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

 

Halibut Shirts: Italian for “Fun”

Halibut FIFA Oxford 2 Halibut Shirts: Italian for Fun
Halibut is an Italian shirting brand that combines a genuine love of design and craftsmanship with an equally disarming sense of fun and whimsy.  Their name is a bit quirky and the logo seems destined for sandy beaches somewhere, but don’t let that party schtick fool you; Halibut makes very good shirts and the company takes its business seriously.

Founded by five friends, the company is based in Padua, not too far from Venice. All their shirts are designed in-house, crafted in Italy, and sold through the brand’s e-commerce site. With varied international backgrounds, the team focuses on fabric development, design tweaks, and a particular attention to detail that sets Halibut shirts apart form others in “dressy casual” space. The shirts’ designs are grounded in traditional American and European sensibilities, but possess a fresh and innovative streak that is evident right away.

Halibut Logo Halibut Shirts: Italian for FunCase in point is our FIFA World Cup 2014 tribute oxford.  First off, let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact an oxford shirt was created to pay homage to the world’s most important football (or soccer, depending on your preference) match. Hats, balls, shoes, and tees? Of course. An American style preppy dress shirt? Now, that’s something interesting. Rendered in a dense, smooth cotton, the unique hand – gently worn-in and instantly comfortable – is a hallmark of Halibut’s fabric-centric touch.

The clever pattern of embroidered national logos is at once cute and casually stylish. We see this as an international version of Brooks Brother’s iconic preppy fun shirt. Since the shirt itself is decoration enough, it’s best worn open collared. And the collar itself, a form of hybrid club, compliments the casual form of the shirt; unstructured yet substantial and its smaller size nicely balances the garment’s informal, slim cut. The fit is indeed very fitted. Described as a slim cut, the body is quite lean but the sleeves are well proportioned and comfortable.

The third button down is an enameled riff on the company’s swirl logo and again points to a certain deliberate irreverence. However, the shirt itself is no joke. With a growing selection of styles, from solids to checks to washes, Halibut’s clear focus on material, design, quality, and construction make for fun, casual shirts that are also all business. Even if that business is just kicking the ball around in your yard with a nice cold drink in your hand.

Halibut FIFA Oxford 1 Halibut Shirts: Italian for Fun

Halibut FIFA Oxford 3 Halibut Shirts: Italian for Fun

Halibut FIFA Oxford 4 Halibut Shirts: Italian for Fun

 

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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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