And now for…Fly-Belts



And now for something completely different.

Have you ever been stuck on a delayed flight, crammed into a too-small airline seat and wondered to yourself, “why hasn’t anyone made belts out of these seat belt buckles?”  Well, wonder no more – it’s been done.

Fly-Belts has taken the ubiquitous airline “lift to release” seat belt buckle and converted it into a clever belt for your trousers. Let’s be clear; this is a fun and somewhat ironic belt, and one clearly not intended for for your favorite suit. It’s not an interview belt – even if said interview were at Southwest Airlines.

And that’s fine; this is meant to be something different, whimsical, and a bit irreverent. Don’t take it too seriously and just appreciate the fact that someone actually did what so many of us pondered while in the air or sitting, interminably, on the tarmac.

Fly-Belts3Each belt is named after a unique destination, denoted by the color of it’s commercial-grade webbing strap and comes in two sizes; one airline standard and the other, a smaller lady’s model. The buckle itself is custom designed for the company and based on actual airline buckles, but is not airline issue.

We actually found our Fly-Belt, the Tokyo, to be not only a great conversation starter, but also quite comfortable. The ability custom size the belt is a nice feature and any frequent flier will both recognize and appreciate the easy-open aluminum buckle. A slide tab keeps the extra length of strap neatly at bay.

Fly-Belts Header

Fly-Belts Sizes


Bonobos Sweeps Logo

To celebrate the anticipated opening of its new Guideshop La Brea in Los Angeles on June 20, Bonobos has launched a very cool “LA Giveaway” sweepstakes that includes some great stuff, valued up to $3,500!

If selected, you will win:

So, in addition to the travel perks and fancy hotel, the winner will be able to stock up on Bonobos products perfect for the summer – and of course, L.A. weather – like their outstanding selection of casual shirts or seasonal slim suiting.  We happen to be partial to Bonobos’ famously comfortable chinos, now available in summer weight fabrics.

So, don’t delay, enter your email for a chance to win, now through June 8, 2014!


KP MacLane: Clean and Classic Style

KP MacLane, the eponymous clothing brand founded by husband and wife team Jared and Katherine MacLane, has threaded the design needle by creating clean, modern, and timeless menswear pieces that also stand the test of time.  The overriding theme of KP MacLane’s house style is clean preppy; classic as simple.

OTC reviewed the brands’ Signature Men’s Polo and classically inspired Crewneck Sweater.  Thankfully logo free and impeccably manufactured, both were instant favorites – for the style as well as the fit.  The garments are tailored around a trim model, but not skinny.  The resulting effect is a comfortable fit allowing for movement without an excess of fabric at the waist or around the arms.

The men’s polo shirt is crafted in New York of French cotton and modal jersey.  The fabric, with a hint of stretch, is created and custom dyed in France.  The polo shirt has a modern fit,  self-collar, and a two-button placket.  We love the classic style; it’s unique and speaks to ’30s icons without being at all kitschy.

KP MacLane Bag ArtKP MacLane’s crewneck sweater is an instant classic too.  The super soft heathered sweater is made from 100% ultra-soft pima cotton.  The design deftly combines the versatility and details of a classic sweatshirt with the feel, sophistication, and finish of a luxurious sweater.

If you happen to be a reader of Monocle magazine, you’ll already know that the style editors are big fans of this particular style of comfy sweater-as-sweatshirt.  It’s an excellent layering piece for Spring; densely woven with a little weight to it, yet still light and breathable.  It’s just right for cutting the evening’s chill or fending off the AC on your transatlantic flight.

As an added bonus, every KP MacLane product comes in its own linen sack embroidered with the brand’s parrot logo.  It’s more than a gesture, the bag is sturdy and meant to be used, and it is…by Mrs. OTC.


KP MacLane's Logo



Find the Right Bag for You

OTC J.Panther Ruc Open

Everyone has their odd interest; that particular thing you love and obsess over, the subject that’s never far from your thoughts. For example, a friend of mine is obsessed with anything related to trains. He is always coming across books on trains or railways, or finding china from famous lines for sale on eBay. He even train spots in movies that are not about trains. Once, he identified a particular engine by the sound of its whistle. We checked; he was correct.

For me, it’s bags – or more accurately, containers. I have always found things like luggage, desks, furniture, and boxes fascinating. I am a fan of museums, architecture, and interior design; all natural extensions of this proclivity. I am also a natural organizer, which makes sense given this longitudinal interest.

Bags, however, have always been a point of particular fascination to me, especially bags that have a function or purpose. The idea of a bag as a portable office or hold-all for one’s daily needs and wants has always interested me. Even document cases, pen cases, zippered pouches, and coin cases all fascinate me. Each has a purpose and role; sorting, organizing, containing.

Indiana Jones & BagGrowing up, one of my idols was Indiana Jones. He traveled the world, defied death, and taught archeology at Princeton to adoring girls. He had an awesome leather jacket, that great fedora, and a whip.

He also had a bag. Indy’s bag held notebooks with ancient Egyptian calendar translations, golden statues, and grail journals. It was really cool, but totally practical. It made sense; where else would all that stuff go? It went everywhere with him.

The First OTC Bag

The ability to pare down one’s daily necessities and take them with you is another concept that continues to interest me, and in fact helped lead to the creation of OTC. One of our earliest posts was about the Counterfeit Mailbag, from the J. Peterman Company.  In fact, John Peterman himself sent over for review. It was one of the first everyday bags positioned specifically for a man; a tool for safeguarding and transporting the things you needed.  It was rugged, manly, functional, and steeped in history. It had a story, purpose, and background. These are still the key elements that speak directly to many male consumers; and that bag is still a favorite.

While bags for nearly every guy’s need are now a mere mouse click away, the proper balance needs to be struck. To our mind, function should always edge out form because what ultimately make a great man’s bag so compelling are its roots, design, provenance, and construction.  These qualities transcend style and materials because a well-made bag is obvious no matter what kind of bag it is.

Four Bags

That said, we feel there are four basic bags to consider when looking for an everyday bag: the briefcase, the messenger bag, the tote bag and the duffel bag. Each one of these has an inherent function at its design core, yet each can easily adapt to most men’s needs.

The Briefcase

The briefcase can be strictly business, as with a Swaine Adeney Brigg lid-over-box briefcase or entrepreneurially flexible like the J. Panther Courier Ruc (also shown at the top). The definition of a modern briefcase has shifted to match the changing role of the man who carries it. Simply put, a typical man in a grey flannel suit needs room for more than just a pen and some folders, and it often his bag needs to be malleable and commuter friendly.

While the traditional box briefcase is elegant, sturdy, and ideal for the transportation and protection of files and paperwork, it is also limiting. A man’s accessory in most iconic way, its heyday is unfortunately past. The box briefcase is today more often an ironic steampunk accessory, corner-office aspirant security blanket, or, rarely, a true work tool carried by those unencumbered with too much day-to-day materiel (read, CEO or law firm partner).

A great truth about a great briefcase is that it becomes an heirloom. And a great modern briefcase is epitomized by the Frank Clegg English Briefcase shown here. Based on the iconic English dispatch case, it is formal yet rugged, polished yet waiting to be aged by life.

The Messenger

Perhaps the most influential modern example of a daily bag is the messenger bag. As with many social innovations, the now-ubiquitous messenger bag began life as purely functional tool used by bike messengers. When they first started showing up at the office, these purpose-designed bags telegraphed that the owner was creative, edgy, and had maybe even had access to the cool but sketchy bike messenger world.

Indeed, messenger bags were the perfect hybrid for many men; not a briefcase, not a backpack, bur decidedly masculine. They helped to define a new category that moved freely from home to street to office to Starbucks. They were also utilitarian; one big compartment, maybe a small zippered pocket and that was it. Bag makers quickly revisited their interior landscapes and today’s messenger bag now has pockets, sleeves and flaps for every conceivable gadget.

We feel that a classic Timkuk2 messenger is the best choice for a traditionally styled bag. Jack Spade also makes some great clean, modern messenger bags for those with an urban aesthetic.

The grown-up messenger bag is also very popular and thoroughly practical for many men. Rendered in leather or sturdy canvas, these bags are perhaps the closest thing there is to a man’s version of a purse. Two that we really like are the Keith Messenger Bag by ECCO and the Frank Clegg’s classic Messenger Bag. The Frank Clegg bag is exceptionally crafted and timeless in design. With few pockets but a huge amount of space, it is on the larger side, but if you are looking for that “one” bag, this is it. The ECCO bag is similar in design, although smaller and it has more pockets. Designed to carry a variety of everyday stuff, it is very much a “man bag,” in the best of ways.

The Tote

The iconic canvas tote bag is as practical as it is ubiquitous. Tote bags are big right now and come in any manner of style and material. Perhaps the most famous version of this functional workhorse is made by L.L. Bean – the Boat and Tote. In fact, L.L. Bean essentially invented the canvas tote bag category. The bag was originally developed to carry blocks of ice (back in the day when block ice was used to keep foods fresh in the ice box).

The tote bag survives and thrives because its design is simple and universal. The open top, occasionally zippered or buttoned, is easy to fill up and empty out and when well-tweaked, can morph into a modern bag while holding on to its utilitarian roots. Notebooks, tablets, and magazines are easily found and the wide-open space encourages you to toss in a few leather zipped pouches for pens and other small items.

A great example of this thoughtful updating is found in this elegant tote bag from the Japanese brand Porter, in collaboration with Monocle magazine. A practical tote at heart, its carefully placed interior pockets and sturdy top snap make it the perfect office or globe-trotting companion.

J. Panther Luggage has beautiful example of a modern classic tote about which we recently wrote, the Ruc Tote.  It’s possibly one of the coolest bags OTC has ever reviewed.

The Duffel

A duffel bag in the office? Yes. But we are talking about smaller, carry-on style duffels, not the ones used for military deployment. Intended as a personal travel bag, the duffel has the advantage of being designed to both carry a good amount of one’s stuff and be easily portable, fitting into tighter spaces.

Typically simple in design and construction, a duffel bag also blends in well with most outfits and styles. Short of a full-pads business suit, it can handle the office with hipster aplomb and then head off with you on vacation.  And, frankly, some duffel bags from Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Bally, Hermes, and Frank Clegg (pictured here) are elegant enough for any setting.

While not for everyone, using a smallish duffel as a work bag is a fun way to bring a utilitarian – or, dare we say, bohemian – bent to your daily routine.  Bear in mind that by design they generally consist of one large open space, sometimes with a small zippered drop pocket.  Consider capturing smaller items in pouches and small zip bags, keeping tem easy to find and access.



ECCO: Your ‘Heading Out’ Shoes

Everyone needs a pair of shoes that serve as your default.  The ones that you pull on when heading out to the store, walk the dog, run some errands, or an afternoon antiquing.

ECCO makes those shoes, and they make them well.  In fact, the privately held Danish company is the only major shoe manufacturer in the world that owns and manages every step of the shoe making process.  As a reflection of that commitment, the company was just selected as the 2013 Best Shoe Manufacturer by the German footwear industry.  The award was presented last month at the prestigious Schuhkurier & step Award event, in Düsseldorf.

What does that mean to us?  For starters, it reinforces OTC’s commitment to being an ECCO brand ambassador, something we do very sparingly and only for brands with which we have a long relationship.  In addition, it reminds us of the ECCO commitment to developing shoes you want to wear when you really need to go somewhere.  While they have recently rolled out some very sharp business and business casual lines, we love their get-out-there-and-walk shoes.

First and foremost, ECCO’s shoes are made for walking and comfort, whether to a staff meeting or up a mountain.  There is something to fit everyone’s need.

So, what’s our choice for the OTC ‘heading out’ shoes? ECCO’s Fusion Moc Toe.  The combine the style of a low boat or camp shoe with the support and comfort of a serious walking shoe.  Equally important is that they fit and feel great with or without socks.  We have paired these with khakis, jeans, and cords and the ECCO’s functionally classic style has always worked well.

We love these shoes so much that when heading out Chicago to cover the Stella Artois Cidre launch party, they were the on shoes we took (below).