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.

TAD Ranger Hoodie

 

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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2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

It’s that time of year again!

OTC has scoured the market and checked in with our many brand friends, looking for new and different holiday gift ideas. We also sought out products that have a little fun and creativity to boot.

From bags to books, jeans to key chains, shoes to shirts, OTC has something for everyone. We also kept our eyes peeled for great goods at surprisingly affordable prices. So, don’t be surprised if some of our holiday selections cost less than you might expect.

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IN YOUR POCKET

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KeySmart Key Holder
For once, someone put their industrial design education to work for the benefit of mankind. This is a clever and compact way to keep your key keys in one place. Talk about an easy stocking stuffer that can make everyone happy. You cna also purchase an expansion pack to fit extra key, and other handy add-ons.

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Ulterior Motive Slim Wallet
While they make a wide range of wallets and accessories, we love Ulterior Motive’s stylish, slim, and practical card wallet. It’s big enough for four credit cards and a few receipts or some cash in the center pocket. Other than that, the minimalistic design makes carrying the essentials easy and Swedish-ly cool.

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Hodinkee Crocodile Watch Strap
The eponymous blog for all things watch-related has also become home to a growing collection of tightly curated timepiece accessories, including watch rolls for travel, Jewelers loops, and even a watch oriented blue blazer. We suggest you check out their impeccable collection of watch straps to dress up your own family heirloom.

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THE WARDROBE

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Beltcraft Custom Belt
Going custom is something that truly changes your life. So, compliment your MTM suits, shirts, and trousers with a perfect-fit belt. Beltcraft can pretty much create exactly what you want and for a very fair price.

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Sebastian Ward Dress Shirt
While there are many makers of dress shirt on the market these days – from OTR to MTM to full bespoke – Sebastian Ward is something different. It’s a thoroughly modern shirt based on the design philosophies of the 1920s. Elements like a slightly fuller cut in the body, an extra long hem to stay tucked in place, longer arms ending in snug barrel cuffs, and a higher collar stance all make this it an indulgent shirting option. And the fabric – it’s just amazing.

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Cohen & Sons Crew Neck Tee Shirt
Lots of brands claim to make the best tee shirt in the world. As far as we are concerned, Cohen & Sons can back it up with the goods. Classic but trim-ish, super soft, and the perfect fit. We’ll wear ours until it falls apart.

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Bonobos Heritage Chinos
Call them chinos or khakis, but these are some fantastic pants. Classic and traditional on the one hand, but modern and fit-focused on the other. Bonobos is famous for its great fitting trousers and for good reason. These are not grand-dad’s khakis.

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Noble Denim Jeans
Founded by Chris Sutton, Noble Denim is recognized for making some of the finest hand-crafted Made-in-America jeans. Order off the rack, or they can make a custom pair of jeans to fit you perfectly.

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Cobbler Union Shoes
For what you pay, you will simply not find a better pair of shoes. Cobbler Union makes shoes and dress boots that could easily sell for twice what they charge. An affordable slice of genuine luxury and craftsmanship.

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Mountain Khakis Yak Shirt
Yes, a shirt made with Yak wool. It’s warm, comfortable, and feels a bit like Merino wool. It’s also perfect for hanging out by the fireplace with a nice single malt on a cold winter evening.

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MyVice Brooklyn Sweatpants
Whether you plan to head over to the gym or hang out at home, a great comfy pair of sweatpants is a necessity. MyVice makes great fleece pants that that are part sweats, part lounge wear. Loved by celebrities and average folks alike, they come in a plethora of designs and fabrics. We prefer the classic grey Brooklyn.

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CARRY YOUR STUFF

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Benchmark Bags Briefcase
Ever try and find a simple, well made business bag at a fair price? Seek no more, Benchmark Bags created an excellent entry-level briefcase that pairs well with most professional job descriptions. Soft full grain leather outside and a smart collection of pockets and sleeves on the inside; all for a very fair price.

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Sprayground Backpack
Just hear us out. No, this is not the sort of brand you would normally find on OTC. However, crazy skater interior graphics aside, Sprayground make a great everyday backpack for cruising around the city. The smart pocket layouts, big laptop sleeves, a solid build, and thick nylon impressed, and surprised, us. Stick with the solid colors and pass on the Spongebob one; that’s just wrong.

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Frank Clegg Executive Buckle Satchel
Frank Cleggg is the final word on American leather craftsmanship. One of the best out there, Frank designs and crafts his bags and accessories for customers across the globe. The president of the United States even carries a Frank Clegg briefcase. This elegant but masculine day bag is the perfect answer for porting your essentials in style. Beat it up a bit and it will look even better.

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Triple Aught Design Dispatch Bag
For many guys, commuting is a way of life, and finding a good work bag that fits their laptop and sense of style can be a challenge. One of our hands-down tactical brands, TAD created the Dispatch Bag – a perfect balance of operator cool and everyday practicality. Built for the field, it handles your daily office trek with 13 pockets, PALS webbing, and real world-friendly looks.

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FOR THE BOOKSHELF

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Rowing Blazers
Jack Carlson has done more in his young life than you did this morning. As a champion rower and trained archaeologist, he also did it in style. Rowing Blazers is an equally wonderful addition to the library of any fashion aficionado, sports historian, or cultural observer. The stories behind the iconic blazer are interesting, the rowing culture is eloquently captured, and the beautiful photos are timeless.

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Men in This Town
Street fashion photography changed forever when Scott “The Sartorialist” Schumann launched his now omnipresent blog. While many aspiring photographers have sought to emulate his particular brand of in situ framing, few have succeeded. Enter Giuseppe Santamaria, an Australian with a masterful take on menswear. With a masterful eye and quick shutter, his book examines men’s style in London, Tokyo, Sydney, Milan and New York. It’s must have.

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Cartier in the 20th Century
Few brands possess the global cultural force of Cartier. From jewels to timepieces, the name Cartier evokes dreams of luxury and stories instantly that translate into almost any language. Even the iconic red box so associated with the brand is in and of itself an ambassador and advertisement. This book beautifully captures the history and impact of Cartier throughout the 20th Century and is an invaluable resource for those looking to appreciate what brand value really means.

Cartier 20th Century Book

 

Your Guide to Choosing A Wallet

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From billfolds to pocket secretaries, a wallet is one of the most personal items a man carries all day, every day. In addition to credit cards and cash, IDs, and licenses, your wallet is often home to those personal scraps of memory and nostalgia unique to you.

Unlike a favorite bag, shoes, or even the clothes on your back, a wallet is often so personal an accessory that for many men it never crosses their mind to get a new one, unless prompted by sheer necessity.

It’s true for us too. The wallet our editor-in-chief carried for years was from R. Horns, a small leather luxury goods brand based in Vienna, Austria. It is a classic international billfold model with two currency sections and eight credit card slots. The thick yet supple leather is a rich, nutty brown that has darkened with age. It’s distinct in both style and personality, imparted through years of faithful service.

Like many of the personally unique things in one’s life, this wallet would be hard to replace. Sure, a call could be made and a new wallet shipped, but it would not really be the same one, and that’s what makes this type of accessory so special.

Wallet Styles

Still, there comes a time when curiosity or functionality forces one to examine new options. And, as with menswear in general, the options are expanding. The actual form a man’s wallet has changed too much – billfold, pocket secretary, slim, or card sleeve – but the variety of materials and designs within those categories make choosing a new or alternative wallet much more interesting.

Broadly speaking, there are three types of wallets: the pocket secretary (tall and thin, it is designed to fit into the inside pocket of a suit coat; the international billfold (essentially a large square, this is a wide wallet with room for multiple cards and varying currency sizes); and the slim card sleeve (a minimalist wallet designed to hold only a few credit cards and identification).

HB London Breast Wallet

Depending on your needs any one of these gets the job done on a day to day basis. Choosing a wallet today is actually easier than even a few years ago. While women have always had the luxury of a handbag in which to carry their everyday accouterments, men long suffered though bulging pockets and overstuffed wallets.

However, the rapid growth of the men’s everyday bag market means that there is less need to try and fit everything on earth into your back pocket. Your wallet, along with all the other stuff that historically weighed you down, can now be tossed in your bag.

On The Road

A variation on the breast pocket wallet is the travel or zip wallet. Typically oversized and intended to be carried in a bag, rather than on your person, these wallets serve a variety or purposes. From cash to boarding passes, to passports, travel wallets are a sort of one-handed holdall.

We have a fantastic version of this style from New York maker BillyKirk. The No. 217 is a large clutch-style wallet that zips open to reveal card slots; a zippered coin pouch; and space for tickets, currency, and receipts. Do women carry it too? Sure – but we don’t care. It was recommended by a very testosterone-heavy friend who who uses it as a “home base” wallet in his everyday bag.  We often do the same, paired with a simple slotted card case for the more frequently used ID and a metro pass. BillyKirk 217 openAesthetically, it’s a beauty. Daily use has lightened the bright tan belting leather aged into a scarred and worn medium brown. It still gets a lot of compliments, as does BillyKirk’s mastery of simple lines and clean functionality.

Staying Trim

With the wallet now freed up, simplify the things you carry on your person. Opt for that slim card case – as mentioned above – or a pared-down billfold and carry just the necessities – maybe just a credit card, driver’s license, and insurance card.

2014-11-06 08.50.04-1Swedish brand Ulterior Motive makes a range of minimalist card case wallets for when you only need the essentials. They come in a variety of colors and materials, including leather and nylon. While simple and practical, UM’s design and personality show through in the brigh interior linings and occasional signature tag.

American maker Chester Mox (shown at top) offers a range of low-profile wallets that are both practically minimalist and casually elegant. The precise laser-cut designs, perfectly finished leathers, and flawless stitching are a bit mesmerizing. Really, a fantastic brand that should be better known.

Lastly, some men carry their cash in a classic money clip. This elegant option keeps cash separate from your credit cards, which is a good idea when traveling. We have previously delved into the money clip discussion in some detail. Click here to read our article on this timeless accessory.

Whatever type of wallet you choose, in whichever configuration best matches your needs, choose something you really like. A wallet, like all your most personal accessories, should be an investment. So, invest wisely.

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Modern Sterling Money Clip