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

 

Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

Prince Harry and NAcho Figueras Navy Blazer Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

Perhaps more than any other male garment, the traditional blue blazer is the backbone of any serious wardrobe. As versatile pieces go, it stands head and shoulders above almost any other piece of tailored clothing, and with good reason.

When it comes to meeting your needs in a sartorial pinch, the navy blazer is chameleon-like. From casual cocktails to formal boardroom, a well-made, well-fitting blazer will get the job done.

When they hear “blue blazer,” many men tend to think “yacht captain.” The jacket sparking this dreaded stereotype would be the most classic version of the blue blazer, featured in any number of Ralph Lauren ads or episodes of Gilligan’s Island (see: Howell III, Thurston). Of course, this incarnation is also the most traditional execution of the form, and as such is a generally viewed as a particularly dressy garment.

A more accurate historical context of the blue blazer lies in its adoption by the crew of HMS Blazer as a means to smarten up their formal dress. Since then, the ethos of the blue blazer has always held fast to its nautical roots, even as it was adopted by rowing clubs which gave birth to myriad variations of color, pattern, trim, piping, and badges.

Its classic design and balance of dress and function, formality and functionality, make the core elements of the blazer universally appealing and long lived. It is one of the most iconic and enduring examples of male habiliment.

Rowing Blazers Facebook Image Basics 101: The Blue BlazerMost recently, that offshoot cousin of the navy blazer, the rowing blazer, has been celebrated in an extravagant new coffee table book, “Rowing Blazers.” Written by  champion rower, Jack Carlson, with outstanding photography by our friend F.E. Castleberry, it is a celebration of the jacket itself, and the culture and stylistic influence it has spawned in both the worlds of fashion and sport. Although it occupies a specific place of influence in today’s menswear, the blue blazer comes in a range of fabrics and styles that can work with almost anyone’s style – from lightweight linens to beefy flannels, in deep navy all the way to pale sky blues.

As the king of odd jackets, a blue blazer can also fill the gap when you need to dress somewhere between a suit and a sweater, regardless of the season. It is in that vein that we here at OTC generally tend to think of the blue blazer as an informal piece of clothing. While any sport coat or odd jacket is by cultural definition formal when compared to a hoodie, for example, viewed through the lens of tailored clothing or even office casual, a blue blazer’s versatility means that it can dress up jeans and a worn-out oxford or tee shirt just as easily as it can dress down khakis and a repp tie.

Styles vary as much as material. Some blazers have horn or resin buttons and they can come with single, double, or no vents. Single breasted jackets typically sport notched lapels while double-breasted versions should have only those of the peaked variety.

With its nipped waist and dramatic massing of buttons, a double breasted blazer naturally imparts formality and command. On the other hand, a single breasted sack jacket with no darting and patch pockets can easily project a more casual “drinks at the club,” New England estate look.

Classic Navy Blazer Look Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

When it comes to shoulders, the variations are typically grounded in cultural patterns. American blazers typically have a soft natural shoulder, while English tailors tend to prefer them padded and more structured. This is particularly true with double breasted jackets; the shoulders of which can increase (padded) or diminish (natural) its sense of formality. Historically, American makers such as Brooks Brothers are arbiters of the natural shoulder.

When shopping for a blue blazer, approach it as a major investment. This should be a jacket that can carry you for years to come and something that you are happy to reach for in the morning. A well-constructed blazer made from good fabric will be as comfortable as your favorite sweatshirt and its classic styling will conquer the vagaries of many fashion cycles. That said, you do not necessarily have to break the bank when it comes to finding one that’s right for you – unless you want to.

Mass market brands like J. Crew have spent years perfecting their version of the blue blazer and in the process have converted it into a $425 hipster cool must-have wardrobe asset. At the other end of the pricing and delivery time spectrum, bespoke clothier Jon Green can make you a perfectly fitted, hand-cut blue blazer for a few thousand dollars. You will never want to take it off, ever.

In the end, the blue blazer works because of its inherent versatility and balance between formal and comfortable. It’s one of those rare garments that both stands the test of time and evolves to meet the needs of each generation.

Below are some additional examples of how you can take the blue blazer from street, to office, to drinks, to country club:

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Emmett London Navy Linen 3 Emmett Shirts: English Style Meets British Flair

Typically, when one considers Jermyn Street, London’s storied home to menswear’s bespoke luminaries,  a particular expectation comes to mind. Elegance, craftsmanship, detail, and tradition. While all of these traits still hold true for the area’s established labels, some are working hard to bring Jermyn Street a little excitement, to boot.

Emmett Shirts is one of those firms that infuses classic style with contemporary flair. Nothing crazy, mind you; their business shirts are of a modern but perfectly acceptable cut. However, Emmett’s casual shirting typically sports unexpected elements, such as a signature contrasting under-cuff fabric. Founded in 1992 by tailor Robert Emmett, his designs seek to uphold the traditions of Jermyn Street tailoring, while at the same time embracing a fresh approach to dressing modern men.

Each shirt range is offered in a limited edition of 25 and new styles are introduced weekly. In addition to it’s ready-to-wear shirts, Emmett offers a popular Made to Measure service (in-shop only). In addition, they sell fine accessories, including handmade leather goods, ties, cufflinks, and even boxer shorts. The company has three stores in London and a robust e-commerce portal on its website.

OTC was already familiar with Emmett when they reached out for us to review some items; the British X Factor’s Dermot O’Leary being a customer. Emmett sent along a slim-fit navy Zepher Linen casual shirt and a buttery soft green leather wallet. Both items easily met and exceeded our expectations in terms of craftsmanship, quality, and usefulness.

The navy Zepher Linen shirt with a contrasting black under-cuff is a perfect casual summer shirt that balances dressy and casual. And, the slim fit is indeed slim, but proper washing and air drying prevented any shrinkage.

Emmett London Green Folding Wallet 1 Emmett Shirts: English Style Meets British FlairThe wallet has become a true favorite. Hand crafted in Florence, Italy, it is a classic eight-card model with two currency pockets. A unique feature is the divider for the currency pockets; typically grosgrain with leather trim, this one is completely leather. A functional, as well as stylistic, touch that increases durability and adds a measure of craftsmanship, since it some creates no additional bulk.

This is the kind of brand we love to hear about and promote, because it has a sense of personality and individuality. At the same time, there is a respect for history and quality and a dedication to craft. Last but not least, Emmett may be rightly serious about it’s reputation and products, but it does not take itself too seriously.

Emmett London Navy Linen 2 Emmett Shirts: English Style Meets British Flair

Emmett Business Emmett Shirts: English Style Meets British Flair

Emmett Open Collar Emmett Shirts: English Style Meets British Flair

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DSC 05961 Fathers Day Find: Birchboxs Grooming Best

Birchbox knows how to track down the best when it comes to interesting and effective men’s grooming products.

For Father’s Day we highly recommend stocking up on these winners. Women have known all along that taking care of your skin and having a smart grooming regimen helps to keeps your body in shape and you feeling better about yourself.

So, have some fun and pick out a few items for your favorite dad.  Birchbox has an extensive inventory of grooming goods for guys. As for this selection, we have tried them all and our faces, hair, and significant others all thank us for it.

English Laundry 3-in-1 Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash

 

Herbivore Botanicals Bamboo Charcoal Bar Soap

 

stubble & ‘stache Face Moisturizer and Beard Conditioner

 

Davines Naturaltech Energizing Shampoo

 

MiN New York Wash Active Hair Care Shampoo

 

Essential Elements Wake Up Rosemary Shampoo

 

DSC 06031 Fathers Day Find: Birchboxs Grooming Best DSC 05991 Fathers Day Find: Birchboxs Grooming Best

 

 

 

Father’s Day Find: Bull+Moose Ties

DSC 0534 Fathers Day Find: Bull+Moose Ties

We are big fans of neckwear brand Bull+Moose, and have actually worked with them on a few projects, most notably the fantastic Art of Style event earlier this year.

B+M’s new Spring 2014 collection hits just the right note for the perfect Father’s Day tie; slim but not skinny, fun without being goofy, and exceptionally well made.  And, if you act now, take 20% off your order using the “fathersday” code at checkout.

B+M ties are modern in the best of ways and work equally well with a suit or jeans and a sport coat. They also make a nifty white-on-white seersucker pocket square that screams warm weather style.  It’s a nice, unique touch to your Spring wardrobe, as an accent to a full outfit or a spot of style for casually hitting the town for an evening drink.

With styles that range from gently mottled blue chambray to a retro floral with pops of color on a dark background, there are many B+M options to suit different dads any day of the year.  You can opt for neck ties or bow ties in most styles and know that a portion of your purchase price goes to support the Got Your 6 organization; a group close to the heart of this veteran-owned business.

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20140516 Art of Style TH VP094 Fathers Day Find: Bull+Moose Ties