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.

 

Invest in: Cobbler Union Shoes

Cobbler-Union_FrancisIIaFootwear is, literally, the foundation of your wardrobe. Well made shoes matter, both in terms of aesthetics and practicality. We have all had the experience of heading out in a new pair of oxfords, trainers, boots, or loafers, only to discover too late that they don’t fit well or have the wrong last; they pinch, slide, shift, or simply feel off.

On the other hand, a pair of shoes that fit well and keep your feet supported and firmly in place, shoes that balance your proportions while also enhancing your wardrobe, are a true joy.

OTC is all about blending classic style with modern life. We love to introduce our readers to new and interesting brands, craft-oriented and heritage companies that might not yet be household name, and makers dedicated to providing men with something new and long-lasting.

Footwear maker Cobbler Union ticks all of those boxes. Their shoes are some of the best examples of ready-to-wear footwear we have come across, outside of a few luxury labels with the leverage to tightly control the quality of their own production operations. As with most examples of exceptional craftsmanship, all takes is one look, smell, or touch to instantly convey the level of quality, materials, and craftsmanship employed by Cobbler Union.

We have been testing the Francis II, a double monkstrap that is an excellent balance between dress and informal. The pebbled calfskin provides a relaxed counterbalance to the otherwise streamlined proportions of this classic shoe. Its Goodyear welted double sole created a sturdy base – literally and figuratively – that grounds the shoe, giving it broader proportions well suited for everyday use.

Cobbler-Union_FrancisIIWe found the Francis’ “City” last just right; its slightly raised arch and supporting heel being a good fit for this type of shoe. Interior finishing is of excellent quality, with full Italian leather lining and  quilted foot bed.

After several weeks of use, the shoes are a favorite and have been paired with everything from Nobile Denim jeans to a custom Aspetto suit. They are those rare breed of dress shoe that you want to wear, indeed look for reasons to wear.

One explanation for this unexpected and unerring level of quality is the team behind Cobbler Union. Founded by actual footwear guys with extensive design and production experience ranging from bespoke to luxury ready-to-wear, they know what goes into shoes costing thousands of dollars.

Translating that deep experience and demanding standards into an equivalent pair of shoes for less than $400, was a challenge. However, dedicated runs and direct lines of communication to suppliers, manufacturers, and industry experts, equals high standards and lower prices. The result is a fully defined collection of footwear that touches on formal dress, business dress, formal casual, and informal casual. The collection, which has limited numbers of each model, is comprised of boots, monkstraps, derbys, oxfords, and loafers. Within each of these broad categories are options that allow for almost every wardrobe necessity.

Cobbler_Union_SolesIt is a complete representation of a brand seeking to carve out its own space in a market that has been growing of late: affordable higher-end footwear marketed directly to consumers. Cobbler Union is different in that the people behind the brand have real experience in the luxury footwear industry and exercise the control and direction needed to produce a product for which they could easily justify a significantly higher price.

Should you have the desire and the funds, Cobbler Union also provides a made to order program. Take any shoe in the collection and rework it to meet your needs and wishes. While there is a minimum surcharge for the service added to the cost of your shoes, it’s a relatively small price to pay for creating some shoes you’ll want to wear for decades to come.

Cobbler Union LogoCobbler Union exemplifies genuine commitment to quality and craft, coupled with a desire to get their products into the hands of men who appreciate lasting relationships. That focus on creating a community of like-minded customers actually informs the company’s name. They see themselves and their customers as a union of cobblers; a brotherhood of men who appreciate and celebrate the art of making great shoes. So, to them, you actually aren’t just another customer – you’re a member of the cobbler’s union.

OTC recommends Cobbler Union without reservation. We hope to test out a pair of their boots at some point, and expect the experience to be no less impressive.

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The Rowing Blazers Tie, Get Yours

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When Jack Carlson penned Rowing Blazers, he created a unique and elegant anthology of the hard-charging yet tradition-bound rowing culture.

An instant classic, it’s a welcome edition to any gentleman’s classic style and menswear library. The book also showcases the vibrant and eccentric designs of the world’s rowing clubs’ historic and in some cases, iconic, blazers.

As a personal homage to his love of the sport and appreciation of its history and culture, Jack began doodling mini blazers in his spare time; different colors, different designs, different badges. Just for fun.

Well, that pastime turned into a personal talisman when he had a one-off version of the necktie made and then sported it in his Rowing Blazers book. It proved a bit of an obsession with some readers asking where they too could get one.

Well, now you can – at least for a brief time.

Get your own limited edition Rowing Blazers Necktie and channel your inner oarsman. It looks pretty cool in the picture above and even nicer in person. The one Jack sent us is a fantastic heavyweight silk navy twill, made in England, and looks great with just about anything. The blazers are amazingly detailed and each one has a personality all its own.

This is a special tie and we love it – an heirloom that’s a unique as it is a bit of preppy inspired fun.

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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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