I truly did not think that I would see this day. I have read of it and I have even seen pictures of it, but I still thought it more myth than certain reality and then last week it happened to me. My trusty OCBD that had a charming amount of fraying now has a hole in its collar.
No blog has probably done a better job of documenting the Ivy & Trad virtues of well-worn clothing than Ivy Style with articles such as “A Frayed So: In Praise of Beater Clothes.” It was there where I saw my first OCBD collar riddled (pictured above) with what looked to me like symptoms of an insect problem not true wear and tear. This is where I was wrong.
Prior to springing a leak my shirt showed no signs of being on its last leg. It was worn to the office the week before. I put it in the wash frayed and it came out with a hole. It was part of my core rotation of 12 OCBDs. So it sees action about once every other week. I may have worn this one more than others without being aware of it (They do all look the same). However, upon further inspection two others are showing signs of being structurally weak in the same area.
I learned a few things this week. I learned that collars do get holes in them naturally without the shirts being worn well past their prime. I also learned that this batch of OCBDs all of which are from Lands’ End were purchased in 2007 and 2008. That is not a bad value at all when you consider that this shirt still has a very long life ahead of it. It may not make it to the office anymore, but it is just starting to get good and I didn’t even have to use sand paper (Princeton Boys and The Sandpapered Shirt Collar).
My main watch band was in need of some attention. I say main, because I have worn this band 99% of the time for the last 2 or 3 years. I say it needed attention, because not only was it starting to look dingy but it was also developing its own smell.
Luckily for me I remembered reading something somewhere on cleaning watch bands. The somewhere was a menswear forum and the advice was from Ask Andy Trad veteran’s Patrick and Ensiferous. These two suggested soaking watch bands overnight in water with a teaspoon of dishwasher detergent.
Last night I gave it a try. I purchased a small bottle of dishwasher detergent at the grocery for $3. I filled a small plastic container with hot water added a teaspoon of the detergent dissolving it before adding in my watchband. This morning I pulled it out of the container, rinsed under tap water, and let it try off.
My watch band is not good as new, but it looks and smells so much better! I thought that I may have to throw it away, but it has a lot of life left in it. This is good news to me and this band, but bad news for all of my other watch bands that were hoping to get some playing time.
Here in Ohio I have been noticing summer drawing to a close over the past 2 weeks. We have been experiencing both summer and fall temps with Autumn in the air. Everyone is getting excited for the cooler weather and all of the layering that comes along with it, but until then we still have to deal with heat. This is the time of year wear a muddy madras shirt in browns, blues, and greens is indispensable, but I have found another late summer option in my poplin tartan shirt.
I have always thought (and still do to an extent) that tartan shirts are strictly for fall and winter wear. However, there seems to be a tradition of trads sporting tartan shirts in lightweight fabrics during the summer. I say that because these lightweight tartan shirts can be found at O’Connell’s and Mercer’s. I also recall seeing some from Brooks Brothers in the past and J.Press having them in walking shorts.
Mercer & Son’s Dress Gordon in Broadcloth ($155)
O’Connell’s Blackwatch Shirt in Broadcloth ($145)
One thing that I found interesting about these shirts are the patterns. These shirts are primarily made in Dress Gordon and Blackwatch Tartans. This is great for me as Dress Gordon is by far my favorite tartan with Blackwatch being a close second. I seem to recall seeing some in Dress Stewart, but I could not find one available at this time.
As the weather transitions and the colors of summer start to fade lightweight tartan shirts make a great pairing. The poplin will keep you cool while the tartan colors are a nice nod to the changing weather. Additionally these shirts can be worn when warm weather is far far behind us and we are dreaming of madras again.
My current work bag (pictured below) was a more or less a lucky find. It is made by Billy Kirk’s lower tier label Brothers Bray. I first saw it in a Urban Outfitters ad. I liked its drab colors and simple construction. Its utilitarian design spoke to me. Plus, it was right around $100. After 8 years of service my bag is now approaching retirement I am starting my search for a brand new bag.
I started my search at Filson. Filson sells the trad bag which is the Filson Original Briefcase (see below). I am sure that my bag’s similarities to this classic bag is what caught my eye in the first place. However, priced at $325 the Original Briefcase is not cheap.
Looking for more affordable options I spotted a few great looking alternatives at L.L. Bean. One of the bags is labeled as a tote and the other two briefcases, but I think that all of them would work well in our business casual world and would be a improvement over the backpack trend that I have been seeing over the last few years.
The L.L. Bean West Branch Tote ($159) – This bag is strikingly similar to my current bag. The only thing that it is missing is the olive green accents. Priced at $159 this is a good looking bag. It is high on my list. If I go this route I will probably switch out the brown shoulder strap for an olive one.
The L.L. Bean Heritage Waxed Messenger Bag ($149) – This bag is similar to my current bag, but is also noticeably different. It has the olive green accents that I like, but it lacks a leather bottom which in exchange gives it a more casual look and feel. Overall it is a great looking bag at a great price.
The Sportsman’s Briefcase ($119) – This bag is actually very similar to the Filson Original Briefcase. Albeit it is not as rugged the Filson, but to its advantage it has a great 80’s Original Preppy Handbook vibe. On top of that it is probably the most professional looking of the bags that I have listed, but I could see it being confused as suitcase.
I hope this list helps out all of my fellow office dwellers. With the need to carry laptops, tablets, smart phones, and an assortment of other work supplies a bag is a necessity of the modern professional. These bags will make your day-to-day life easier while still retaining some semblance of trad style.
If you are in the market for a new OCBD or just want to expand your trad horizons outside of Brooks Brothers and J.Press boy do I have some good news for you! Michael Spencer is currently running a $40 off sale (bringing the price down to $95 from $135) to celebrate the Fourth of July. While the Fourth has came and went the sale continues until July 14th.
A little more about Michael Spencer. He is an advertiser on this site (and is very much appreciated!), but that is not why I posted this sale. His shirts are the real deal. They are made in the same factory as Brooks Brothers along with all the usual suspects, but there are some advantages to a Michael Spencer OCBD. With Michael Spencer you can get lined or unlined collars, custom sleeve lengths, and just about any other trad detail that your heart desires.
If you are still on the fence about Michael Spencer’s OCBDs look no further. I have you covered. Here is a link to a review from Oxford Cloth Button Down reader Steve that he did for the blog a while back (Michael Spencer OCBD Review). He had nothing but good things to say.