Basics 101: The Blue Blazer

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

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

The blue blazer is universally useful and when it comes to meeting your needs in a sartorial pinch, it is chameleon-like. From casual cocktails to formal boardroom, a well-made, well-fitting blazer will get the job done.

Now, when they hear “blue blazer” most men tend to think “yacht captain.” The jacket sparking this dreaded stereotype would be the classic blue blazer featured in any number of Ralph Lauren ads or episode of Gilligan’s Island (see: Howell III, Thurston). Of course, this version is the most traditional in style and execution, and as such is a generally viewed as a 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. Even still, to casual observer, the core elements of a the classic blue blazer are obvious.

Rowing Blazers Facebook Image Basics 101: The Blue BlazerMost recently, that offshoot cousin of a garment, 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 such place of influence in today’s menswear, the blue blazers comes in a range of fabrics and styles that can work with almost anyone’s style – from lightweight linens to beefy flannels.

As the king of odd jackets, a blue blazer can 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 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, when 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. On the other hand, a single breasted sack jacket with no darting and patch pockets can project a more casual “drinks at the club,” New England 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 often 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 and command. 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

 

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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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First Take on Summer Style

OTC Spring 2014 2 First Take on Summer Style

What often works best for men’s warm weather fashion is simplicity and classic style.  Basics can make almost any guy look and feel that much more polished, put together, and comfortable. Think of it as updated Ivy League or modern preppy without all the gimmicky noise.

Summer style – even though it’s technically Spring, it sure has felt like July recently – does not have to mean old shorts, a tee shirt, and worn out sneakers.  While all those things all have their place, looking nice when it is hot is actually pretty simple.

Here we have an easy, go-to look that is both straight-forward and sharp, in a casual and comfortable way.  While polished, this outfit is neither too dressy nor overly casual.  Instead, it strikes a nice balance between formal and informal.  It’s the kind of look that works very well when meeting friends for drinks, heading out to a nice brunch or dinner, or just Friday at the office.

To add some easy polish to this look, just toss on a blue blazer or lightweight sweater and swap out the driving loafers for cordovan slip-ins.

The components of this functionally classic ensemble are basics that every guy’s wardrobe should contain.

The checked button down shirt is from Richmond, VA, maker, Ledbury.  It is actually a super lightweight linen/cotton blend that is fantastic in warm weather.  The shirt shown here is a short run from 2013 and may not currently be available.  We are big fans of Ledbury and their decidedly American take on British shirtmaking.  The construction is excellent and their fabric selections are always impressive.  Regardless of where you get yours, a few blue, purple, and red checked button downs are invaluable to your wardrobe.

OTC Spring 2014 3 300x225 First Take on Summer StyleSeveral pair of well-fitting and properly hemmed khakis should also be a core staple of any guy’s closet.  These slim fit Daltons from Jack Donnelly are a great option.  This small brand has created an updated version of the classic tailored khaki.  That does not mean “dress pant,” although they do iron up quite nicely.  They are light, comfortable, nicely finished, and can handle almost any scenario short of needing a suit.  These pants have the construction and detail of dressier trousers, but the fit and feel of classic wear-whenever khakis.  And, they are sourced and handmade in America.

A great pair of driving loafers can serve you well all day long.  While Tod’s iconic Gomminos may have created the driving moccasin/loafer category, we also love these Austen Heller Kingston loafers.  OTC has written about this brand before and their new collection only reinforces our appreciation of their comfortable, fun, and easy to wear footwear.  Opt for classic brown if you want to keep it low key, or try out some of the more adventurous color combinations.

Warm weather dressing is also the time to have some fun with your accessories.  Belts from Tucker Blair are a great way to impart some personality and Ivy League needlepoint into you look.  Other than that, strive to pare down and use more color as the day only get warmer from here.

Ledbury Purple Parker BD First Take on Summer Style

Tucker Blair Nantucket Needlepoint Belt First Take on Summer Style

Jack Donnelly Dalton Pant 640x1024 First Take on Summer Style

Austen Heller Kingstons First Take on Summer Style