OTC Visits Ledbury

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Ledbury, the Richmond, Virginia, clothing brand best known for its exceptionally well-crafted shirts, is in expansion mode.  Founders Paul Trible and Paul Watson, who met while in graduate school at Oxford – and apprenticing with one of London’s well-known tailors.  They were committed to creating  an American tailored clothing brand with Saville Row quality, geared toward modern, discerning customers.  Located in a renovated tobacco warehouse built in 1866, Ledbury’s home base appropriately atmospheric and refined; it’s grounded in the past but re-imagined for today’s world.

Ledbury’s shirts are great-fitting, high-quality and can be worn in almost any setting and, as they like to say, “by any generation.”  The company’s collections are influenced by the studied tailoring of English tradition as well as the relaxed atmosphere of the founders’ Southeast U.S. roots.

Fabrics are sourced from Italian mills and all of their shirts are made in one small factory that has refined its craftsmanship through generations.  This focus on quality, comfort, and relaxed yet refined style shows through in the product.  There are a few features that make Ledbury shirts unique.  The fabrics are substantial but not heavy and possess a distinct drape and hand.  Details like thick mother-of-pearl buttons and specially sewn collars that hold their shape tie or not, all combine to create a great design. The shirt’s second button is dropped just enough to create a flattering “V” when worn without a tie.

2013 07 19 14.09.22 300x224 OTC Visits LedburyWhile we prefer the slim cut shirt – which is slim, not skinny – even the brand’s classic fit has an overall trimness that creates a flattering look for most men.

Ledbury also offers a range of tailored blazers, sweaters, and accessories that compliment their signature shirting.  For example, the crew neck sweaters have necks designed to be worn over a collared shirt and allow for a more comfortable and attractive fit.  The distinctive Free Union Belt is another Ledbury item that has received a fair amount of attention. It’s clever quick release lever, combined with a refined rustic aesthetic makes for a unique and locally hand made heirloom.

OTC stopped by their Richmond headquarters over the summer to check out the new retail space as well as their operations and design center.  Some of the items in these photos will be past season – like the swim trunks – but whatever Ledbury puts out, rest assured that it is bound to carry their signature American classic/elegant/casual style.

This is a smart company that is managing its growth and capital wisely; it’s got two businessmen at the helm after all.  So, when you combine smarts with a passion for a new sense of what American sportswear (in the traditional sense) means, the result is a brand that has some real potential.  And the Pauls are managing that potential in a way that slowly builds a brand focused on reputation and product – not hype or trends.

We see Ledbury as a transitional company that is part of a movement that is redefining American style for a global audience.  And that doesn’t just mean customers in other countries, although we are not surprised that the Japanese love Ledbury.  Americans who look to brands like Ledbury for design and quality also like them because they take what is best about American heritage and blend it with things like English construction and detail and Italian fabrics and fit.  They play with the basics to evolve clothing and design in a way that meets consumer desire and also retains classic elements.

The Ledburys of today’s menswear resurgence make what makes American style, better.

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Deo Veritas: The Best Online Custom Shirts

DSC 0557 Deo Veritas: The Best Online Custom Shirts

Deo Veritas makes custom shirts and as far as we are concerned, theirs are some of the finest OTC has reviewed.  From fabric to fit to construction to detail, the product is exceptional and perhaps the closest to bespoke we have found.

Established in 2007, this Chicago-based company is focused on providing outstanding shirting, perfecting the customer experience, building out their market presence, and refining an already user-friendly website.  And, we discovered that the brand’s stated goal of combining, “old world craftsmanship with 21st century technology to provide you with the best looking and fitting shirts you’ll find anywhere,” is not mere hyperbole.  The crisp and precise nature of the flawless single-needle stitching, for example, speaks to this maker’s attention to detail and focus on execution.

Deo Veritas (Latin: “In God there is truth”) makes a shirt that can stand toe-to-toe with any premium high street label.  We did our own side-by-side comparison with a couple of well recognized name brand shirts and were truly taken by Deo Veritas’ notable superiority in fabric quality, construction, finishing, and fit.

That last point – fit – is perhaps an unfair point of comparison as it is a Made to Measure product.  However, the quality of that fit is better than almost any other MTM shirt OTC has tested, let alone an Off the Rack shirt, high end or not.  However, with all that being said, the sizing option we chose for this particular shirt was actually the “standard” tool.  So, in fact, it is more similar to an OTR shirt than a MTM shirt, which makes it that much more impressive.

For this shirt, we opted for an Italian light blue gingham check, by Ferno, which is a more expensive fabric.   Of particular note are the many options from which a customer can choose and which allow him to create a truly customized garment.  The choices include sewn collar construction, for which we opted, several collar choices, and distinctive plackets for both the shirt and sleeve.  To be sure, many other retailers offer similar combinations; but what matters is the finished product. And here, Deo Veritas wins out handily.

While OTC reviews a fair number of brands and products, we do not make these types of pronouncements lightly.  But in this case, Deo Veritas delivered and then it delivered some more (and well within the stated 28 days, worldwide promise).

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Concord Button Downs2 Concord Button Downs: The New Old School ShirtIt should come as a surprise to no one that far too often form trumps function in the fashion world.

Creating something in the “style” a timeless classic is more important than actually creating something that will last long enough to become a classic. “Inspired by” is often a phrase that makes our warning flag go up.

Take the humble but indomitable oxford cloth button down shirt, “OCBD” to the preppy cognoscenti. It is perhaps the quintessential American garment, regardless of the fact that it was in fact brought to America by John E. Brooks, as in Brooks Brothers, in 1896. While taking in a polo match, Brooks was captivated by the non-flapping shirt collars worn by the English polo players. To prevent them from being whipped in the face during full-speed gallops, the riders’ collars were held in place by small buttons.

Brooks took the concept back to the States and created his own version. Thus was born the legendary Brooks Brothers button-down polo collared shirt, perhaps the most famous version of the now iconic garment.

While Brooks’ OCBD is perhaps the emotional standard-bearer of the trad-iest of all Trad garments, it is not necessarily perfect, or for that matter, what it once was. Taking this as a starting point, Dan Castelline, founder of Concord Button Downs set about the task of creating a seriously old-school, like-your-dad-wore OCBD.

Constructed from 100% untreated cotton oxford cloth, these shirts are meant to be passed down father to son and worn into the ground. Founded in Concord, Massachusetts, Castelline sought out local seamstresses to cut and assemble the shirts.  While the fabric is imported, all production is not only kept in America, but also kept in New England.

To ensure that each shirt meets specific criteria, a 65-step process covers every detail of construction. By incorporating old-school characteristics found in traditional prep school attire with updated shirting details and silhouettes, Concord Button Downs’ shirts reflect a modern take on this wardrobe staple.

While the overall cut is traditional, extra fabric has been trimmed from the waist and hips, eliminating the typical blousing effect of a full-cut shirt. The result is a trim fit that is neither slim nor skinny, but realistic and comfortable.

Collar points have been slightly lengthened to achieve a more balanced look and the collar itself is constructed without interlining or fusing. This creates a shirt collar that is soft and able to form a natural full roll. Additionally, each collar is attached by hand. Together, these elements allow the collar to be “turned” once it reaches a well-worn and frayed state, should you choose to keep it fresh looking. Now that’s New England sensibility for you.

Concord Button Downs Logo Concord Button Downs: The New Old School ShirtThe distance between the collar button and second button was also increased, which presents a more natural look when not wearing a necktie.

While there is no visible logo up top, the company does make a clever and subtle concession to branding that we happen to like. Their Minuteman emblem is stitched on the bottom of the shirt’s inside placket and is visible only when the shirt is worn un-tucked.

We love these shirts, and while we hope that sizing will eventually expand to neck/sleeve gradations, for us, Medium is just right. They are not inexpensive, but these OCBDs are meant to be a lifelong investment, and when viewed in that light, $128.00 is a deal.

We also want to add that on a personal note, Dan is an impressive young guy. Starting your own business at a young age is one thing, and actually getting a foot into the garment industry is another one all together. But talking on an iconic and frankly interchangeable product like the button down oxford takes some guts.

In our opinion, Concord Button Downs has indeed succeeded in crafting a shirt that you should have in your closet. Actually, you should have several of them in your closet.


Thomas Pink Refreshes its Brand

Thomas Pink, the venerable British clothing company most famous for its iconically English shirts, recently launched a thorough re-branding.  Embracing its Britishness like never before, they have deftly combined classic Art Deco polish with Jermyn Street tradition.

The refreshed brand now sports Union Jacks and the Cheeky Fox, reinforcing the transitional heritage that underlies the company’s history.  The shirts are updated too – cut slimmer to match the style sensibilities of today’s customers.  Although most folks associate Thomas Pink with its famous shirting, they also provide outstanding made-to-measure suiting, sport coats, sharp accessories, and fun socks.

OTC was recently invited by Thomas Pink’s PR team to visit the new Tyson’s Galleria store; images below.  We were impressed with the fresh yet vintage take on retail design, the classic riding kit gracing the front entrance, and the clever shadow box shelving that both defines the store’s space and highlights interesting pieces.

In fact, we are so impressed that we’ll be doing a follow-up post on some great Spring looks, courtesy of Thomas Pink.


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Hall & Madden: Shirts Just for You

collar Hall & Madden: Shirts Just for You

If there is one trend in menswear today bringing about real change in both how guys dress and how they shop, it is customization.  Depending on your outlook, the ability for a man to purchase clothing that fits just right and do it online is either a godsend or a tragedy.

For some in the fashion literati, fixated on the minutiae of bespoke and “true” custom, the rise of online custom clothing is mildly distressing.  To these folks, the only kind of custom clothing that matters is that which takes time, requires multiple visits to a tailoring atelier, and costs more money than most people are prepared to spend on a suit or a shirt.

HM Photo11 Hall & Madden: Shirts Just for YouFor the rest of us, the ability to get clothing that fits us just right, at an affordable price, and in a timely fashion is groundbreaking.  In many ways, it has re shaped the fashion expectations of stylish guys across the world.  And one small brand is working hard to ensure that they deliver not only affordable style to their customers but also outstanding clothes you will wear for a long time.  And, with that kind of starting point, it is easier than ever to start building a fresher, renewed wardrobe that better reflects your own sense of style and also fits you better.

The detail-obsessed team of co-founders Richard Hall and McGregor Madden has developed an efficient and quality-focused model that allows them to deliver extremely high quality men’s shirts at seriously affordable prices.  The new concept, Hall & Madden, is a web-based brand that makes some of the highest quality dress shirts to be found.  These guys have done to shirting what they did to suiting with their other brand, Proper Suit.  Hall & Madden shirts are equal to if not better than some of the most expensive off-the-rack shirts out there – and a few custom labels to boot.

Hall & Madden does not make custom shirts.  Instead, they have a set collection of three core shirt designs – slim, athletic, and classic – that reflect most body types. The consistent styling across these models reflects a clean and modern sensibility.  While one can certainly wear a tie with these shirts, the collar style, a shortened hybrid spread, was specifically selected for it’s ability to look great without one.

fabric Hall & Madden: Shirts Just for YouWith a variety of fabrics and patterns, these shirts are outstanding.  And, delivered in sets of three for $150, they are a remarkable bargain.

The web-based company takes a vertical integration approach to business, so these shirts are designed, manufactured, and shipped through Hall & Madden’s value chain.  This operational advantage is reflected in the price and in the focus on quality and service.

When we asked co-founder McGregor Madden to highlight the advantages of Hall & Madden shirts, he noted that the business model was geared for busy customers who see the benefits of outsourcing.  Their customers don’t’ have to hop in the car and head out to the store.  Guys get shirts when they need them and skip the mall and hassle, saving time and money.

Each subscriber gets access to a team that will help round out their wardrobe and fast, free shipping.  The kind of quality they sell could easily go for $165 or more per shirt.  The sizing is similar to Hugo Boss, and because the fit is predictable, customers know exactly what they are getting.

Madden also likes to point out that with Hall & Madden, there is no buyer’s remorse.  All their shirts are always sold at the same low price all the time.

We can say that from our perspective, Hall & Madden is a refreshing change from the ordinary.  We expect that our closet will be Hall & Madden territory from this point forward.

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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Dyson via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Dyson.