The Polo Shirt: An American Classic

Lumina Navy Polo 1 The Polo Shirt: An American ClassicFor generations now, the polo shirt has been a cornerstone of any classic, Ivy League-inspired wardrobe. While most people who hear “polo shirt,” tend to think “Polo ™” shirt, the first branded version was actually developed in 1929 for tennis legend Rene’ “Le Crocodile” Lacoste.

Lacoste wanted a comfortable shirt to replace the traditional, but impractical, dress shirt and tie worn by tennis players at the time. In doing so, he unwittingly gave rise to one of the most versatile garments ever conceived. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

With its unique ability to straddle the elusive line between casual and formal, the classic polo can carry you from the office to the country club with little difficulty. Of course, while it’s not always right for every occasion, when paired with a sharp outfit the polo shirt pretty much has you covered for anything short of a black tie dinner. Jeans, grey flannels, Nantucket Reds, and shorts all play well with polos. It’s more dressy than tee shirt, yet less formal than an oxford button down – itself another shirt that has universal serviceability.

JFK Polo and Khakis The Polo Shirt: An American ClassicThe genuinely timeless combination of a well loved polo shirt and khakis is about the most classic look you can opt for and usually works just fine for most situations in which you need to be presentable. In fact, it’s so versatile an outfit that it works equally well with worn-in, beat-up favorites or pressed and crisp, off-to-cocktails-on-the-lawn togs.

Pass on overly logoed or pre-aged polos and instead opt for classic solids or simple stripes. While the hyper-preppy look might work for image fixated teens, simple and timeless is what makes the polo shirt so universally useful and why it continues to be such a wardrobe staple of East Coast adherents.

We are particularly partial to Lumina Clothing’s Carolina Garment Dyed Polo in navy (shown at top). It’s a nice blend of classic styling and an easy, everyday modern design. The fit is trim but comfortable while the shirt’s rougher finishing is casually informal. With hemmed sleeves, a longer three-button placket, and finished collar, this polo’s look is less tennis court and more JFK sailing off Hyannis.

When going “nice” casual, keep the overall feel less stuffy by choosing clean boat shoes or penny loafers and a woven leather or ribbon belt. For a more business look, try a dressy belt with a silver monogrammed buckle, blue blazer, and high-grade slip-ins from Alden. A black polo paired with a grey or pinstriped suit is actually very sharp, in a George Clooney sort of way. If you are going to give that look a try, make sure to opt for a fine-gauge shirt in a silky finish, like KP MacLane’s Signature Men’s Polo.

One of the best things about the polo shirt is its versatility. It comes in a variety of styles and almost any color under the sun, from basic white to jet black, solids or preppy stripes.

Polo shirts also happen to age very well. So, that beat up old polo at the bottom of the shirt drawer – the one with the seriously frayed collar and torn hem – will look just great at a clam bake with some faded khaki shorts and a cold beer.

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Halibut Shirts: Italian for “Fun”

Halibut FIFA Oxford 2 Halibut Shirts: Italian for Fun
Halibut is an Italian shirting brand that combines a genuine love of design and craftsmanship with an equally disarming sense of fun and whimsy.  Their name is a bit quirky and the logo seems destined for sandy beaches somewhere, but don’t let that party schtick fool you; Halibut makes very good shirts and the company takes its business seriously.

Founded by five friends, the company is based in Padua, not too far from Venice. All their shirts are designed in-house, crafted in Italy, and sold through the brand’s e-commerce site. With varied international backgrounds, the team focuses on fabric development, design tweaks, and a particular attention to detail that sets Halibut shirts apart form others in “dressy casual” space. The shirts’ designs are grounded in traditional American and European sensibilities, but possess a fresh and innovative streak that is evident right away.

Halibut Logo Halibut Shirts: Italian for FunCase in point is our FIFA World Cup 2014 tribute oxford.  First off, let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact an oxford shirt was created to pay homage to the world’s most important football (or soccer, depending on your preference) match. Hats, balls, shoes, and tees? Of course. An American style preppy dress shirt? Now, that’s something interesting. Rendered in a dense, smooth cotton, the unique hand – gently worn-in and instantly comfortable – is a hallmark of Halibut’s fabric-centric touch.

The clever pattern of embroidered national logos is at once cute and casually stylish. We see this as an international version of Brooks Brother’s iconic preppy fun shirt. Since the shirt itself is decoration enough, it’s best worn open collared. And the collar itself, a form of hybrid club, compliments the casual form of the shirt; unstructured yet substantial and its smaller size nicely balances the garment’s informal, slim cut. The fit is indeed very fitted. Described as a slim cut, the body is quite lean but the sleeves are well proportioned and comfortable.

The third button down is an enameled riff on the company’s swirl logo and again points to a certain deliberate irreverence. However, the shirt itself is no joke. With a growing selection of styles, from solids to checks to washes, Halibut’s clear focus on material, design, quality, and construction make for fun, casual shirts that are also all business. Even if that business is just kicking the ball around in your yard with a nice cold drink in your hand.

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RPMWEST: Japanese Selvedge Denim

RPMWEST makes classic denim in the truest sense. Crafted from premium Japanese dry selvedge denim and cut and sewn in California, they are built to last for years and will develop unique fades as they break in and age. Birthed on Kickstarter, RPMWEST is growing into a unique and quality-driven brand.

The jeans feature minimal detailing, giving them a timeless look that goes with everything,  and are built for hard wear. Features include tucked belt loops, ​chain stitched​ ​leg openings, ​and made-in-America trimmings. They come in two silhouettes, slim and straight leg fit.

The slim fit – which we tested – is lightly tapered, but not constricting. As with many of these small batch, high quality denim brands, the jeans come in a fixed length, meaning you either do the hipster turn-up or have them hemmed to your preference. Taken in full, the feel is classic denim, combined with a modern, thoughtful design.

The fit of our RPMWEST jeans is very comfortable and features a natural waist with a lower rise; something we like. And the pride and commitment to quality construction shows in the finished product. Overall, these are one comfortable pair of jeans that we plan to wear for a long time.

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And now for…Fly-Belts

 

Fly Belts2 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 Belts3 And now for...Fly BeltsEach 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.

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Fly Belts Sizes And now for...Fly Belts

 

Totally Unique: Da Luca Watch Straps

DSC 0543 Totally Unique: Da Luca Watch Straps

Handmade and totally unique, Da Luca watchstraps are one of a kind. Sourced from new and vintage leathers, they are equal parts  investment and a celebration of craftsmanship. Each watch strap is one of a kind – literally. Every one of this San Diego-based company’s watch straps is an individual creation, never to be duplicated. While there are certain styles and patterns used as guideposts, each Da Luca watch strap is its own singular creation and when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

That’s one thing that makes our Cabrone strap so special. At 22mm wide, it perfectly fits our 44mm vintage pilot-inspired mechanical timepiece from Avier, the micro brand founded by Jeff Bernard, of Bernard Watch. Crafted from American alligator, the strap is thick and substantial, balancing the watch and creating a harmonious sense of scale and proportion.

DSC 05482 Totally Unique: Da Luca Watch StrapsThe skin is finished in a slightly dulled gloss that highlights the exceptional detail while keeping the look elegantly subdued, instead of flashy.  Stitching is self-colored to maintain the simple, uniform  design.

The clasp is polished silver of a Panarai design and includes the small Da Luca hallmark; the only visible concession to branding on the entire strap.

In appearance and execution, Da Luca watch straps are a great alternative to the often generic options out there. Our strap has begun to break in nicely and is comfortable to wear. Because it is such a thick watch strap, it’s going to take a little while to soften up, but that’s fine. The length is just right – not too short or too long – and the keeper holds the strap snugly in place.

Da Luca sources their leathers from some pretty unusual places. In addition to traditional virgin leathers, their line of Vintage straps come from old bomber jackets, ammunition pouches, belts, and even worn out shoes. The worn-in nature of such leathers makes perfect sense and the one-of-a-kind production model means that these limited sources are not a problem. To the contrary, such a dearth of unique and interesting materials and finishes adds the the brand’s cache and value. While not inexpensive, the Cabrone went for US $180.00; for what you get, it’s a fair price indeed.

In addition to its ready-to-wear straps, the company can also craft you a made to order watch strap. You can choose the type of skin, width, length, and even the strap’s thickness. Da Luca also offers a variety of other strap styles, including some amazing and colorful suede NATO straps, belts, and a selection of small leather accessories.

While we don’t say this too often, companies like Da Luca straps are one of the reasons we founded OTC to begin with. Total commitment to their craft, a dedication to excellence and quality, made in America, and products that live up to the expectation. Such companies should be celebrated, and that’s what we do.

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