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While familiarity may breed contempt, exclusivity can engender affinity, curiosity even. To wit, where Ralph Lauren may suffer the slings and arrows of ubiquity and accusations of wannabe-classism, clothing brands known to only a few often retain genuine affection and social pull.

Such is the case with American clothing label, Boast.

First, a botany lesson; it’s a Japanese Maple leaf. Really. Second, a little history. To anyone who grew up around a country club in the 1970s and ’80s, Boast was that brand. Playing tennis on the dusty clay courts, all the cool guys wore Boast polo shirt or shorts. Racquetball (perhaps the WASPiest of all sports)? A Boast headband or socks. That leaf logo was, in an exclusive sort of way, ever present, which makes it that much more interesting.

So many brands like to try and build a preppy/vintage/heritage culture off a near-nugget of truth. Others create from whole cloth a background that somehow grounds them in Americana or Ivy League culture. Boast doesn’t need to; it’s the real deal.

Created in 1973 by a group of Ivy League All-American squash and tennis players, including the tennis pro at Greenwich, Connecticut’s Field Club, Boast was an American answer to fancy European sportswear that was at the time dominating the pro shop market. Selling from the back of a station wagon, they grew the brand into a staple of leading country clubs. If you played squash or tennis, you knew Boast.

Boast_Greg_NormanFrom there, the brand grew and was adopted by a certain strata of society and the sports world. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, iconoclasts everywhere were wearing Boast, from John McEnroe on the court to Greg Norman on the links to George W. Bush stumping for his dad. Boast, in no small part due to people misconstruing the leaf logo, was seen a badge of individualism and irreverence- yet almost always within the context of the upper crust.

That, of course, was the hook that kept the brand within a circle of a certain culture. You only really knew about Boast if you ran in the country club crowd at some level. And sporting Boast displayed your edgy independence to a familial menage that would metaphorically nod its head and, with a little wink, grab another G&T or Bloody Mary and mosey on over to the 19th Hole.

Boast never really went away, but it never really grew beyond what it was. And that’s OK. Boast was always about culture and people more than commercialization. Then, with some new owners at the helm determined to preserve all that makes it unique, Boast was re-born in 2012. It was, and still is, a brand for folks who appreciate grabbing a beer or two after a match, not a sustainably-sourced-gluten-free-vegan-detoxyfying-power-smoothie.

These new owners cherish the brand’s history and the philosophy behind what makes it such a special slice of American sportswear.

We tested out a few Boast items over the past couple of weeks and are more than happy to say that Boast is still very much a classic, country club inspired brand that is meant to be worn every day.Boast _Solid-Pique-Polo-Navy-580x580The classic Boast polo shirt is a blast from the past – 1985 (or thereabouts) to be specific. Thick cotton with some real texture, just like they used to be. Want enzyme washed and broken in? Not here. You’ll have wear this shirt to break in, thank you very much. And we like that, because it’s a polo that you are going to wear for years to come and cherish the work it took to build some personal character. It’s made to last and if that means you don’t need to buy another for some time, they’re cool with that.  It even has an old-school drop tail hem; love it.

We also have the navy Pique Sport Coat. It’s like wearing a blue blazer made from your polo shirt. How preppy is that?

Boast_Pique_Sport_Coat_Navy2-580x580This version was inspired by a jacket Boast made as a one-off collaboration with Andy Spade. That collaboration, Boast X Mr. Ned, was dreamed up by Partners & Spade of which Mr. Spade is a principle. Mr. Ned is a beloved tailor in Manhattan where the likes of acclaimed director Wes Anderson have their suits made.

The original was constructed from a heavy navy canvas with red elbow patches. It took a while to break in and literally creased when he bent his arms, but everyone loved it and asked for it. After a little tinkering, this easier to wear version emerged. Patch pockets and unlined with baby blue taped seams. Like if a blazer and a cardigan had a child; informally dressy. If Mory’s still had a jacket rule, this would be what you wore to brunch after a morning workout at Payne Whitney.

Boast is a slice of real American Ivy League, preppy, East Coast, country club life you can wear. That leaf may be mistaken for a lot things, but not for being a poser. Grab a cocktail, grab a seat, and hang out for a little while.

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Aran Irish Sweaters: Did You Know?

Aran sweaters are classic winter wear for generations of Irish men and women. But do you know what makes them so special?

Quill’s Woollen Market, a family run business established in 1938 and source of all things Irish, has created this handy graphic to answer all your pressing Aran questions.

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The Recon AC Short from Triple Aught Design

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Triple Aught Design is a brand dedicated to creating tactical inspired gear and clothing that works in the real world. Truth be told, for some of their customers that world may very well be a covert mission somewhere in the darker reaches of the planet. However, for the rest of us it typically hovers somewhere around our kid’s soccer practice, the daily commute, or heading out for a weekend hike.

We are fans of Triple Aught’s ability to marry the cool factor of something truly designed to handle SEAL-worthy adventures with the practicality of everyday use. Bags that work for everyday commuting – at least for casual commuters – and outerwear that’s urban adventurer functional without being overly commando looking. There is a fine line between appreciating a product’s military inspiration and looking like you’re playing dress-up. Forgiving the sometimes over-top-product narratives, Triple Aught walks that line especially well.

A great example of this blend of styling and practicality is present in the Recon AC Short. It’s still shorts weather out there, and these have become a favorite when dressing up is not a requirement. Placed somewhere between casual wear and outdoor gear, the Recon Short is comfortable, practical, unstructured, and endlessly functional.

The dense yet remarkably soft material is called Amphibious Cloth, hence the “AC,” and is a durable and lightweight nylon fabric. The shorts feature inset zippered cargo pockets with internal attachment points, with a total of nine pockets all together; signature bar tack reinforcements at stress points, triple-needle stitching for increased durability, and a gusseted crotch that provides freedom of motion.

With a stylishly neutral and comfortable design, these are indeed shorts that can hit the road or the trail with equal aplomb. But, we also think they work just fine for sailing on the Cape, a heavy day of yard work, or simply hanging out with your dog.

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Father’s Day Find: Equmen Fitwear

equmenLooking for something new to add to the undershirt drawer? Sydney, Australia-based Equmen has ventured into the brave new world of men’s compression garments; a.k.a, “shape wear.”

While more familiar at the gym, these products are designed for everyday wear. We like to refer tothis category as “fitwear.”

Their core compression singlet style undershirt which we tested helps support your body, including your back, shoulders, and stomach. It is made from an engineered compression fabric and has an ergonomic design meant to optimize health and well-being, from the boardroom to the running track.

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The singlet’s design gently pulls your shoulders back to help provide better postural and reduce back pain. The unique mesh fabric cools your body by wicking away heat and moisture. The fabric also has embedded anti-microbial properties that help you feel fresh throughout the day.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the second-skin fit of the Equmen singlet provides targeted compression and does indeed visibly slim for a more tailored look. “Compression” is a key word here, so be aware that it’s an unusually snug fit if you are not used to this type of garment. However, we found it to be generally comfortable and fine for all-day wear.

The product’s HELIX-MAPPING™ technology has built-in physiotherapy techniques that are designed to help your body with support and healthful compression.

After testing it out for some time, we have to agree that it does a pretty good job.

So, yes gentleman, if you are looking for men’s shape wear, it does indeed exist. And, Equmen is a great place to start.

 

Go Take A (Day) Hike

Now that the endless winter weather that has gripped much of the Northern hemisphere appears finally to be receding, it’s time to head outside for some much needed sunlight and fresh air.  One of the great pleasures of outdoor activities, apart from actually being active, is acquiring new equipment and gear designed for your back-to-nature inspired endeavors.

Purpose-built bags, clothing, and accessories help to orient your thinking and get you in the mood for day hikes, longer runs, or just an urban adventure to the cool section of town.

We have had the pleasure of recently checking out a few pieces from three great performance-driven brands; Granite Gear, Vasque, and Timex.  While they do possess a certain color-coordinated outdoor performance look, it was pure – if inspired – coincidence.  And, although each has great technical eye appeal, what ultimately matters is how the products perform.

DSC_0607We have actually been testing out the Timex Expedition Shock Chrono Alarm ($58) for about two months and find it to be a fantastic timepiece for everyday informal and active wear, be it working out, running, hiking, or any other activity where the possibility of deliberate or accidental watch abuse exists.

The moderately-sized watch is very lightweight but also sturdy and extremely comfortable on the wrist.  Its soft rubber strap is flexible, unlike the G-Shock’s, and gently hugs your wrist, keeping the watch in place without bulk.  A pleasingly functional case, clear and easy-to-read negative display, and one-touch Indiglo illumination, all make this a true favorite.

The Granite Gear Athabasca 24 day pack ($129.95) is another item that combines technical capability with functionally cool style.  First and foremost, this company makes gear for use in the actual great outdoors.

Athabasca 24Every strap, tab, zipper, pocket, and loop on this bag is there for a reason and built to withstand the abuse of serious backwoods tracking.  At the same time, their days packs are infused with features that work in a more urban, less mountainous environment.

The sturdy hip belt, perfect for supporting a fully loaded back for an afternoon on the trail, is also removable for everyday commuter use.  There is a sleeve designed for a hydration insert that doubles a secure slot for a small laptop, and an easily accessible outer pocket is equipped with key lanyard and assorted pockets.

A good pair of sturdy shoes is vital to a comfortable and safe trek, whether on a trail or down the block.  These Vasque Grand Traverse kicks ($129.95) are a nice hybrid multi-sport shoe designed to handle true back country trails and daily errands with ease.  It’s the performance of a hiking boot wrapped in the comfort of an athletic shoe.

The dual-density EVA footbed and molded EVA midsole provide superior support over rough terrain while the Vibram® Ibex sole gives you stability and grip, even on wet pavement.  It’s even a comfortable choice for going sockless and walking the dog on a warm evening – we’ve tried it.

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