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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Modern Take on Blue Blazer Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

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Belt One Out With ntandy

ntandy Belt Orange Belt One Out With ntandy

Too often belts are a serious business that must meet the daily requirements of understatement, sobriety, or at least a degree of conformity. The good thing is that when you sit back and take a look, there are many occasions when you can loosen up your wardrobe choices, put away the earth tones, and have some sartorial fun.

ntandy makes great belts for those times. Especially in the warmth of summer, these colorful and simply designed belts add some unmistakable personality while still holding up your pants. The great thing about them, at least from an OTC perspective, is that they happily straddle the line between outright fun and preppy functionality.

While they clearly reference a purposeful and utilitarian past, they also are just plain cool belts that speak to founder Napper Tandy’s laid back California lifestyle. It’s like Ivy League guy meets surfer dude, and they totally get along.

ntnady Logo Belt One Out With ntandyThe belts come in five colors and are all made from old-school nylon board short material wrapped around 1000 pound test nylon climbing webbing. The simple contrast stitching adds just the right amount of vintage charm.

As Napper describes his belts, “I like to think they’re aesthetically part Birdwell Beach Britches, part 70′s Patagonia with a little nip off the flask of the old prep school ribbon belt”

Worn traditionally, the belt’s loose end hides ntandy’s cool minimalist label. However, Napper’s got you covered; click here to learn the “triple fold” and let your inner preppy beach bum shine.

Seriously, we test out all sorts of stuff here at OTC and without question, this simple, fun, functional, and plain old cool belt is a hands-down favorite.

ntandy Belts Belt One Out With ntandy

2014 07 19 16.32.32 Belt One Out With ntandy

 

Lucky West: Americana T-Shirts

LuckyWestTeeGreen Lucky West: Americana T ShirtsFrom our perspective tee shirts, or t-shirts, come in three varieties: plain and dressy for a casual yet relaxed look, informal with a graphic or logo (ideally with some personal meaning or connection to the wearer), and underwear. While not typically in our wheelhouse, over the past few years, the humble tee shirt has become a fairly defined menswear category that can indeed stand on its own.

We all wear tee shirts, it just matters how and when. For those of you who scoff at the idea of such a slovenly form of dress, we humbly suggest you entertain the imperfect pleasures of true “casual” wear. Bespoke is lovely, but not ideal for an afternoon by the pool, mowing the grass, or even loafing about the estate with friends and cold (or room temperature) beer.

Leaving aside undershirts, which should only be worn under shirts, this is the realm of the tee shirt. Not dirty, torn, stained, or perforated tees that should immediately find a home in the rag pile. No, we are speaking of tee shirts with style, substance, personality, and quality. Whether paired with some nice shorts, classic khakis, or worn-in jeans, it is a classic combination with universal appeal.

Though a focus on design, materials and fit, some brands have carved out their own sub-markets. For example, Duke & Winston has perfected the cool eccentric tee with historically-themed graphics that have an academic, hipster quality. At the other end of the spectrum, Mack Weldon creates monochromatic, precisely tailored tees that read casual/elegant sophistication without any stylized drama. It’s the sort of tee shirt we imagine a globe-hopping tech executive to wear when relaxing on his custom built yacht.

To this mix, we would like to add Lucky West. Inspired by classic Americana mythology, this U.K. brand’s tee shirts reflect a sun-washed era somewhere along Route 66. Their Las Vegas inspired logo hints at the wide open nostalgia that drives the brand’s vision, but the shirts themselves are another thing all together.

2014 07 19 16.32.32 Lucky West: Americana T Shirts While the brand’s editorial imagery reflects a stylized 1950s vibe, which does mesh with the look and feel of the shirts, we see them in a slightly different light.

To the left, our editor-in-chief sports a more East-Coast Americana take on a Lucky West’s tee shirt (size medium), pairing it with laid back Ecoths shorts, a bright ntandy belt, classic ECCO boat shoes, and an old L.L. Bean tote. Yes, that’s a National’s ball cap – go Nats!

Our first reaction when unpacking the sample was that of being impressed by the dense softness of the cotton and solid attention to construction. The deliberately rough stitch details around the collar and shoulder seams give a vintage, inherited feel, while the overall fit reads thoroughly modern.

The body is trim and slightly longer cut than most tees. This combination allows you to wear it tucked or un-tucked with equal comfort while avoiding sagging or billowing.

The short sleeves are indeed short, and cut slim, reflecting an athletic shirt aesthetic. It’s reminiscent of how we imagine old high school team jerseys fit. The shirt’s design can be described as athletic; comfortably snug around the shoulders and body drop that tapers slightly toward the hem. If you like your tees baggy, you might want to go at least one size up.

These tees blend iconic Americana themes with a modern fit, attention to detail, and a fun sense of nostalgia. However you wear it, we suggest you give Lucky West a try and add a few to your weekend drawer.

Lucky West 2 Lucky West: Americana T Shirts

 

The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull Lee

204 laydown The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull Lee

The last time we told you about Old Bull Lee, we made it clear that their shorts were some of our absolute favorites. Lee is committed to make the best shorts possible and approaches his craft as both an artist and technician. They were perfect.

It turns out he’s not done.

Lee sent along some of his new and improved shorts and we have spent the last month checking them out.  They are a bit shorter and trimmer, but still the built-to-last quality we remember. First, some details on the material and build.

The shorts are made from heavy Duck cloth, which is essentially canvas. Sourced from the finest Japanese mill (he won’t divulge exactly which one), the fabric starts out a bit stiff, but eases into a comfortable, personalized fit.

They are dyed and assembled in America using a wet “vat” process that is softer and longer lasting than dry pigment dying. The pocketing and waistband are made from a soft and smooth poplin and the button fly has been replaced with a zipper. Lastly, the shorts are pre-shrunk using water and dryers only, not chemical shrinkage.

205 laydown The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull LeeAs Lee likes to point out, everyone is trying to sell “your favorite pair of shorts,” but the truth is that it doesn’t work that way. The ones that come, “brand new, but lived in,” have actually been beat into that condition by chemicals. As a result, these pre-lived-in garments often start to disintegrate after a season or two; and not eloquently either.

A real favorite pair shorts has been around for a while. They just sort of know your body; it’s a relationship that takes time to develop. Because the Duck fabric lasts so long, they gave the color a little extra pop so that down the road when they are broken in, the short will still carry those fragile tones with which they started.

In fact, to accurately convey the fabric’s eventual color change, the website’s laydown shots are intentionally dull. Lee said, “it’s not to be misleading, but we feel that we are telling the truth by averaging the color out over it’s lifetime.

This guy lives and breaths shorts. They do pretty cool tees as well, but at it’s heart, Old Bull Lee is trying to turn shorts into a science.

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DC Sock Collection 1024x468 One Last Fathers Day Find: Dapper Classics Socks

We actually introduced you to Dapper Classics, makers of outstanding men’s socks, back in 2013, but wanted to make a return visit as part of our 2014 Father’s Day series.

So, even though Father’s Day has officially passed, OTC is extending it one more day so that we can show you some of Dapper Classics’ snazzy, colorful, and fun socks that are just right for your spring wardrobe. In fact, most of their new Spring 2014 collection was knitted on a brand new linked-toe machine that produces seamless-toe socks that are more comfortable and stylish than your typical dress sock.

Our friends at Dapper Classics have received great feedback on the linked-toe socks, and OTC can report that our own wear testing was a very comfy experience.  This brand remains at the head of the class and an example of focused craftsmanship done right.  Socks are one of those things that either feel right or wrong, and Dapper Classics socks always feel great to us.

We already know that Dapper Classics make some of the finest made in America dress socks out there, and now also mid-calf socks for your casual wardrobe.  What we did not realize was that they could make them even better, which is exactly what they did.

DC Socks3 One Last Fathers Day Find: Dapper Classics Socks

DC Socks2 One Last Fathers Day Find: Dapper Classics Socks

DC Socks1 One Last Fathers Day Find: Dapper Classics Socks