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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Belt One Out With ntandy

ntandy Belt Orange Belt One Out With ntandy

Too often belts are a serious business that must meet the daily requirements of understatement, sobriety, or at least a degree of conformity. The good thing is that when you sit back and take a look, there are many occasions when you can loosen up your wardrobe choices, put away the earth tones, and have some sartorial fun.

ntandy makes great belts for those times. Especially in the warmth of summer, these colorful and simply designed belts add some unmistakable personality while still holding up your pants. The great thing about them, at least from an OTC perspective, is that they happily straddle the line between outright fun and preppy functionality.

While they clearly reference a purposeful and utilitarian past, they also are just plain cool belts that speak to founder Napper Tandy’s laid back California lifestyle. It’s like Ivy League guy meets surfer dude, and they totally get along.

ntnady Logo Belt One Out With ntandyThe belts come in five colors and are all made from old-school nylon board short material wrapped around 1000 pound test nylon climbing webbing. The simple contrast stitching adds just the right amount of vintage charm.

As Napper describes his belts, “I like to think they’re aesthetically part Birdwell Beach Britches, part 70’s Patagonia with a little nip off the flask of the old prep school ribbon belt”

Worn traditionally, the belt’s loose end hides ntandy’s cool minimalist label. However, Napper’s got you covered; click here to learn the “triple fold” and let your inner preppy beach bum shine.

Seriously, we test out all sorts of stuff here at OTC and without question, this simple, fun, functional, and plain old cool belt is a hands-down favorite.

ntandy Belts Belt One Out With ntandy

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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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Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

DSC 05471 Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

When the innovative technology company Dyson approached us and asked that we write about what a dream space means to OTC, we quickly agreed. Often, “dream space” is associated with the ideal female getaway, but men often want the same thing too. It can be described as an office, library, retreat, man cave, workshop, or even just “my room.” However, we prefer the the more refined and light-filled description of a “study.”

The label of study reflects a place of thoughtfulness and meaningful introspection.  It is not where you go to retreat from the world so much as a place to explore it; recharge and reflect on important ideas, thoughts, issues, topics, and pastimes. A study is not simply where you keep your stuff. It is akin to a library, yet not all libraries are studies. Where a library can sometimes be a mere repository of ideas and information, a study is a living, breathing place that feeds your creativity and curiosity.

No wonder then that the heart of OTC is a small, book- and sample-filled study.

DSC 05301 Dream Space: A Study of Your OwnTo us, a study is not simply a work space; it is a living place, a thinking place, a writing place, and a home base for ideas. Even though every study is personal and unique, they all tend to have some things in common.

Collections: One of the key purposes of a study is to serve as a physical repository for your ideas and passions. It is a home for important collections such as books, papers, pens, watches, or pictures – whatever they may be. Some studies are a study in precise order and control. Others are an explosion of color and stuff; a cacophony of objects that to an outsider have no meaning or cohesion. Yet, to the owner, everything has a purpose and a role. Every item is cherished.

To us, the study is very much a home for ideas and personal expression. It’s a place to keep your thoughts and materials together. The OTC study is home to hundreds of books, art, and a ton of collateral from brand that span the globe.  We have an extensive menswear library and piles of publications covering the menswear, luxury goods, and lifestyle markets. Our wall of books cover all sorts of subjects and disciplines, and many of them have been in the family for close on 100 years.

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Art: Pictures and sculptures are something else that make a study more personal and interesting. Art is a true expression of personal interest, and each piece often has a story and meaning. For us, art is what makes a space and it is a physical way to express the things you value in life. The OTC study is chock full of old water colors and oil paintings, classic equestrian prints, family photos from the 1920s, historic keepsakes, trophies, globes, and even a cherished portrait of Napoleon.

Work Space: You need a place to write, stack, organize, and sort. A traditional desk, of course makes sense, but if you have the space, we also like the  idea of a large open work table. Position your work space near the natural light of a window or ensure that your task and indirect lighting provides proper illumination. Think about storage and shelving too, as organization is key to keeping your space clean and orderly.

Seating: Apart from your desk chair, a good lounge chair for sitting, reading, thinking, or researching is always helpful. It also has a way of transforming your room from a spare space to a true intellectual retreat. Here, her have a simple small club chair in a light tartan, but you can opt for something more substantial, like a beefy duck cotton or leather. If you have the space, and the budget, create a separate reading area in your study; a small sofa and coffee table or circle of occasional chairs,  make a nice place to sit and work.

Restoration Hardware Library Sofa 300x144 Dream Space: A Study of Your OwnFor our money, you can’t do much better than Restoration Hardware’s sprawling Kensington Sofa. Part leather couch, part daybed, it’s an ideal place to think and spread out – if you have the room!

Personalizing your space and making it comfortable and productive are essential tasks for creating a study that meets your needs.  Keeping it clean and organized are equally important to ensuring that your study evolves in a positive and useful fashion. To that end, we are running a very cool giveaway contest.

You can win your very own Dyson DC59 Motorhead vacuum. This flexible and efficient cleaning tool is perfect for compact spaces or general cleaning and it’s cordless design makes it that much more versatile. In fact, it’s the latest Dyson Digital Slim™ cordless vacuum and designed for maximum performance, ease of use and versatility, it has a direct-drive motor in the cleaner head.

Dyson on Wall Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

We are true fans of Dyson and are long-time users. The cool thing about the Dyson DC59 Motorhead is that it’s designed for floor-to-ceiling cleaning. The center of gravity is located towards the grip for easy handling up top, down low, and in-between. So, with a hand tool like that, there is no excuse for not keeping your study clean and organized.

To enter the giveaway contest, all you have to do is leave a brief comment to this post answering the question: “What is your dream space and what Dyson DC59 Motorhead feature do you enjoy the most?”

Thanks to Dyson for sponsoring today’s discussion.

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 Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

 

Lucky West: Americana T-Shirts

LuckyWestTeeGreen Lucky West: Americana T ShirtsFrom our perspective tee shirts, or t-shirts, come in three varieties: plain and dressy for a casual yet relaxed look, informal with a graphic or logo (ideally with some personal meaning or connection to the wearer), and underwear. While not typically in our wheelhouse, over the past few years, the humble tee shirt has become a fairly defined menswear category that can indeed stand on its own.

We all wear tee shirts, it just matters how and when. For those of you who scoff at the idea of such a slovenly form of dress, we humbly suggest you entertain the imperfect pleasures of true “casual” wear. Bespoke is lovely, but not ideal for an afternoon by the pool, mowing the grass, or even loafing about the estate with friends and cold (or room temperature) beer.

Leaving aside undershirts, which should only be worn under shirts, this is the realm of the tee shirt. Not dirty, torn, stained, or perforated tees that should immediately find a home in the rag pile. No, we are speaking of tee shirts with style, substance, personality, and quality. Whether paired with some nice shorts, classic khakis, or worn-in jeans, it is a classic combination with universal appeal.

Though a focus on design, materials and fit, some brands have carved out their own sub-markets. For example, Duke & Winston has perfected the cool eccentric tee with historically-themed graphics that have an academic, hipster quality. At the other end of the spectrum, Mack Weldon creates monochromatic, precisely tailored tees that read casual/elegant sophistication without any stylized drama. It’s the sort of tee shirt we imagine a globe-hopping tech executive to wear when relaxing on his custom built yacht.

To this mix, we would like to add Lucky West. Inspired by classic Americana mythology, this U.K. brand’s tee shirts reflect a sun-washed era somewhere along Route 66. Their Las Vegas inspired logo hints at the wide open nostalgia that drives the brand’s vision, but the shirts themselves are another thing all together.

2014 07 19 16.32.32 Lucky West: Americana T Shirts While the brand’s editorial imagery reflects a stylized 1950s vibe, which does mesh with the look and feel of the shirts, we see them in a slightly different light.

To the left, our editor-in-chief sports a more East-Coast Americana take on a Lucky West’s tee shirt (size medium), pairing it with laid back Ecoths shorts, a bright ntandy belt, classic ECCO boat shoes, and an old L.L. Bean tote. Yes, that’s a National’s ball cap – go Nats!

Our first reaction when unpacking the sample was that of being impressed by the dense softness of the cotton and solid attention to construction. The deliberately rough stitch details around the collar and shoulder seams give a vintage, inherited feel, while the overall fit reads thoroughly modern.

The body is trim and slightly longer cut than most tees. This combination allows you to wear it tucked or un-tucked with equal comfort while avoiding sagging or billowing.

The short sleeves are indeed short, and cut slim, reflecting an athletic shirt aesthetic. It’s reminiscent of how we imagine old high school team jerseys fit. The shirt’s design can be described as athletic; comfortably snug around the shoulders and body drop that tapers slightly toward the hem. If you like your tees baggy, you might want to go at least one size up.

These tees blend iconic Americana themes with a modern fit, attention to detail, and a fun sense of nostalgia. However you wear it, we suggest you give Lucky West a try and add a few to your weekend drawer.

Lucky West 2 Lucky West: Americana T Shirts