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 2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

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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 Belt 2014 OTC Holiday Gift Listi

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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 2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

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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.

CohenSonsBlueCrewNeckTee 2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

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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 Chinos1 2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

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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.

noble denim standing 2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

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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 2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

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.

Benchmark Chestnut Briefcase 2014 OTC Holiday Gift Listi

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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.

Sprayground Stashed Money Backpack 2014 OTC Holiday Gift Listi

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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 Satchel 2014 OTC Holiday Gift Listi

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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.

Triple Aught Design Dispatch Bag 2014 OTC Holiday Gift Listi

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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.

Rowing Blazers UK Cover 2014 OTC Holiday Gift Listi

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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.

Men in this Town Cover 2014 OTC Holiday Gift Listi

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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 2014 OTC Holiday Gift List

 

Your Guide to Choosing A Wallet

Chester Mox Wallet3 Your Guide to Choosing A Wallet
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 1024x668 Your Guide to Choosing A 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 open Your Guide to Choosing A WalletAesthetically, 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 1 1024x1024 Your Guide to Choosing A WalletSwedish 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 1 Your Guide to Choosing A WalletChester Mox Wallet2 Your Guide to Choosing A Wallet

Modern Sterling Money Clip Your Guide to Choosing A Wallet

 

Khakis: Pants to Live By

 

JD Khakis 640x1024 Khakis: Pants to Live ByFor 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: Pants to Live By

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

2014 09 13 13.26.48 Triple Aught Designs FAST Pack Litespeed

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 Triple Aught Designs FAST Pack Litespeed

TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed Side Black Triple Aught Designs FAST Pack Litespeed

TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed Quarter Black Triple Aught Designs FAST Pack Litespeed

TAD Fast Pack Lightspeed Harness Black Triple Aught Designs FAST Pack Litespeed

 

 

old campus rain Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

If there is any one “look” or style that best defines East Coast Ivy League, or OTC for that matter, it is that of the iconic college professor. When most people think of college professors (or indeed prep school teachers), the classic look comes to mind: tweed and corduroy, grey flannel, well-worn leather shoes, a beat-up satchel, and some wire framed glasses.

For many, that is what a college professor should look like. The reality is often at odds with the ideal; some look exactly as you might expect and some are in desperate need of sartorial help. Yet, the image of Dr. Jones in his classroom or Mr. Keating, imploring his charges to “seize the day,” persists.

So, what exactly is the “college professor” look and why is it so interesting? This classic Ivy League style can also be described as a sort of 1930s prep school teacher look. It combines two unique elements: a timeless, idealized version of the privileged life and the intellectualness of an exclusive liberal arts education.

IndianaJonesClassroom Personal Style: Creating the College Professor LookThough it may sound a little dramatic, this is a very emotional and evocative style of dress. Think of the outfits worn in such films as Dead Poets Society or A Beautiful Mind, or in any Harry Potter movie. The clothes themselves provide an emotional touchstone that quickly defines where you are and who you are. It is a sort of intellectual uniform, a symbol of belonging that is both timeless and very appealing.

Ralph Lauren in particular has captured the college professor look; in deed it is virtually synonymous with the brand. The now-defunct Rugby sub-brand moved from the lectern to the desk with richly detailed, prep school inspired clothing and accessories. The Rugby stores, often located close to college and university campuses, had the design and feel of an old and moneyed prep school common room.

More recently, J. Crew has masterfully redefined the college professor look to reflect a modernized riff on a late 1950s era Ivy League campus. More streamlined and less fusty, the J. Crew take on Ivy League is modern and active, yet still grounded in the classics, as it were.

A key element to achieving this wonderful look on your own is to not overdo it. And Fall is prime season for employing all the, classic elements.

MrKeating DPS Personal Style: Creating the College Professor LookThe college professor style is at its best when you appear to have not thought a great deal about what you threw on this morning. Tweed or corduroy coats, chunky sweaters layered over old button down shirts and school ties, gray flannels, corduroy pants, or heavy khakis. They are simple and classic components that, when combined, create an instantly recognizable picture.

The goal should be to reference key elements of the classic look but not mimic or replicate them as costume. You are not a character in play; you are someone with a real life, commute, and job. Still, this look is really about dressing emotionally and layering on a philosophy of life.

Moreover, the inherent eccentricities of this style make it fun and flexible. If you already invest in timeless core pieces, it’s that much better. Instead of a sweater, why not opt for a simple heather grey crew neck sweatshirt from American Giant over that OCBD, khakis, and old boat shoes?

Take Ivy Book Personal Style: Creating the College Professor LookThis quest for an authentic and honest expression of Ivy League style, in many ways the core of the college professor look, resulted in a 2010 English reprinting of the iconic 1965 Japanese book, Take Ivy. The virtual bible of American East Coast style, The Official Preppy Handbook, is a perennial reference, while subsequent publications including Ivy Style: Radical Conformists, Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style, The Ivy League, and Rowing Blazers offer additional guidance.

Selecting honestly crafted and long lasting accessories is also important. Instead of a generic nylon backpack or computer bag, invest in a leather folio or classic briefcase. Frank Clegg makes some of the best; expensive, yes, but something that will last a lifetime. Classic pens and watches mix well, as does traditional footwear. Suede shoes, heavy brogues, and dressy boots are good choices.

For cooler days like the ones ahead, choose a big scarf in a nice tartan or your school colors. If you don’t have school colors or don’t like the ones you do have, just adopt someone else’s.

When done right, the overall effect should be of a natty intellectual. It should also look natural and relaxed with a touch of world-weary travel. This look works best on those who already possess a genuine love of this most classic of periods for menswear and are indeed curious about the world and of always learning more.

Perhaps more than any other style, the college professor look persists decade after decade because it is not really about fashion; it’s about a philosophy of life. It’s an outward expression of your curiosity and appreciation of what the world has to offer; a physical expression of cherishing the past and looking toward the future while never losing touch with your own sense of personal taste.

Below, we offer some inspirational imagery to set you on the sartorial path of creating your own version of the classic, timeless, rumpled, worldly, or modern college professor. Take your pick and make it yours.

Updated CollegeProf via Ivy Leageue Style Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

BlackIvyCollege Prof Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

Group DPS Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

FrankCleggEnglishBriefcase Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

JCrewMensShop Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

DSC 02451 1024x685 Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look

The Preppy Handbook Personal Style: Creating the College Professor Look