Dream Space: A Study of Your Own

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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.

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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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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.

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The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull Lee

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The last time we told you about Old Bull Lee, we made it clear that their shorts were some of our absolute favorites. Lee is committed to make the best shorts possible and approaches his craft as both an artist and technician. They were perfect.

It turns out he’s not done.

Lee sent along some of his new and improved shorts and we have spent the last month checking them out.  They are a bit shorter and trimmer, but still the built-to-last quality we remember. First, some details on the material and build.

The shorts are made from heavy Duck cloth, which is essentially canvas. Sourced from the finest Japanese mill (he won’t divulge exactly which one), the fabric starts out a bit stiff, but eases into a comfortable, personalized fit.

They are dyed and assembled in America using a wet “vat” process that is softer and longer lasting than dry pigment dying. The pocketing and waistband are made from a soft and smooth poplin and the button fly has been replaced with a zipper. Lastly, the shorts are pre-shrunk using water and dryers only, not chemical shrinkage.

205 laydown The Shorts of Summer: Old Bull LeeAs Lee likes to point out, everyone is trying to sell “your favorite pair of shorts,” but the truth is that it doesn’t work that way. The ones that come, “brand new, but lived in,” have actually been beat into that condition by chemicals. As a result, these pre-lived-in garments often start to disintegrate after a season or two; and not eloquently either.

A real favorite pair shorts has been around for a while. They just sort of know your body; it’s a relationship that takes time to develop. Because the Duck fabric lasts so long, they gave the color a little extra pop so that down the road when they are broken in, the short will still carry those fragile tones with which they started.

In fact, to accurately convey the fabric’s eventual color change, the website’s laydown shots are intentionally dull. Lee said, “it’s not to be misleading, but we feel that we are telling the truth by averaging the color out over it’s lifetime.

This guy lives and breaths shorts. They do pretty cool tees as well, but at it’s heart, Old Bull Lee is trying to turn shorts into a science.

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Seeing New Things: EyeBuy Direct Glasses

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Glasses are a very personal thing. If you need them, then you understand how completely they impact your life. Eyeglasses are also very trendy at the moment, which is a bit odd to those of us saddled with taunts of “four eyes” throughout most of childhood.

The right pair of glasses makes life immeasurably better, and the right looking pair of glasses are that much sweeter. So, when the web-based company EyeBuy Direct reached out and asked that we review a pair of their glasses, and the service behind them, we quickly agreed.

The eyeglass market is moving into new territory, with disruptive brands like Warby Parker upending the stodgy and ridiculously expensive traditional limited-access retail model. Glasses can now be viewed through the lens, as it were, of a fashion accessory. Prices for perfectly fine prescription glasses are in some cases less than for plain old mass luxury brand sunglasses.

For those who must wear glasses to actually see, it is liberating to say the least.

2014 07 02 16.52.21 Seeing New Things: EyeBuy Direct GlassesHandmade horn frames will still cost you a small fortune, of course, but for everyday glasses things have dramatically changed.

The glasses we chose to try out, the Darcy, are a slimmed down version of the classic intellectual heavy black bookworm-ish frames. They are made from lightweight Ultem plastic and we found them to be well constructed. The lenses fit perfectly in the frame and overall, the fit and feel when worn are excellent.

With prescription glasses, the lens is all that really matters. We were curious to see the finished product, in part because these are progressive lenses, which are complicated to produce and if not expertly made, uncomfortable to wear. Buying online only increases the potential problems.

As it turns out, the lenses just fine; they transition smoothly and each prescription seems to be spot on. We have been very please with the finished product; from every angle.

Though provided to us at no cost, the final tab for these glasses was $138.00, including the progressive lenses, various special anti-glare and anti-streak coatings, and an option for extra-thin lenses. Shipping was included. At the end of the day, an absolute steal by any definition.

The Darbys arrived in about 10 days and we received regular automated email updates about the glasses’ progress, which was a nice touch that also helped put the wait in context.

The website’s selection of frames is good, but perhaps lacking in quirky, bookish character, which is what we look for in a frame design. While the offering may seem a bit generic, that’s not necessarily a negative. For the price, we were not necessarily expecting anything dramatic or exclusive. We went in looking for a good pair of everyday glasses and the ones we selected were exactly was was promised.

If you are looking to add to your eyeglass wardrobe, EyeBuy Direct is a great, fairly priced resource. Check them out.

Below are some images from the unboxing:

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The J. Panther RollTote

 

jplc rolltote all 1024x1024 The J. Panther RollToteJ. Panther Luggage Company is a maker of classically modern American crafted bags. We have been fans of this brand for some time and still consider the original Courier Ruc to be one of the most innovative business bags to hit the boardroom.

The company’s portfolio is deliberately small and thoughtful. the collection represents a true balance among form and function, design and purpose, practicality and aesthetic. It is also a brand that successfully blends hipster cool with heritage sensibility.  It is one of the few bag makers that creates products which are forward-thinking while at the same time beholden to a craftsman’s hand. New but sort of vintage; modern but also timeless. Regardless of the stylistic lens through which you view J. Panther bags, that all built to take excessive abuse and in doing so, get better and better.

J. Panther’s new RollTote is a perfect example of this philosophy.

The signature three-way carry RollTote brings modern functionality, and a touch of refinement, to the classic, utilitarian roll-top backpack. To the standard Ruc Tote mode they have added two additional, flexible carry options.  Removable, adjustable leather shoulder straps attach via an ‘O’ ring for ruc (backpack)carry. Re-attach one of these straps across the top of the bag for tote-style use. A leather side handle offers the third option of hand carry.

J. Panther’s signature 21 ounce lightly waxed, water-resistant canvas works with the RollTote’s design to handle even the heaviest downpour. This heavy cotton canvas ages beautifully and the sturdy leather trim ads a functionally elegant finish to the bag.

Fully rolled down, the twin external pockets are protected from the elements, be it a rain storm or snow flurry.  Within, a single deep pocket neatly separates a laptop or documents from the roomy main compartment.

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