had the design and feel of an old and moneyed prep school common room.

More recently, J. Crew has masterfully redefined the college professor look to reflect a modernized riff on a late 1950s era Ivy League campus. More streamlined and less fusty, the J. Crew take on Ivy League is modern and active, yet still grounded in the classics, as it were.

A key element to achieving this wonderful look on your own is to not overdo it. And Fall is prime season for employing all the, classic elements.

MrKeating DPS Personal Style: Creating the College Professor LookThe college professor style is at its best when you appear to have not thought a great deal about what you threw on this morning. Tweed or corduroy coats, chunky sweaters layered over old button down shirts and school ties, gray flannels, corduroy pants, or heavy khakis. They are simple and classic components that, when combined, create an instantly recognizable picture.

The goal should be to reference key elements of the classic look but not mimic or replicate them as costume. You are not a character in play; you are someone with a real life, commute, and job. Still, this look is really about dressing emotionally and layering on a philosophy of life.

Moreover, the inherent eccentricities of this style make it fun and flexible. If you already invest in timeless core pieces, it’s that much better. Instead of a sweater, why not opt for a simple heather grey crew neck sweatshirt from American Giant over that OCBD, khakis, and old boat shoes?

Take Ivy Book Personal Style: Creating the College Professor LookThis quest for an authentic and honest expression of Ivy League style, in many ways the core of the college professor look, resulted in a 2010 English reprinting of the iconic 1965 Japanese book, Take Ivy. The virtual bible of American East Coast style, The Official Preppy Handbook, is a perennial reference, while subsequent publications including Ivy Style: Radical Conformists, Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style, The Ivy League, and Rowing Blazers offer additional guidance.

Selecting honestly crafted and long lasting accessories is also important. Instead of a generic nylon backpack or computer bag, invest in a leather folio or classic briefcase. Frank Clegg makes some of the best; expensive, yes, but something that will last a lifetime. Classic pens and watches mix well, as does traditional footwear. Suede shoes, heavy brogues, and dressy boots are good choices.

For cooler days like the ones ahead, choose a big scarf in a nice tartan or your school colors. If you don’t have school colors or don’t like the ones you do have, just adopt someone else’s.

When done right, the overall effect should be of a natty intellectual. It should also look natural and relaxed with a touch of world-weary travel. This look works best on those who already possess a genuine love of this most classic of periods for menswear and are indeed curious about the world and of always learning more.

Perhaps more than any other style, the college professor look persists decade after decade because it is not really about fashion; it’s about a philosophy of life. It’s an outward expression of your curiosity and appreciation of what the world has to offer; a physical expression of cherishing the past and looking toward the future while never losing touch with your own sense of personal taste.

Below, we offer some inspirational imagery to set you on the sartorial path of creating your own version of the classic, timeless, rumpled, worldly, or modern college professor. Take your pick and make it yours.

Updated CollegeProf via Ivy Leageue Style Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

BlackIvyCollege Prof Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

Group DPS Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

FrankCleggEnglishBriefcase Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

JCrewMensShop Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

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The Preppy Handbook Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

 

What to Wear This Fall: Irish Sweaters

Aran Handknit What to Wear This Fall: Irish Sweaters

Some things just naturally go together and “sweaters and fall” is definitely one of those things. Or two of those things. Regardless, when cool weather starts rolling in, menswear get a chance to show off some of the things that make classic style so classic.

Layering is one of the treats for those who love cold weather and a chunky Irish sweater always fits the bill. Thick wool, handcrafted, traditional or modern in style, they are for many of us, the hallmarks of the season. And, one of the best places to find an Irish sweater that’s right for you is actually a website.

Aran Sweater Market is a real place – founded in 1892 as a cooperative of traditional knitters on the cluster of Islands off the west coast of Ireland at the mouth of Galway Bay. Known as the islands of saints and scholars, the Aran Islands are breathtaking in landscape and rich in Irish history and culture. They are also the birthplace to iconic, traditional cabled “fisherman’s sweater.” These sweaters were often designed with distinct patterns unique to an individual clan. The patterns were jealously guarded as familial markers and sometimes used to identify the bodies of fishermen lost at sea. In fact, if you have the opportunity to visit the Aran Sweater Market on the Aran Islands, you can see an official register of these historic patterns.

Aran Label What to Wear This Fall: Irish SweatersThe sweaters themselves possess many attributes which made them suitable for cold and inclement weather – typical for lives of fishermen and island farmers in the North Atlantic. An Aran sweater is both naturally breathable and water repellent, and can even absorb 30 percent of its weight in water before feeling wet.  You can learn more about these remarkable garments by visiting the Aran Sweater Shop’s website.

We have been testing out the Hand Knit Honeycomb Stitch sweater (pictured at the top) and the Fisherman’s Ribbed Wool Turtleneck (below). Where the honeycomb stitch sweater embodies the classic fisherman’s jumper, the turtleneck projects a slightly more urbane and modern look. Both are expertly crafted and come with certificates of authenticity that proclaim their Aran Islands provenance. In addition to these two models, you can choose from  a range of style, weights, and colors, from highly traditional to surprisingly contemporary.

So substantial are some of these sweaters that they can often be worn as an outer layer themselves. Or, to complete that landed gentry look, just throw on a waxed canvas field jacket when it starts to get a little too chilly. These types of sweaters look good with almost any East Coast inspired outfit; from khakis to jeans, boat shoes to penny loafers. If there happens to be a large, happy dog nest to you, all the better.

As you might expect, hand knits are more expensive that machine made sweater, but both versions are well beyond the quality you would find in a typical store. Aran Sweater Market also sells women’s sweaters, woolen socks, woven and knitted scarves, and myriad woolens for the home.

Want to know what actual everyday New England preppy families had stashed in the off-season dresser? It was all this stuff – and every year we waited for months to pull it all back out.

Aran Ribbed TNeck What to Wear This Fall: Irish Sweaters

Aran Wool Hoodie What to Wear This Fall: Irish Sweaters

Aran Classic Fisherman What to Wear This Fall: Irish Sweaters

Aran WoolCashmere What to Wear This Fall: Irish Sweaters

 

Last week, we traveled up to New York City for the invitation-only party to celebrate the U.S. launch of the new book Rowing Blazers. Held at the newly inaugurated Polo/Ralph Lauren flagship store on Fifth Avenue – opening only days earlier – the event was a fun, crowded,  and sartorial cacophony of colors and patterns.

Penned by award-winning oarsman Jack Carlson and with principal photography by F.E. Castleberry, Rowing Blazers is a celebration of the historic garment upon which that most classic of men’s habiliment, the classic blue blazer, rests.

2014 09 24 23.42.11 OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

2014 09 23 16.57.54 OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

Not only did we spend the evening among 700 smartly dressed folks, we also had the pleasure of whiling away the afternoon beforehand with our friend and mentor Alan Flusser (above). It goes with saying that his outfit for the evening aptly reflected Alan’s mastery of color, pattern, and personality.

We also had the honor of OTC’s editor-in-chief being highlighted in Hodinkee’s watch spotting roundup of the Rowing Blazer event (below). For those who don’t know about Hodinkee, it is the web’s premier resource for watch news, product launches, in-depth industry reporting, and fascinating insights into the world of horological curiosities. Only one watch publication was invited to actually attend the Cupertino launch of the Apple Watch: Hodinkee.

Rowing Blazers 49 OTC OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

Rowing Blazers 48 OTC OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

Rowing Blazers Hodinkee Crw OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

A big thanks also goes out to the brand partners who outfitted our E-in-C for this fantastic event. Bonobos provided the Windsor single vent blue blazer and Heritage Washed Chino khakis; both trim, modern updates of preppy classics. We again joined forces with Deo Veritas to create a custom dress shirt, this time in a light purple gingham check. Still the best online custom shirts we have found. Eye Buy Direct provided us with new glasses and sunglasses for the trip. And to answer the question many folks were asking, yes, that was Frank Clegg’s Courier Messenger Bag in shrunken leather into which our copy of Rowing Blazers went.

Now, on to some great images from the September 23, 2014, New York City launch party for the new book, Rowing Blazers.

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Rowing Blazers FYG Shoes OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

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Rowing Blazers Pants OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

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Rowing Blazers Checv. Flusser OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

Rowing Blazers PRL Display OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

Rowing Blazers Bulldog Blanket OTC at the New York Launch Party for the Book Rowing Blazers

 

 

The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

Lumina Navy Polo 1 The Polo Shirt: An American ClassicFor generations now, the polo shirt has been a cornerstone of any classic, Ivy League-inspired wardrobe. While most people who hear “polo shirt,” tend to think “Polo ™” shirt, the first branded version was actually developed in 1929 for tennis legend Rene’ “Le Crocodile” Lacoste.

Lacoste wanted a comfortable shirt to replace the traditional, but impractical, dress shirt and tie worn by tennis players at the time. In doing so, he unwittingly gave rise to one of the most versatile garments ever conceived. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

With its unique ability to straddle the elusive line between casual and formal, the classic polo can carry you from the office to the country club with little difficulty. Of course, while it’s not always right for every occasion, when paired with a sharp outfit the polo shirt pretty much has you covered for anything short of a black tie dinner. Jeans, grey flannels, Nantucket Reds, and shorts all play well with polos. It’s more dressy than tee shirt, yet less formal than an oxford button down – itself another shirt that has universal serviceability.

JFK Polo and Khakis The Polo Shirt: An American ClassicThe genuinely timeless combination of a well loved polo shirt and khakis is about the most classic look you can opt for and usually works just fine for most situations in which you need to be presentable. In fact, it’s so versatile an outfit that it works equally well with worn-in, beat-up favorites or pressed and crisp, off-to-cocktails-on-the-lawn togs.

Pass on overly logoed or pre-aged polos and instead opt for classic solids or simple stripes. While the hyper-preppy look might work for image fixated teens, simple and timeless is what makes the polo shirt so universally useful and why it continues to be such a wardrobe staple of East Coast adherents.

We are particularly partial to Lumina Clothing’s Carolina Garment Dyed Polo in navy (shown at top). It’s a nice blend of classic styling and an easy, everyday modern design. The fit is trim but comfortable while the shirt’s rougher finishing is casually informal. With hemmed sleeves, a longer three-button placket, and finished collar, this polo’s look is less tennis court and more JFK sailing off Hyannis.

When going “nice” casual, keep the overall feel less stuffy by choosing clean boat shoes or penny loafers and a woven leather or ribbon belt. For a more business look, try a dressy belt with a silver monogrammed buckle, blue blazer, and high-grade slip-ins from Alden. A black polo paired with a grey or pinstriped suit is actually very sharp, in a George Clooney sort of way. If you are going to give that look a try, make sure to opt for a fine-gauge shirt in a silky finish, like KP MacLane’s Signature Men’s Polo.

One of the best things about the polo shirt is its versatility. It comes in a variety of styles and almost any color under the sun, from basic white to jet black, solids or preppy stripes.

Polo shirts also happen to age very well. So, that beat up old polo at the bottom of the shirt drawer – the one with the seriously frayed collar and torn hem – will look just great at a clam bake with some faded khaki shorts and a cold beer.

Rene Lacoste 1 The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

JPM Tennis White Polo The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

JPM Black Polo The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

Stacked Lacoste Polos The Polo Shirt: An American Classic