OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

DSC 0650 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

OTC is proud to be a brand ambassador for the footwear and lifestyle brand ECCO.  When it comes to everyday life, we often need items that work well, get the job done, and are a comfortable fit.  More often than you might think, ECCO products fit that bill.

Shoes that are incredibly comfortable and versatile, bags that work in the real world, and accessories that fit a casual, European inspired lifestyle, are the hallmarks of ECCO products.  Modern styles and technical functionality are also core attributes of the company and our recent shipment highlights all these elements.

For Spring 2014, we are checking out some classic hand-sewn boat shoes, a pair of hybrid day sneakers, and a leather zip tote that makes for a stylish office alternative.

BIOM Lite 1.1 Sneaker

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Ellery Boat Shoe

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Deane Tote Shopper

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Here are a few additional views:

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BirchBox Grooming 1 Man up Your Face With Birchbox Grooming Goods

Birchbox is an innovative and creative brand that has helped to create the curated product discovery market.  Founded in 2010, Birchbox helps consumers discover beauty, grooming, and lifestyle products through monthly deliveries of curated, deluxe samples that are tailored to their personal profile.

Updated Birchbox Man up Your Face With Birchbox Grooming GoodsAn important trend in the evolution of retail for both brands and consumers lies in the discovery experience.  Birchbox brings the excitement of product discovery online and its innovative approach allows brands and consumers to connect in a unique and intimate way.

Each new box includes a mix of products across categories – haircare to skincare and body, plus lifestyle extras.  Their distinct product offerings cater to both men and women via dedicated website sections and individual marketing outreach.  Special seasonal and holiday boxes also provide unique opportunities to sample new items and introduce new brands and products.

Recently, Birchbox Man sent us some new grooming samples from Gentleman’s Brand Co., Mr. Natty, and Sachajuan.  From hair gel to Bay Rum aftershave to daily moisturizer, our Birchbox samples are all outstanding and unique.

In the Birchbox e-shop, they sell full-sized versions of every product they sample, as well as other editor-selected products. With a highly personalized and targeted profile, Birchbox allows consumers to try the best and latest products in their home, including hard-to-find international or niche brands, and then provides a seamless way to purchase the full size versions of the products they love.  Pretty smart.

The Birchbox site also features robust editorial content designed to educated and inspire consumers; from how-to videos to expert interviews, and beauty news roundups.

In just 3 years, the company has experienced rapid organic growth and now boasts more than 400,000 current, active subscribers each month. In April 2012 Birchbox Man was launched for customers in the United States, and in November 2012, Home items were added to the Birchbox Shop. The acquisition of JolieBox in September 2012 expanded Birchbox to the UK, France, and Spain.

BirchboxLogoNew Man up Your Face With Birchbox Grooming Goods

 

 

 

 

 

Pro Am Athletes Sign Up Now For Bonobos Bracket Challenge

Hey OTC readers, as most of you already know, we here at Of the Cuff are big fans of Bonobos – both the company and clothing.  Well, for the sports-minded among you, the Bonobos ”Pro-Am Bracket Challenge” is giving fans a once in a lifetime opportunity to team up with a sports legend to create their March bracket and win big.

But you need to sign up now!

Through Bonobos’ “Pro-Am Bracket Challenge”, fans have the choice to team up with baseball hall-of-famer Rollie Fingers, six-time hot dog-eating champion Takeru Kobayashi, national Soccer hall of famer Marceo Balboa, former Guinness world record holder for the longest paper airplane throw Stephen Kreiger, or 800-lb sumo wrestler Emanual Yarbough.

How it Works:

1.     Hurry up, because time is almost up!  Register with Bonobos starting today. You’ll then have until March 20th at noon EST to fill out your bracket.

2.     Once your bracket is selected, without any knowledge of the Pros’ bracket picks, you’ll pick one person to be your partner.

3.     Scores will be accumulated from their partners and their own brackets

4.     The individual with the most points at the end of the tournament wins.

1st Prize

  • Two (2) tickets to the 2015 Final Four Tournament (ARV: $1,500.oo)
  • One Thousand Dollars (ARV:$1,000.00) in Bonobos Store Credit
  • Signed bracket from the Sports Legends (Priceless)
  • Total First Place Prize ARV: $2,500

2nd Prize

  • Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) in Bonobos Store Credit
  • Total Second Place Prize ARV: $500

3rd Prize

  • Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($250.00) in Bonobos Store Credit
  • Total Third Place Prize ARV: $250

Bonobos will host exclusive promotions throughout the tournament for bracket members as well. Everybody wins!

Pro Am Logo Sign Up Now For Bonobos Bracket Challenge

 

2014 Preview: Casio’s G-Shock

DSC 0600 2014 Preview: Casios G Shock

On occasion, we receive solicitations to review products or services that are not exactly in our wheelhouse – women’s footwear, for example.  On occasion, we say, “sure, send it on over.”  Such was the case when Casio asked us to take a look at their 2014 G-Shock watch collection.

While we are not a watch site, go visit our friends at Hodinkee for that, we certainly do appreciate a good watch.  While Rolex and Patek Philippe are all well and good, sometimes it’s the basics that matter most.  Casio G-Shock watches are classics when you talk about real world watches that take a beating and are wearable for most day-to-day needs.

These are not dress or retro classic, preppy timepieces.  But, they aren’t trying to be any of those things; these are beaters (but in the best of ways).  They have a tactical, function-oriented feel to them and sit purposefully on your wrist.  We should not that while OTC typically takes possession of the products we test and review, which allows us to really check them out to our standards, these were only review samples.  Therefore, we can only speak to the design and overall look and feel of the watches.  That said, we really like these timepieces for casual, everyday wear.

DSC 0545 2014 Preview: Casios G ShockThe Camo G-Shock  is something new for the brand and will be released in two waves this Spring.

Generally, we are cautious of the whole camo-everything trend (alert: it doesn’t actually work for everything).  In this case, OTC defers; we really like it.  The pattern is actually muted plays to the watch’s distinctive lines.  It is a nice blend of hip, “right now” and functional practicality.  It also got an unusually high number of compliments from all sorts of folks.

We reviewed the oversized GDX6900CM model which has their 3D camo pattern printed case, band and plated dial in either tan or grey (our tester).  The watch will retail at a reasonable US$150.00 and be available at select boutiques, jewelry stores, the G-SHOCK Soho NYC store and www.g-shock.com.

The Arabic Chronograph model is equally tough and purpose-built, but has a less functional appearance.

We reviewed two versions of this model.  The anolog dial is a pleasing departure and provides a slightly more dressy look, within the context of a sports watch.  It’s shock and magnetic resistant, and water resistant to 200 meters, has five daily alarms, and a world time feature.  The Arabic Chrono also retails for US$150.00.

DSC 0586 2014 Preview: Casios G Shock

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The Full Circle of Preppy

Actor Theo James on Nantucket GQ 684x1024 The Full Circle of Preppy

As with much of life, the modern aesthetic we refer to as “preppy” bears only a thin resemblance to the historical roots upon which it rests.  Often, the substance of a philosophy or belief is obscured over time as the surface decoration which was initially its outgrowth comes to define the entire idea.  The same can be said of preppy fashion.

It’s not too dramatic to state that the preppy fashion meme of today is but a shallow construct masquerading as some sort of cultural touch point.  The problem of course, is that preppy fashion has almost nothing to do with the culture it references, certainly not when it comes to actual, you know, culture.  However, as we move into the Spring of 2014, it would appear that designers are finally beginning to see the limits of the hyper-preppy overkill that has saturated the menswear space for several years.

The eye-burning excess of colors, patterns, crests, layers, skulls-emblazoned-on-everything, big plaid with little plaid with repp stripes, and velvet slippers to the office, finally seems to have exhausted even the most ardent of trend spotters.

So now, at long last, we can move onto the next phase in the ongoing preppy style circle of life.  As evidenced above in this relatively realistic GQ-styled take on preppy, a shift toward real life appears to be in motion.  Actor Theo James’ outfit, shot appropriately on Nantucket island, is thoroughly believable and wearable. Thank goodness.

The Influence of Real Life

Actual preppy style (that is, the preppy style of dress) evolved from life in New England preparatory schools, which by and large expressed conservative protestant values and social stratification.  Collectively, these influences created an environment which produced the uniform we know now as the preppy look.

Today, when someone is called (or calls themselves) “preppy,” it usually means that he dresses in a neo-traditional fashion, typically predicated on conveying a classically sporty lifestyle (crew, rugby, sailing, 1950s football, etc.).  Often, but not always, it is simply costume; no sense of history or understanding of the preppy culture.  That’s too bad, because actually, it’s a pretty interesting history.

Take Ivy Picture The Full Circle of PreppyMore so than other styles, preppy – East Coast, Ivy League, WASPy, call it what you will – has a real history behind it that clearly informs the fashion.

Perhaps that is why the style and implied lifestyle behind it, endures generation after generation.  While you can look polished and successful in a nice suit and carrying an expensive bag, you can convey many more social, cultural and status cues looking as though you just hopped off your Hinkley yacht after spending a week at the Cape house.

While for the most part it started at New England prep schools and ivy walled colleges, the roots of preppy style can also be traced to a focus on social achievement, uniformity of style, propriety, proper decorum and class distinction. Conformity of dress at school resulted in the basic uniform of coat, tie, button down shirt, grey flannels or chinos and loafers or lace ups. Codes, traditions and sports also helped to nurture a bond and familiarity among budding preps and instilled in them a feeling of belonging.

A culture of thrift and purpose also pervaded the Ivy League world.  Clothing was worn until it frayed, upon which it was patched and sewn.  Garments were handed down and cherished, signs of age and wear denoted a certain authenticity and personality that only time conveys.  Preppy style looks so good because it looks so worn and beat-up, lived in, and loved over time.  This focus on These

This environment helped create a culture of exclusivity that had real influence.  To say you prepped at Phillips Exeter (a feeder school for Harvard) or Hotchkiss (a feeder school for Yale) could win you access to the right social circle or get you into really great parties.  And once in the working world, to say you were a Yale man could mean getting the right job, joining the right club or vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.

From Exclusive to Popular Culture

As preps sought to instill that sense of tradition and lifestyle in their own children, they looked, of course, to their own preppy past. To the oak paneled lecture halls of Exeter, the squash courts of Deerfield and the rowdy but stylish nights at Choate Rosemary Hall. So, their offspring were trucked off to the old alma mater and the cycle began again.

Kennedy Short Khakis The Full Circle of PreppyWithout question, it was an exclusive, self-impressed, and privileged world that gave birth to preppy style and the culture that underpinned it.  But, as with so many other attempts to create a homogenous bubble of exclusivity, the prep school aesthetic eventually moved beyond its original sphere of influence.

People want what they do not have or what seems more attractive than what they do. So, when the Preppy Handbook hit the shelves in 1980, its editor Lisa Birchach (herself a Brown grad) overnight became the arbiter of all things pink and green. People didn’t care that it was intended to be both a send-up of the “true” prep culture as well as a tongue and cheek education for those looking to emulate the life. They saw a way of living that was far more exciting, cultured, sporty and stylish than their own – and they wanted it.

For the first time, preppy culture had been distilled into a portable and easy to understand resource.  It was, and remains, the de facto guidebook to being preppy.  And, while she issued a follow-up, “True Prep” in 2010, the original remains unquestionably dominant in influence.

The privileged and windswept lifestyle that had taken generations of Blue Bloods to develop and refine was now a commodity to be bought and imitated. In that moment, the life of prep was effectively democratized. That is because once the Preppy Handbook came out, kids across the world latched onto the single most attractive and achievable aspect of the actual preppy’s life: its look – the rumpled and ironic blending of dress and casual clothes.

Ralph Lauren Preppy The Full Circle of PreppyIn the intervening years, preppy style has been interpreted, parsed, watered down and ginned up to such a degree that for many it has been commoditized beyond recognition.

In response, sites like Christian Chensvold’s Ivy Style launched as a sort of counterbalance, reminding people that this preppy fashion thing actually had a rich and important story behind it.  Yes, anyone can dress preppy, but “being” preppy is actually something altogether different.

When we first broached this subject years ago, one OTC reader pointed out that what some only know of as iconic Ralph Lauren branding, the mixing of dress and functional clothing, did not actually start out as a fashion movement.  His comment was in itself an expression of true preppy-ness:

“You don’t wear foul weather gear over your blazer because you’re a blue-blooded American demonstrating your accessibility without appearing tacky; you do it because you’re a wise-mouthed elitist who smugly tells your Latin professor, technically speaking, you haven’t broken any rules so there’s nothing he can do about it. And of course it’s sailing gear, because your father does own a yacht…”

The original audience for this rebellious “foul weather gear over the blazer” look was other preppies and their families. Yet, as this type of hybrid style came into its own, it seeped out into regular society. Eventually spreading to Madison Avenue, it was popularized by style influencers like the aforementioned Ralph Lauren.  Over time, the prep boom of the 1980s waned due to its extreme and vibrant interpretation of the preppy culture – the same issue facing the trend today.  At its apogee there was an almost cartoonish quality to the movement.  Sound familiar?

Finding Preppy’s Roots

What we see moving into the American preppy space now is an interest in a more reality-based look; muted colors and less overt branding and styling, singular pops of color rather than a cacophony that overwhelms.  Less “look at me, I’m preppy!” and more “oh, this old thing was my dad’s when he was in school.”

Hopefully, all this will translate into a more careworn, comfortable and vintage preppy personality; approachable and less precious than in the last few years.  Many of the style’s adherents are now looking for a little substance behind the flash, the story behind the fashion, and a more accurate read on the overall Ivy League look.

How wonderful would it be for the renewed focus on menswear quality, detail, provenance, and longevity to extend to the history and culture behind that most American of fashions?  Let’s make understanding the roots of American preppy as stylish as dressing in American preppy.