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

 

OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.00.34 1024x749 OTC Visits Ledbury

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.

2013 07 19 14.00.15 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.07.36 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.00.49 1024x768 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.07.51 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.08.04 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.12.12 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.00.57 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.28.16 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.28.04 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.28.33 OTC Visits Ledbury

2013 07 19 14.28.50 OTC Visits Ledbury

 

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).

DSC 0538 Deo Veritas: The Best Online Custom Shirts

DSC 05621 Deo Veritas: The Best Online Custom Shirts

DSC 0542 Deo Veritas: The Best Online Custom Shirts

DSC 0554 Deo Veritas: The Best Online Custom Shirts

CSHogan w Clegg Bag Deo Veritas: The Best Online Custom Shirts

Fashion360 Small Deo Veritas: The Best Online Custom Shirts

 

 

 

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.