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.

Explore, enjoy, and have a happy holiday season!i

 

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.

Ulterior Motive Nylon Wallet2

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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.

Beltcraft Tuesday Brown Belti

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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.

Sebastian Ward Striped Shirt

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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.

Cohen&SonsBlueCrewNeckTee

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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.

Bonobos Washed Chinos

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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.

Mountain Khkakis Yak Shirt

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.

Frank Clegg Leather Buckle Satcheli

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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

Chester Mox Wallet3
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.

Emmett London Green Folding Wallet_1Chester Mox Wallet2

Modern Sterling Money Clip

 

Khakis: Pants to Live By

 

JD KhakisFor many of us, khakis are the real backbone of our wardrobe. Workplace to casual wear, they go with almost anything, can be dressed up or down, and travel well. In many ways, they are the perfect pants.

Jeans have their place, no question, but khakis have that preppy, laid back good-with-a-sweatshirt-or-blazer thing that’s hard to define.

Choosing the right pair of khakis at the right time is an important challenge for some men, and the risk of looking like a chain restaurant waiter can be a real one. A good way to start the process is to treat your choice of khakis as a grown-up one. Think about this wardrobe staple as you would any other clothing investment and make a smart choice based on quality, fit, style, material, and cost.

When you think about it, unless obligated to wear a suit every day, the go-to staple of most mens’ office wardrobes are khakis. Also referred to as chinos, especially when denoting dressier versions, these ubiquitous trousers are available in myriad styles, from loose and comfortably old school to trim and tailored.

Generally speaking, “khakis” encompass a broad range of pants that fall into a category that traces its lineage to military trousers from the 1940s. American soldiers brought these beloved and functional pants back home and created a trend that eventually morphed into the ironically classic “Ivy League” look. These days, the term encompasses the general style of pant now available in an endless range of colors, finishes, weights, and cuts.

Your own goal with these endlessly versatile pants should be to look dressed up but still comfortably relaxed. Ideally, this translates into khakis that are reasonably trim and have a flat front. While pleats are very much a personal choice, for many men they remain unflattering and dated when applied to casual pants. While they are making a bit of a comeback for suit trousers, the heavier cotton fabric of most khakis cause the pleats to add visual weight and bulk to the wearer’s midsection.

Bonobos in particular makes an excellent range of khakis that employ the brand’s signature curved waist that removed much of the pants bulk. The result is a very comfortable and well-fitting pant that also looks trim and modern.

Khakis_How_To_Wear

Flat front khakis will give you a leaner silhouette and also tend to look dressier. A mid-rise fit and natural waist help to create a comfortable and crisp look. A classic strait or lightly tapered leg continues a more tailored and modern look and allow for a sight break that can work with oxfords or boat shoes. The no-break look favored by some seeking a tailored mod effect can work, but it makes no allowance for error or physical changes, so be forewarned.

In many ways, khakis are the all-purpose chameleons of your daily wardrobe. They can impart both the rumpled comfort of puttering around the library and the freshly pressed crispness of heading off to your office on a brisk fall day, tweed jacket in tow. So, it makes perfect sense to have both tailored and casual versions of khaki pants in the closet. Jack Donnelly makes classic khakis built on the traditional WWII-inspired silhouette, but updated for a contemporary fit.

Seasonality plays a role as well; lighter weight 5.6 ounce fabric are best for warm months just as classic 8.5 ounce pants can be pulled out for the fall and winter.

Khakis also fall into that rare (at least for us) “more is better” category, due to the plethora of colors and finishes available to men today. Try to round out your wardrobe with different shades of khaki – from light putty to deep British tan – and try out some colored varieties like olive, navy, and orange. For the New England purists, who value the classics, a pair of genuine Nantucket Reds from Murray’s Toggery Shop is, of course, mandatory.

 

Triple Aught Design’s FAST Pack Litespeed

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We love a good bag, and we are always on the lookout for a great backpack. Backpacks are versatile, practical, convenient, and leave your hands free to do other stuff. However, in the rarefied air of men’s fashion discourse, “backpack” can be a fightin’ word.

To be sure, OTC is a men’s style and lifestyle resource that focuses on bring together classic style and modern life. And, while it is undeniably classic in form and function, the backpack debate can quickly lead to heated sartorial words. So, to head that imbroglio off at the proverbial pass, let’s clarify a few points.

Backpacks are a fact of modern life, especially for those who commute by public transit on a daily basis. They are also a tool for those among us who need to regularly port more than a wallet and smart phone. They are perfectly designed for casual use; hiking, strolling, shopping, trekking, and dragging around your child’s many supplies.

All that being said, don’t wear a backpack with a suit. Just don’t.

Indeed, there are many sharp, expensive, and finely crafted backpacks that nicely bridge the divide between practical and formal, but that’s besides the point. As a category, they are inherently informal and wearing one with dress or business clothing with cause you to look like a little kid trying to be a grown-up, or a grown-up with little understanding of style and personal presentation.

A backpack will not only ruin the lines and look of a suit coat or blazer, it can ruin them literally as well.  Again, just don’t do it. Messenger bags are a better option on a case-by-case basis, totes and briefcases are fine.

With those caveats out of the way, we present the FAST Pack Litespeed from Triple Aught design. To be sure, no one is going to confuse it with a business bag, which is just fine.  Regardless, this backpack can handle pretty much handle anything you toss its way and look darn cool doing it.

The Litespeed is an everyday backpack for those who like the idea of a one-stop-shop and that looks simultaneously tough and modern. While rugged, it actually has a very low profile and is easy to carry. It’s obvious tactical design and special operator credentials encompass a sensible and well thought out collection of pockets and dividers that make sorting your stuff easy and convenient.

Since it is military-inspired, the Litespeed can be configured and added to so that you can create a truly customized carry design that works best for you. We have tested this bag in a variety of environments, including day hikes, road trips, city excursions, and even Disney World. In each scenario, it met or exceeded our needs.

In terms of construction, the Litespeed is made of MIL-SPEC 1000 Denier Invista Cordura fabric and tough webbing that’s nearly impossible to rip or tear. Hypalon, the same material found on Zodiac boats, is used to reinforce stress points, including the handle and shoulder strap connections.

The pack is also laced with Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) webbing and it’s also compatible with Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) pouches so that you can customize the layout of your gear to suit your changing needs.

The upshot is that this is one handy, cool, functional, and durable backpack for both everyday use and urban or (let’s be honest here) suburban, adventures.

One last but exciting note; Triple Aught just redesigned the Litespeed in several important areas to make it even better. So, take a look and check it out for yourself.

TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed (Black)

TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed Side (Black)

TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed Quarter (Black)

TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed Harness (Black)