OTC x Honourmark

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Here at Off the Cuff, we have the privilege of meeting some pretty extraordinary craftspeople. The one thing they all have in common is a deep-seated desire to be the best in their chosen field of expertise. Suits, shirts, khakis, denim, leather goods, footwear, handmade bags, ties, and even grooming supplies.

We founded this site with the goal of helping men find a natural balance between classic, East Coast Ivy League style and the modern, contemporary life we all lead in the world today. To us, this is an expression of love and respect for tradition, combined with an appreciation for the realities of our modern lives. We see it as making the classic practical and even new again.

Unique among the many brands we are honored to call friends is a company especially tied to the original intent of OTC. So, in that vein, we are very exited to announce that OTC is the Brand Ambassador for menswear company, Honourmark.

Honourmark is obsessed with creating casually polished executive-level clothing that meets technical, performance level standards. To us, it’s the epitome of OTC’s mantra:“classic style meets modern life.”

We take this sort of relationship very seriously – which is why we are also publicly announcing it.

Honourmark’s goal, to create exceptional made-in-America garments that celebrate the Monday-Friday lives that all men lead, is born out in their dedication to craft the c-suite equivalent of technical adventure clothing. And yes, that’s a quote from our review of the British Motorcycle Jacket post on Honourmark’s homepage. However, we had nothing to do with it’s prominent selection (thrilled regardless).

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What this means for OTC readers is that, as we have been doing for some time, we will test and review various products, support the Honourmark brand through our social media channels, and occasionally promote special events, such as the current Father’s Day special during which you can save 30% on your order.

We also wear their clothes a lot, because we love their stuff, plain and simple. There is the potential for other OTC x Honourmark activations down the road. Should they come to pass, we will of course clearly disclose them.

While we have and will continue to collaborate with other brands that closely match OTC’s mission, this is our first formal Brand Ambassador relationship and we wanted to make sure you know about it.

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High Marks for Low Boots

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Sometimes we just want something different. As we finally exit the grip of the most recent never-ending winter, it’s time to transition from heavyweight duds to a happier, lightweight wardrobe.

Yet, Springtime is also a season of fluctuation – so the smart man hedges his bets and pulls out some intermediate clothing tools, like the low boot. They come in varying forms and styles – from full dress boot to casual desert suede – but all have the benefit of a design that works with warmer, but sometimes wet, weather.

Low boots are often the forgotten child of men’s footwear, occasionally saddled with the style stigma of the 1970s. But when we think of low or short boots, we think of classics like the Clark’s Desert Boot, a legendary shoe that works with virtually every type of outfit you can put on. So, cast your gaze a little wider and add some truly transitional options to your shoe lineup. (And, by the way, they work just as well in the summer…)

2015-02-24 14.14.10-1Some of our hands-down favorite low boots were made especially for OTC by New York’s Paul Stuart. These made-to-order beauties fit perfectly, of course, and are a pleasure to wear. While such footwear is for many a true luxury, they are also an investment that maintained properly will serve you well – and fit you well – for decades to come.

To be sure, made to order footwear from the likes of Paul Stuart comes not only with a certain cache, but also the attention to fit and design that mark the difference between wearing simply nice shoes and wearing shoes that fit your foot, gait, arch, and shape. As with most things customized just for you alone, it’s  hard to go back to the rack.

Perhaps the most comfortable and stylistically versatile low boot is the iconic Clark’s Desert Boot. From khakis to jeans, shorts to a summer suit, these boots are the one piece of footwear that literally goes with almost anything. The classic suede back is of course the most well know, but these shoes now come a wide variety of finishes, like waxed leather, and colors, including electric blue.

When the weather turns and spring showers take over, a reliable pair of waterproof low boots, like the Rockport City Smart Waterproof Chukka, is a solid companion. The classic design fits with most dressy casual outfits and the innersole shock support technology by Adidas offers cushioning that protects the heel at impact. Rockport says they are, “perfect for the urban professional on the move.” Actually, we agree; these waterproof boots get the job done in comfort and style.

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The Case for a Classic Briefcase

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In today’s world, men carry bags. Be they messenger or backpack, leather or nylon or canvas, formal or casual, we need a good bag. For many of us, a daily commute – even a quick errand – can necessitate a wallet, keys, smart phone, sunglasses, notebook and pen, not to mention innumerable personal knickknacks and talismans.

OTC has had a long running love affair with bags and thinking about the best way to carry the stuff of life. Your bag, and we have need for different types at different times, says something about you, your sense of style and personality, your value of design or craftsmanship, and your thoughts on form and function.

Louis Vuitton Attache CaseTo that end, we propose that you consider – or reconsider – the classic, hard-sided lid over box briefcase. For some this object is the height of old-fashionedness, while others see it as a classic case that carries with it eminent practicality and intellectual masculine swagger. While the briefcase, or attache, is in some ways a visual byword for the era of men in grey flannel suits, it still has the power to impart purpose and purposefulness to your kit.

So, with the burgeoning appreciation for all things classic, heritage, and hand-crafted, let’s take another look on your dad’s (or grand-dad’s) briefcase.

The first thing to understand about a hard-sided briefcase is that using one is commitment. You are making a statement in terms of your style and also in accepting that this isn’t an informal bag you can sling over your shoulder. You quite literally carry it around with you. There is a formality to the briefcase that will set you apart from others and you need to be OK with that. Yet, in today’s world such a stylistic positioning of self is not a bad thing – in some ways it’s sort of liberating.

While technology and the cloud allow for greater mobility and flexibility, the need to have our stuff at hand, since we are so often “on” even when away from the office, requires a mobile office beyond a mere iPhone 6 Plus. If you have need for files and papers, a tablet, your legal pad, pens and the other material of office life, being able to sort and organize your “carrying space” (as one reader dubs it) is more important than ever.

More than other bags, a box briefcase is your portable office and your mobile command center that holds its shape and creates a sense of grounding and place where ever you happen to be. Depending on the size ans style of your briefcase, the commuting convenience factor may certainly be impacted. A leather Frank Clegg messenger bag is of course more convenient on a crowded train. However, a slim Swaine Adeney Brigg briefcase is by no means a heavy lift.

You can find briefcases and attaches in varying sizes and price points. As with any other such investment, try and buy the best quality and construction you can afford. Some have wooden frames, some steel; regardless each element of construction should work towards the goal of a sturdy and balanced lifelong companion. When it comes to filling your briefcase, two factors quickly come into play; weight and capacity.

SwaineAdeneyBrigg_SAB2_MedHandStitchedLidOverBodyAttache_1bBy its nature, a box briefcase is heavier than other bags. and, its structured body does not really allow much flexibility when loading it up for the commute. Therefore, an ability to curate your daily needs is important. Also, the ability to organize and sort, if not inherent should be developed. The size, layout, and capacity of your briefcase comes into play at this point. Slim is elegant and refined but limiting. A large or expandable case (truth be told, we really don’t like the expanding type) allows for more stuff but that also increases size and weight.

We have been testing out the Buroni briefcase from Maxwell Scott (shown at top and below), a British brand. Handmade in Italy on a wooden frame, this box brief is a beautiful and solid example of a classic attache bag.

While it may be slightly larger than some prefer, we appreciate its deep box and snap-out blotter/divider that both keeps items separated and doubles as a firm writing surface. Our review finds it to be a great example of what a briefcase can be, with leather reinforced corners, bound edges, and discreet brass feet. It is a case that’s meant to be used in everyday real life, and that’s what we like to see.

Inside, a roomy light leather lined interior is separated from the well-designed top organization panel and file pockets by the aforementioned blotter. Two sturdy combination locks keep our contents safe.

As with any well crafted briefcase, part of the enjoyment in carrying it is appreciating the craftsmanship and detail that go into these unique and intensely personal objects. There is a reason that for more than 100 years, the British budget is still officially transported from Number 10 to the House of Commons via that little red briefcase.

The choice to carry a hard sided briefcase is personal, for some it will never be a good fit. For others, it’s a meaningful ritual that blend heritage with modern life, and form with function. If nothing else, add one to your bag rotation and make a point of using it. Maybe not every day, but sometimes it’s the perfect fit.

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The Short Guide to Short Coats

As much of the Northern hemisphere finds itself in the grip of a persistently unpleasant winter, we thought it might be a good time to point out some excellent options for short-length warmth.

Shorter coats allow for freedom of movement and a more casual appearance while still providing the warmth and style you need on colder days. From the classic pea coat to tactically inspired fleece, the modern overcoat to a timeless equestrian quilted jacket, shorter options add a degree of flexibility to your wardrobe.

 

TRIPLE AUGHT DESIGN Ranger Hoodie

A fitted fleece jacket that hits at the waist is casual by design and imparts a tactical, rugged, and functional aspect to your look. It’s definitely a casual piece that pairs well with jeans and informal khakis. This TAD jacket, redesigned in 2015, is made from the heaviest weight Polartec®, WindPro fabric available and treated with durable water repellent. The Ranger Hoodie will block four times more wind than a traditional fleece.

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HONOURMARK Quilted Jacket

The quilted riding coat is a classic traditional wardrobe staple that blends elegant practicality with stylish flexibility. As a piece of outerwear, this version from HonourMark works well with dressy corporate casual wear by imparting a sense of landed gentry style. At the same time, the historically functional aspect of the garment, as an insulating layer for gentlemanly outdoor activities, lends a sense of purposelessness that speaks to today’s focus on heritage and authentic design.

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SANYO SHOKAI Gardner 3/4 Coat

This classic business travel coat is a go-to overcoat that pairs equally well with a suit or jeans and a sweater. The button out lining ensures three-season functionality and the mid-thigh length fully covers a suit or sport coat. Sanyo Shokai is a Japanese label that in 2013 launched a fully integrated U.S. presence. Made in America with a Japanese attention to detail and quality.

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RALPH LAUREN Pea Coat

The pea coat is a longtime preppy staple and classic example of civilians adopting military wares in the best of ways. The pea coat, with its distinctive flair, double-breasted closure, and large, protective lapels, was born in the U.S. Navy and finds a perennial home in many menswear collections.

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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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