Monthly Archives: March 2010

Chop Style: Guide to Thrift Store Shopping: Part II

Okay! so now that you know your size, what you need, and everything else we talked about yesterday, we’re finally ready to hit the shops. But don’t run out the door just yet. You can still go very wrong, very quickly if you’re not careful.

The goal here is to go for classic style. We could drink Pikesville manhattans all night and try to talk about what classic style means, but a picture is worth a thousand words. We suggest you stop taking Mad Men as your primary frame of reference, and once again strongly urge you all to check out the impossible cool.

This is how grown-ups dress. Jean Shrimpton and bystanders. (Image courtesy the impossible cool.)

When walking into a thrift shop, there are three ways you can go. One of them is to make a beeline for the racks of your sex and size, which is highly recommended. The goal here is efficiency, and since you already know what you’re looking for, why not go find it?

You can also head toward the “boutique” section that some stores feature near the front. These sections are typically made up of designer clothes in good condition, which are priced higher than the rest of the stock (though sometimes still a bargain). Here’s a dirty little secret though… what ends up in the boutique section is mostly arbitrary. It’s all according to the tastes and knowledge of hourly thrift store employees, who aren’t exactly fashionistas themselves. You’ll see a lot of labels you recognize, but big name designers are sometimes also fuck-ups. There’s really no difference in quality between the boutique rack and the general stock.

You can also stray into the sections that contain furniture, housewares, books and records, etc. Don’t do this! You’re here to shop for clothes today. Come back another time for all the other stuff. It’s entirely possible you’ll piss away an hour combing through Perry Como records while someone else walks away with that Fred Perry cardigan that would have looked better on you.

Not everyone looked dumb in the 70's. (Chet Baker. Image courtesy the impossible cool.

Now let’s get down to the straight dope. You’re standing in front of the rack and looking at a row of about 30 white shirts. How the hell do you know which one to buy? Aren’t they all the same? No. On with the tips:

>>> Fit. We know we already said that you have to know your size and try everything on, but you’re not just seeing if you can get it on, you want it to fit perfectly. Not all clothes are cut to what the tag says, and not all people fit patterns. There are plenty of articles online describing how things should fit, but basically if you’re trying it on and think it’s imperfect, it is. Sleeve length, neckroom, waist, shoulders; it’s hard to get every measurement to fall into place. It takes a lot of patience to find a piece that fits perfectly, but once you do you’ll find yourself reaching for it often, and thinking everything else in your closet doesn’t quite fit correctly.

>>> Material. Natural. No polyester. No rayon. No bullshit. Do you want to look like a cheap set of K-mart draperies, or like this? You should be looking for cotton and wool primarily, and the best quality of it you can find. These clothes will last you a lifetime. How do you think that herringbone jacket ended up here? It’s very possible that it out-lived it’s owner.

>>>Damage. Don’t buy damaged clothing. Ever. Don’t. Don’t try to convince yourself that that stain is too small to notice or that that hole will be hidden by your outerwear. It won’t, and you’ll look ridiculous. The only exception to this is damage that you are absolutely certain you can fix yourself. A missing button isn’t a problem. An off-the-seam tear is.

>>> Alteration. Going hand in hand with fit and damage is alteration. If you can alter your own clothes you’re way ahead of the game. The Chop has successfully altered jacket sleeves and added custom shirt buttons, but we’d fear to try anything more advanced. If you find that perfect outfit that doesn’t quite fit, you can have it altered (also altering the total price) but it’s important to understand what a tailor (read: dry-cleaner) can and can’t do.

>>> Look for tags and labels. Not that you should shop on tags and labels exclusively, but they can tell you a lot about a garment’s history. You’d be surprised how much never-worn clothing hits thrift stores with store tags still on it. Not that store tags make one garment inherently better than another, but they are nice to have. Labels are important to watch also. Most stores (Target, Macy’s, etc) have their own in-house brands. Tons of this shite ends up in thrift stores, and while it’s not all bad, it’s important to know that “Faded Glory” means you’re holding a pair of Wal-Mart jeans. Without resorting to being a label-whore, there’s no denying that big-name fashion houses do hire the best designers in the world, and make clothes that aren’t meant to be disposable.

>>> Shoes and accessories. You need to be very careful about walking a mile in another man’s shoes. You should never look to find boots, casual shoes, or athletic shoes used. You might, however, find a good pair of occasional shoes. Women have it much better than men in this respect, but even the men can find a good pair of brogues or something if you look long enough. The same rules as clothing apply, and don’t forget to look around at accessories. We got our Christian Dior bi-fold wallet at an area Goodwill, and get complimented on it all the time.

>>> Finally, take chances, but manage risks. The best part of shopping in a thrift store is that stuff is cheap. Buying white pants this Spring doesn’t have to mean pissing away half a day’s pay. If you get them home and realize that they actually don’t work on you, you can donate them right back. Always think about the places and events to which you could wear something, and the clothes you can match it to. Buy something you might not normally, but always, always, for Christ’s sake always resist the temptation to buy anything ironic.


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Chop Style: Guide to Thrift Store Shopping

As you may have noticed Baltimore, Spring is here. Like for real. Like actually happening out the window right now! We know you’ve noticed, because we watched you walk around all weekend having weathergasms all over the place; cameraphones in hand, flip flops and the whole nine.

And as such it’s high time the Chop got our wardrobe together for the season. So today we’re making the big circuit, hitting up most of the area Goodwill stores, Salvation Army shops, and even Value Village. We may not be the best dressed man in Baltimore, but we’re always the best dressed in our price range.

We didn’t get there easily though. It takes a lot of work, patience and knowledge to wade through other people’s crap in search of something of quality. There’s also the risk of coming out of the store looking like you shop exclusively at a thrift store. Even if you do, you shouldn’t look the part. Save that for the Hampden Hipster Welfare Queens and MICA sophomores. No, you want to look good this spring, and the Chop is here to help with our two part guide to thrift store shopping.

Shopping at Goodwill doesn't mean you have to look like this. (Image courtesy LATFH)

Half the battle is waged before you even get into the store. If you just dive headfirst into a sea of textiles, you’re probably going to drown. finding quality vintage clothing isn’t like finding a needle in a haystack; its much harder than that. It’s like finding one particular needle in a stack of needles. People who run higher-priced vintage clothing boutiques know this, and they’re skilled at it, and it’s a dirty little open secret that many of them pull stock from the sales floors of the big three. So today we’re going to focus on what you need to know before you go:

>>> Know Your Sizes. This is the single biggest way to save yourself time and hassle when shopping anywhere. It will kill you to find the perfect jeans in your size only to find out that your size isn’t actually your size. It’s the size you were in high school, or the size you wish you were, or the size you guessed at. If you haven’t shopped for clothes in a while, you might not be the size you think you are. Before you bring those jeans to the fitting room, make sure there’s a decent chance that they will actually fit. If you really have no idea what your sizes are, have someone measure you. Failing that, go to Macy’s and have them measure you. Seriously, it’s that important.

>>> Take Stock of Your Wardrobe. The general rule of thumb is that if you haven’t worn it in 12 months, you shouldn’t have it in your closet. There are plenty of articles online about how to clean out your closet. Once you’ve done that you should have a good idea of what you need the most, so that when you get into the store you already have priorities. You’ll also have a bag full of clothes to donate and a good deal of extra space in your closet.

>>> What to Wear on a Shopping Trip. A little thinking ahead about what you’re wearing to the store can save you significant time if you’re trying on more than one or two items. The Chop always makes a point to shop in a v-neck tee, our everyday jeans, and slip-on loafers. This way we can try on shirts right in the aisles, shoes come on and off easily when trying pants, and we know what does or doesn’t work with our favorite jeans.

>>> Watch the Sales. A little clicking around on the links above will tell you when the sales are going on, or you can be sure to ask a clerk when you get there. The last Saturday of every month is Goodwill’s Super Saturday, when everything is half price. the only thing better than a $4 shirt is two shirts for $4, but beware; little old ladies come out of the woodwork. Super Saturdays and midnight madness can spawn hour-long lines, trashed sales floors, and ugly fights over crappy garments. Our advice is to shop just before the sale starts, or right at the tail end of it. A YSL necktie isn’t worth civil unrest.

>>> Go back often. Thrift stores rotate stock much more quickly than department stores or even discount stores. It’s worth your while to ask the clerks when stocking days are, and to check the stores closest to you as often as once a week. If you follow the advice here it will only take a few moments to scan the entire store.

Tomorrow: How to tell trash from treasure. The Chop talks Labels, material, tailoring, accessories and more!



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David Bazan, Headlights @ Ottobar Tonight

Well Baltimore, you finally came through for us on a Sunday. The Chop was content to spend Sundays at home, waxing philosophical and drinking wine on the balcony, but yeah, we’d rather go out.

And we wouldn’t miss this one. Pedro the Lion is playing the Ottobar tonight. Okay, it’s not actually Pedro the Lion. It’s David Bazan, but it’s no great leap in logic to say that Pedro was David and vice versa. In fact, there have been few other bands in recent history who’s frontman has stood so far out front. Pedro the Lion’s sound was always so personal and intimate that it was entirely clear it was the David Bazan Show, and it wasn’t far off what you can expect tonight; downbeat rhythms and haunting melodies interwoven with iconic imagery, high-minded ideas, and crying-in-your-room-alone lyrics.

David bazan and Headlights play the Ottobar tonight. 8pm Doors.

Much has been made over the last 15 years about Bazan’s religion or lack thereof, but the Chop has always considered him to be an artist first; an artist who happened to be Christian. Just as we now see him as an artist who happens to be a former Christian. Throughout it all, it’s been fascinating to watch Bazan grow both as an artist and as a man. Few performers, or even people for that matter, are willing to struggle so earnestly with their beliefs, and no matter what our own faith may be about the next world, Bazan has something terribly poignant and essential to teach us about being alive in this one.

We’re also looking forward to checking out Urbana/Champaign’s Headlights, who are touring extensively with Bazan, and whose Wildlife LP on Polyvinyl sounds like an updated and underproduced Anniversary record, and we mean that in the nicest way possible. As much as we love just about everything else Polyvinyl ever put out (Braid! Ranier Maria!), we’re sure we’ll wake up Monday morning loving headlights just as much. You should too.


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Squaaks Madness at Metro Gallery Tonight

The Chop doesn’t particularly like March Madness. While we suppose it’s better than the whole crooked-corporate-BCS system, we just can’t bring ourselves to care much about college basketball.

We do however like springtime. And friends. And beer in red plastic cups and front porches and backyards and nachos, veggie platters, and pizzas. So we’re going to be spending the better part of today at a March Madness themed party… officially mourning the loss of the Morgan State Bears, and unofficially spending most of the day talking about Sarasota and Opening Day.

This story has a happy ending though, because after a full day of listening to people pretend to be experts in, or even care about basketball, we get to go to a place where no one cares about sports and fill our head with the noise we want to hear: Squaaks!

Squaaks play the Metro Gallery tonight. 8pm Doors.

Squaaks turn the Metro Gallery into their own personal garage tonight along with The Courtesy Line and A Cat Called Cricket.

For the unfamiliar, the band often likens itself to acts like T-Rex, the Kinks, and the Beatles, and we say they’re not far off in that description (Okay… maybe they’re no Beatles, but whatever.) The band also features Elena Fox of Ace of Cakes fame, who was recently endorsed by Daisy Rock Guitars.

Who knows? Maybe that’s just the next rung on the ladder of fame. Bottom line, come out and see them tonight and in ten years’ time you can say “Oh yeah, I was into them way back when…”

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The Chop’s Sake Punch Recipe

So we didn’t get that sushi on last night’s Fell’s Point excursion, which means its definitely on the menu for tonight. We haven’t had any since we left for Europe, so it’s high time.

The combination of tasty maki and warm weather with extra daylight puts us in mind of one of the Chop’s favorite cocktails, Sake Punch. We’re also going to go ahead and claim credit for its creation, since a quick search of Drinks Mixer and Webtender didn’t turn up anything terribly close. You can whip this up in a cocktail shaker, or reach for a pitcher for entertaining guests, passing around the dinner table, or long evenings sitting on the stoop.

It will look something like this.

The Baltimore Chop’s Sake Punch Recipe:

>>> 1 oz. Stolichnaya Red Label Vodka (or substitute equal or better quality.)

>>> 3 oz. Sake (We like to use Momokawa Pearl, and can recommend their entire line. The important decision is cloudy or clear. Either works well, as long as you stay away from the cheap stuff.)

>>> .5 oz. Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry Juice.

>>> 1 Lemon Wedge or Twist of Lemon

If you’re reading this, then you obviously already know how to mix a good drink, so we won’t detail process. There are also hundreds of possible variations if you mix and match juices, sakes and flavored vodkas. We will however state that all measurements are approximate, and you should mix to your own personal taste.



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What Are You Sitting Around For? Let’s Go Out Drinking!

Okay Baltimore. Have you learned your lesson yet? Have you maybe finally figured out that you deserve that hangover? That quality always outstrips quantity? That nobody wants to kiss you and you’re not Irish?

We hope so.

After spending most of yesterday at home with roommate drinking Scotch whisky, and toasting the health of the Queen of England, we’re heading out to take the town by the balls. Even though there’s fuck-all going on in town tonight, the Chop will not be deterred.

If you need me I'll be at the downtown office.

We figure its an ideal Thursday for a good old-fashioned Fells Point bar crawl. That’s right… we’re leaving the cozy confines of North Baltimore and hitting up all of our downtown favorites; Blarney Stone, Bad Decisions, Wharf Rat, Pearl’s (yeah, Pearl’s suckas!) Maybe even go by Fletcher’s, Henninger’s, and Pete’s. Its possible we’ll even do dinner at Asahi or Meli. Even though there’s no more Friends’, we’re still looking forward to playing some tracks on the jukebox.

And we’re gonna find out what you did yesterday Baltimore. Straight from the horse’s (read: bartenders’) mouth. We’re going get all the dirty details and gritty gossip. It’s gonna be juicier than Melrose Place.


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House Rules: Put Another Dime in the Jukebox: Part II

Happy Saint Paddy’s Day Baltimore. We hope you’re having a ton of fun out there today with your crummy boiled food and tacky plastic shamrocks. We fully expect to wake up tomorrow to gutters overflowing with green puke.

We’ve already gone on record with our opinion that drinking holidays are strictly amateur night, and as much as we love booze (which is a lot), you won’t find us at any of these places, or these places either.

But if you’re heading out tonight, do us all a favor; when you find yourself next to that jukebox give us all a break from the God-awful Dropkick Murphy’s and the ever-insufferable U2, and pick a track that follows the Chop’s 3 rules. Here are ten excellent examples… (links go to YouTube so you can hear the songs on the list, making this post a virtual jukebox in its own right.)

We're not a big fan of the Cranberries, either.

>>> Morrissey: Suedehead Yeah. We all love the Smiths and all, but heaven knows I’m miserable listening to the same singles every weekend. Plus, this song is great for when your ex turns up at the bar hanging all over somebody new and glaring at you icily.

>>> The Breeders: Divine Hammer To a man listening to this song, everything in the bar looks like a nail. Awesome!

>>> Afghan Whigs: Gentleman If Greg Dulli were here, he’d probably lay your girlfriend in the bathroom stall and piss on your car tires. Or the Chop might do it… either way.

>>> Weezer: The Good Life See also: Why Bother? and Tired of Sex.

>>> The Gaslight Anthem: I Coulda Been a Contender If you’re not yet in love with the Gaslight Anthem, then get thee to the record store! There’s no better band for feeling like you’re Marlon Brando circa 1954. If you want to live in a movie, this is your soundtrack.

>>> The Clash: Stay Free Sharif don’t like the Casbah. London called, and they’re tired of the same old song. And Rudie did fail. Stay Free relates the entire bittersweet experience of being British in the 20th century in two short minutes. No one else (except maybe Mike Ness) could so deftly mix equal parts nostalgia and old-school cool.

>>> The White Stripes: Hotel Yorba Get over yourself, okay? You’re not too cool for the White Stripes. Never were, never will be.

>>> Sleater-Kinney: You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun Playing this song is pretty much like throwing down a challenge to everyone in the bar to be more fun. You can’t do much better than that.

>>> The Replacements: Bastards of Young Got a chip on your shoulder? Of course you do, you’re drunk before dinner. Good job. Beats pickin’ cotton.

>>> Sonic Youth: Kool Thing If you’ve followed the Chop’s advice and rocked all of the songs on this list, you might be fractionally as bad-ass as Kim Gordon for a small moment of your finest hour.



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House Rules: Put Another Dime in the Jukebox, Baby.

Sigh, We see you there Baltimore… Standing there staring at the jukebox, playing with your hair while you sip your Jameson and coke, shifting your weight from hip to hip in a not-unsexy way. We noticed the way you matched your favorite Chucks to a Betsey Johnson bag and threw in a seasonal scarf just for good measure, and we like your style. So naturally we presume your taste in music is at least as good, and we’re watching to see which three songs you’ll get for your dollar.

You’re taking your time… perhaps looking for something in particular. Or maybe you’re one of those who needs to make a point by deliberately choosing the most obscure hipster record in the entire machine. That’s okay. Just as long as you don’t try to pull any *ironic* nonsense and select some crap like Motley Crue. Doctor Feelgood will not make me feel all right. And you’re probably not even gonna fuck the bartender for blow. (Probably…)

The Chop at the jukebox, circa 1951.

So we wait. And finally we see you punch the buttons. We perk up our ears and what do we hear? Wait… no. Is that Animal Collective? Fleet Foxes? Holy shit, I have to suffer through Vampire Weekend? Are you a freshman at MICA or something? Journey? Fucking Journey!? Again? Seriously? Are you not tired of this shit yet? Do you think the whole bar really sees you as the tragic heroine with the heart of gold because you played Journey? Or maybe you don’t actually realize that 3 other morons are going to punch A-13 before last call, because they didn’t stop believin’ either.

So come over here Baltimore. Sit down next to the Chop, and we’re going to buy you a drink and have a talk about your musical taste and the do’s and don’ts of the jukebox.

The Chop is no stranger to jukes of all types, and we’re not afraid to stick a twenty in there and punch buttons all night long. We’ve even, on occasion, cleared out an entire bar on purpose playing songs no one wanted to hear. But we use our powers for good as well. So heed this advice the next time you come to the bar straight from the laundromat with 20 quarters in your pocket: skip your date with the Megatouch and play a couple of Chop-approved tracks instead.

There are only three simple rules to remember when you step up to the juke. In the kind of places your dad hangs out, it can be hard to find songs that meet all three, but where we see you out Baltimore, at RTV and Club Chuck and the like, these rules aren’t that hard to follow.

Three steps to a great jukebox selection:

1/ Pick a song by a popular artist, which hasn’t been ruined by being played to the point of over-saturation and fatigue.

2/ Pick a song with a good backbeat and a catching rhythm. You should be tapping your fingers and nodding your head a few bars in. By the end you should break into a full-on strut.

3/ Everyone in the room should be able to hear the song, and instantly feel like they had picked it themselves. It should make everyone feel that much cooler just for having heard it, thereby making the whole bar that much cooler.

We were going to give you the Chop’s top ten jukebox picks here, but instead we’ve decided to go all 1980’s sitcom style and make this a two part post to be continued tomorrow. Tune in then: same Chop time, same Chop channel.



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Rival Schools @ Ottobar Tonight

Rain, rain,

Go away.

The Chop’s coming out to rock today.

That’s right Baltimore… our lazy weekend of Mad-Men watching, rum drinking, new drapery installing, brunch-munching domesticity is over. Its Monday night and we’re ready to rock again! And you know it’s not just any show if its good enough to get Roommate off the couch and away from that Wii Lego Star Wars game.

Of course, they didn’t have Wii in 2001, and that’s where we’re going tonight… all the way back to 2001 to see Rival Schools at the Ottobar.

Rival Schools plays the Ottobar tonight. 9 pm.

Now, the Chop can clearly remember seeing Rival Schools for the first time at the old Ottobar on Davis Street in 2001, and having our mind blown in short order. You can see for yourself what they sounded like back then over at [Shiny Grey Monotone], where we’ve already professed our love. We still say United By Fate is right up there among the best records of the last decade.

For the unfamiliar, Rival Schools are bona fide hardcore/indie royalty. Frontman Walter Schreifels also fronted Quicksand, and he and drummer Sammy Siegler have a combined resume that includes names like Youth of Today, Judge, Gorilla Biscuits, CIV, Iceburn, Project X and more. (A lot more.)

The best thing about tonight’s show though? This is not a bunch of aging has-beens who couldn’t succeed at anything else doing a lame-ass”reunion” tour “for the fans” and choking everyone with phony nostalgia. No, this is a group of talented musicians simply picking up where their too-brief run ended in 2002. They’ve been working sporadically since ’08, and tonight’s show is one of a series of only four east coast club dates, in which you can expect to hear most of your favorites from the record, a few songs that were not released, and who knows what else… new stuff? Covers?

Only one way to find out. See you there.

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The Chop Sorts Out Your Love Life.

Here we are again on a Sunday, Baltimore. Nowhere to go (unless you want to go to this), fuck-all to do, and a hangover to cure. We figure Sunday is a good time to wax philosohphical, at least until there’s Sunday O’s games or softball to play.

What we’re on about today is something that has unfortunately been pertinent lately, to wit: There’s only one right way to cancel a date.

On second thought, be an adult and pick up the phone.

Let’s get this on the record, Baltimore. It’s a question of basic etiquette, and applies across the board to men and women, boys and girls. Things happen, plans change, stuff comes up and we all need to take a rain check once in a while, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Do it right, and it speaks well of you. Do it wrong, and you can expect the phone not to ring again. Here’s the right way to cancel a date…

This is how the Chop does it:

>>> 24 hours notice is required. Anything less than 24 hours could even be considered a stand-up. If someone’s agreed to go out with you, its safe to assume that they’re looking forward to it. Dropping plans on such short notice is not only disappointing, but adds the sudden problem of having little to do that night. Even if alternate plans are easy to come by, it really sucks to have to call up your friends and say “count me in, I just got stood up.” It’s also entirely possible that you are not the only person he/she could have asked out that night. Think about that.

>>> A phone call is the preferred communication method. There’s no getting around this one. Its just good manners. On the one hand, its still the only way to be sure that your date actually knows you’re canceling. An email, text, etc may not be read immediately, and even if a date was arranged by email, a phone call is still the only good form to cancel. On the other hand, it’s true that sometimes text/email is a lot easier and less awkward, but you know what? some things in life are hard and uncomfortable. Dating is often one of them. Grown-ups pick up the phone.

>>> You actually need to have a reason. It’s perfectly understandable that some things will rate higher on a priority list than dinner and a movie. Your dad having a heart attack or your boss making you work a Saturday night or the basement of your house suddenly flooding are all perfectly legitimate reasons to cancel a date; however, “I’m real tired from work” or “My sinuses kinda hurt” aren’t. If your excuse is lame, its a pretty good indication that you don’t actually want to go out in the first place.

>>> It’s down to you to suggest alternate plans. If you can’t get to the movies on Friday, suggest the same movie Sunday instead. Can’t do happy hour Thursday? Lunch on Saturday is appropriate. If you’re punching a hole in someone else’s calendar, it’s only right that you should then work around their calendar to re-schedule, not the other way around.

>>> Bonus points: Offer to pay. Without re-opening the age-old argument about who should pay for a date in the 21st century, it is a nice gesture to offer to get the tab next time out. It shows that you’re serious about wanting to go out again, and actually regret missing a date.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Following those simple steps will keep your dance card full and your phone ringing. Neglecting any of them is tantamount to saying “I’m a big flake who can’t be counted on for anything, and probably isn’t worth your time and trouble.” Which are you, Baltimore?


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