Tag Archives: Style

Chop Style: Cheap Sunglasses vs. Expensive Sunglasses

We did a basic discussion of the style points of sunglasses back in January. That post was mostly just a visual primer on what to do and what not to do, with no mention of specific brands or models.

We’re not going to get too specific today either. But now that Summer is right around the corner and the sun is becoming a regular fixture in the sky again, we are going to try to settle one peculiar question which has been bugging us for quite some time: Should sunglasses be cheap or expensive?

Does Sonic Youth wear cheap sunglasses? Does it matter?

There are two schools of thought on this, and both are equally correct. Those who favor expensive sunglasses will point out that most $100+ pairs of shades are incredibly sturdy. The little tiny screws won’t loosen over time and the lenses won’t pop out of the frames at random. Speaking of lenses, at that price you mostly get nice lenses that are polarized and U/V gamma ray resistant, scratchproof and all that good shite. When you’re shopping really nice sunglasses, you typically get what you pay for.

Cheap sunglasses are cheap. There’s no two ways about that. But sometimes cheapness can be a virtue unto itself. With $100, you can go buy a very nice pair of Ray Ban’s that you can wear day in and day out, or you can buy 15 different pairs of cheap knockoffs and have a pair that’s a perfect match to any outfit. You can keep your pricey shades for years, but that’s only if you manage not to lose them. With cheap ones, you needn’t care if you lose or break them, because they were cheap. You can replace them so easily.


The bottom line:
We might go ahead and invest in a really nice pair of glasses that we could adopt as a stylistic trademark if we lived in some place like LA or Miami, but this is a Baltimore blog and we’re talking Baltimore Style. We say keep it cheap. Enjoy the art of thrift, and spend that extra cash on a decent shirt.

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Best Bets: Using Books as Home Decor

When we moved into the Chophouse about a year and a half ago, we were basically starting from scratch. We had moved around so much previously that we had accumulated very little furniture, and what we did have was in desperate need of replacement. Since then, we’ve been slowly figuring out how to fill up all this space.

Roommate moved in and brought his furniture, then moved out and took it away again, so we’re in the strange position now of having a completely bare living room, while at the same time being ready to put the finishing touches on most other rooms. In just about all of our rooms, those finishing touches are going to include books.

Books should fit into a living space organically, without dominating the room.

Incorporating books into design is nothing new, and there are any number of ways to go about it. Sites like Book Decor and Books By The Foot will even sell you books in bulk to suit any design aesthetic you like, from goatskin covers to shelves arranged by size or color, or even books wrapped in custom covers. Just don’t try to actually read them though, since they’re selected solely for appearance and may not even be in English.

We see this as a tacky, slothful solution, and prefer a more organic approach. Books should say something about their owner, and need to pull their weight in any design scheme by actually being functional. If it’s not something we’d want to pick up and idly look over on any lazy Sunday afternoon, then it’s just not worth having around.

Aside from the library of novels in our home office, we’re envisioning a few choice vegetarian cookbooks living in the kitchen. It’s nice to have some fresh ideas for dinner close at hand, and trying to double check something on a smartphone while three burners are going and your hands are sticky is never a good idea.

The wine rack in our dining room has shelf space on it as well, perfect for a couple of cocktail compendiums and a book or two on wine. After all, no home is really complete without a copy of Imbibe! or The Modern Drunkard, is it?

We’ve got some stubborn empty space atop the wardrobe, and we’re thinking the bedroom would be the ideal spot to house a collection of the Harvard Classics or a vintage encyclopaedia set, easy enough to acquire on eBay. We’ve also got two nightstands and have been thinking of a floating shelf or two, which would be perfect for stacking a couple first edition hardbacks.

Of course, we’re still pretty far away from putting finishing touches on the living room, but there’s no end to the possibilities. Here’s a few we think we could live with throughout the house:

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Chop Style: Grilling Aprons

Now that baseball season is officially underway, we’re about to see all the hallmarks of Summer in Baltimore unfold rapidly. We’re on the cusp of several months of crab feasts, Arabbers, festivals, open fire hydrants, stoop sitting, and all the other things that make Summer in the city such a wonderful time.

Last week wasn’t just the beginning of baseball season, it was also the de facto start of the grilling season. Whether you favor Esskay dogs or Ceriello steaks, charcoal or gas, it’s time to get cooking. If you’ve read this blog before you probably know that we’re very careful about choosing clothes and getting dressed, and we aim to keep the A1 and the Pickapeppa far away from our shirts this Summer. How? By being careful about choosing an apron.

Sure, you *can* grill without an apron. We don't recommend it though.

Aprons still have a bit of a feminine connotation attached to them, and while there are plenty of patterns and designs available out there, few of them are suited to men. In choosing one for yourself, you should be guided by the same principles that inform the rest of your wardrobe. Pick something that’s made of quality cloth in a classic color or pattern that works for all occasions. Most importantly, stay away from stupid novelty aprons. Whatever it looks like, your apron should not distract from the rest of your outfit. Here are three choices for your Summer cookouts which are damn near foolproof.

Dean and DeLuca apron. $24.

The thing about aprons is this: even the fanciest ones you can possibly buy are under $30. This one from Dean and DeLuca is plain white and perfect for outdoor use. Even if you’re just serving up hot dogs and ketchup, the prominent label will lend you a little gourmet credibility and your cookout guests will come away thinking ‘Oh he shop at Dean and DeLuca. He think he fancy, huh?’

Williams Sonoma Marseille apron. $24.

The Marseille apron from Williams Sonoma does in fact have a bunch of flowers all over it, but we’d dare anyone to call it girly. The pattern is so tight and the color so muted that it falls squarely into the ‘classic’ category, and at $24 it might be the least expensive item in any Williams Sonoma store.

Sur la Table Black Muted Stripe apron. $19.95

Of course, there are few things more masculine than butchering, and if you’re the kind of backyard chef that literally likes to go whole-hog, then this butcher-striped apron from Sur La Table should be right up your alley. It may not have the prominent branding of the D & D apron, but if any of your guests should ask about it you have the added enjoyment of getting to pronounce Sur la Table which can be a launching pad to a five minute comedy routine complete with Julia Child impression if you’ve had a few Summer cocktails.

One final word: Although we fully endorse aprons, and even aprons from fancy-schmancy stores like the ones listed here, we would caution anyone against going the extra mile and wearing a chef’s coat at home. Nothing screams ‘I’m a pretentious asshole and am only cooking for you to feed my own ego’ like wearing a chef’s coat outside a commercial kitchen. Plus you’ll look like a sweaty jerk wearing a full coat in the middle of Summer. If you’re hosting a cookout, you can always fold an apron down to the waist, grab a beer and mingle while the grill is going. In a chef’s coat, you’ll look more like the help than the host, and be at a remove from your guests until you take the damn thing off.

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Chop Style: Guide to Men’s Watches

When the Chop turned 30 recently, we decided it would be thoroughly appropriate to mark the passage of time with the purchase of our first decent watch. There’s no small amount of metaphorical allusion involved in such a purchase, but for the Chop it was as much a practical acquisition as anything. Most watches we’ve had in the past have been gifts, and while they were all well-intentioned, they were also all cheap and low on style. If you’re going to live past 30, you deserve a watch that costs more than $30. That’s how we see it.

Your Chop did not enter into the pursuit of watch shopping lightly. We weren’t expecting to get something that’s going to be a future heirloom or anything, but if we’re going to part with a few hundred dollars, we’d like to end up with something that’s going to last us several years, be high on style, be made to quality standards, and go with most everything. In addition to being a self-birthday gift, the watch also has to do double duty as being a souvenir of our first trip to England, which is where we eventually found one that was just right.

These picks reflect an optimum mix of style, price, and quality. The Chop’s not going to waste your time with tourbillions, complications, jeweled bearings and the merits of white gold vs. rose gold. We just want you to look good when she asks you for the time.

What we wear:

Tissot

The Chop's watch. Tissot Desire.

This isn’t exactly our watch, but it’s the closest to be found on the US website. After being founded in Le Locle, Switzerland in 1853, Tissot eventually partnered with Omega, which are both now owned by the Swatch Group. Tissot offers a good range of styles with prices up into used-car-price-range territory, but we give highest marks to their Classic line which looks as good today as when these things were first designed.

What we would wear:

Mondaine

Mondaine Automatic – A132.30303.11SBB

Mondaine likes to market themselves as the official watch of the Swiss Railways, which is a pretty ringing endorsement. The common design aesthetic throughout their whole line makes these watches as easy to read on your wrist as they are to notice on someone else’s. The Automatic model above features day and date, which sets the price around $600. That’s a bargain if you’re in the market for a well-designed quality Swiss watch. The really good news for the rest of us is that prices go down from there. The Chop couldn’t justify wearing one of these as our only watch, but if we’re ever in the market for a second watch, we’re probably shopping Mondaine first.

Nixon

Nixon Chronicle in gunmetal/brown/taupe.

Nixon has found it’s way onto every fashionable watch shopper’s radar in the last few years, possibly because they’re more of a design house than a watchmaker. You wouldn’t know it to look at their line of watches though, which is as extensive as it is beautiful. The watch selector on their site is either a valuable shopping tool or a great time waster, depending on how serious you are about buying. They also offer most of their watches in a variety of shades and colors, so whatever design you have in mind, they’ve likely got a watch to match. The Regent is the top of their line for good reason, but anyone wanting to find a gorgeous watch in the $100 to $300 range would do well to check out the Chronicle, the Esquire, the Mellor or the Sentry. You’re going to want more than one.

Skagen

Skagen Extra Large Steel Case on Mesh

We discovered Danish brand Skagen while we were in Germany, and were sorely tempted to buy one. How cool would it be to walk around with a watch with a display reading “Freitag” instead of Friday? And that’s leaving aside the fact that their whole line are designed to be modern classics, are outfitted with Swiss quartz movements and fall in between $100 and $300.

Lucien Piccard

Lucien Piccard 26821BK

Swiss pedigree, Swiss or Japanese Seiko quartz, a full line of well designed watches, and most are around or below $500. What’s not to like? They’ve even got a statement on their website about conflict diamonds, which is admirable, and sadly, still all too rare in today’s marketplace.

What we would wear if were were filthy stinking rich:

We’re not rich, of course, but as a basis for comparison here’s a few of the world’s best watches to lust after. Click through to the watchmakers’ sites and take a close look at these, and you’ll laugh pretty hard next time you see Tiger Woods in a Tag Heuer ad or some sharts wearing Gucci in Milan.

Ball

Ball Trainmaster Cannonball... you can pull a Christopher Walken with that Rolex, big spender.

Ulysse Nardin

Ulysse Nardin Moonstruck... entirely mechanical yet smarter than your iPad.

Panerai

Panerai Luminor GMT... perfect Italian design that will outlast you.

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Chop Style: Men’s Swimwear

The Chop’s not a great one for swimming. We might be tempted to sit poolside if there’s a bar cart involved, but dangling our ankles is about as wet as we’ll get. We’re also not too keen on staring at mostly naked men and comparing them side by side. That’s a job better suited to a beautiful woman, and so we’ve enlisted one to write today’s post. Local designer and fashionista Katy Hunchar has style to spare, and here she gives you her swimsuit picks for Summer 2011.

The Short Swim Trunk

The super short swim trunk is my favorite style, hands down. I just love legs! I also love Boris Becker. Though I gather from Google image search that current day B.B. dresses like a playboy, his court style in the late ‘80s was champion. I know he had international tennis star legs, but honestly, it was his crisp short shorts and trim polos that gave him the active man look I love. Here are three solid options, starting with the shortest:

Orlebar Brown's 'Pup': $130

I like Orlebar Brown’s Pup in olive and Paul Smith’s short slim style in navy. Wear them and move effortlessly through summer with free legs and awesomely tan thighs. If these are a little pricey, you can probably find a cheaper version at American Apparel. Pair them with white and gray heather t-shirts.

Patagonia Baggies: $45.

Patagonia’s Baggies are a super simple and versatile sport/swim short. They are perfect for a multitude of activity pairings. Run around the Harbor then stop at the Tiki Barge for a swim! Mow the lawn then go to Safeway. Whatever you want to do, these shorts will take you there. I also recommend these as a replacement for one pair of mesh basketball shorts. (As a side note, Patagonia carries a lot of good simple men’s styles.)

Original Penguin Board Short: $65.

Prints

Skip plaid this season. Stick to classic stripes and bright graphic prints. Nautical stripes are always in style and Penguin has some solid offerings for the seafaring fellow. I like this color-block in bright red and blue. Alternatively, Orlebar Brown’s Eley Kishimoto Dane is the raddest print I’ve seen so far. It looks best in red.

Orlebar Brown 'Dane': £150.

The Floral

This navy and orange floral, again by Paul Smith, is really great. A lot of florals are too busy and look like tropical rainbow explosions. This toned-down navy and orange print is nice and simple. It looks so melty and luxurious.

Paul smith's floral print: $175.

Denim Cut-offs

In middle school my entire gym class had to jump into a swimming pool wearing jeans. While treading water, we had to shimmy them off underwater, pull them to the surface, tie the end of each leg into a big fat knot, and finally, with our last gusts of life-breath, blow them up into makeshift denim life preservers. It is difficult to swim in denim, but absolutely possible.

Denim cut-offs can be worn successfully in a handful of locations: by the swimming hole, at the lake, and on tour while lounging around some random swimming pool. The best cut-offs are super faded and worn to threads. Most likely, you already have an old pair of jeans in your closet that are ready to cut. If you don’t have a suitable pair, reread Chop’s Guide to Thrift Store Shopping Part I and Part II and head over to Value Village. While you’re there, keep an eye out for Boris Becker shorts! Also look for OP tees with faded neon surf graphics to pair with your olive Pups. YES!

Cutoffs are high style at Prettyboy or Beaver Dam, not so much at the gym or hotel pool.

The Board Short

If you insist on wearing the board, look for the shortest pair you can bear and wear them low. Look through collections by skate and surf brands like Hurley, Volcom and RVCA or choose a simple solid red lifeguard style. Avoid contrasting diagonal plaids and prints that simulate laser beams. You know what I am talking about.

Y’all just roll through the water.

Truth is, if you really want to look awesome at the pool or beach this summer, learn how to move well in the water. Ride your bike down to the Patterson Park pool as soon as it opens and LAP IT UP.

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Katy Hunchar is an artist and designer living in Charles Village. Check out her work at lpconcept.com and follow her on Twitter at @chipsnkaty. She is also a lifelong competitive swimmer and has coached swimmers of every age, including NCAA Division I swimming while in grad school.

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Chop Style: Katt Williams, the Worst Dressed Man in America

Well, you may think we’re picking at some pretty low-hanging fruit here. We definitely are, but it has to be said. You can Google it for pages and pages and no one in the entire blogosphere has come out and said it yet… Katt Williams is the worst dressed man in America.

And we mean the worst by miles. Far and away the worst. Worse than Jack White, worse even than Bam Margera; in fact, Williams is high in the running with Gadhafi for worst dressed man in the entire world.

When wearing suits, always make sure your shirt matches your baseball cap.

Now you might think we’re just one of the haters. Haters gonna hate and all of that business. Not true. We might do a little hating on guys like James Franco or Adrien Brody from time to time, but they’re actually well dressed and good looking. We could never hate on Katt Williams, since we have no ambition at all to dress like a schizophrenic homosexual leprechaun middle-school pimp.

It’s hard to fuck with a guy with a Gucci endorsement like Franco, but anyone can steal Katt Williams’ look with a trip through the clearance racks at A.J. Wright or Foreman Mills. Just search out the brightest, most garish pieces you can find. Make sure they’re all 4 sizes too big and don’t match each other at all. A leopard print suit is a basic staple, but a pink suit over a t-shirt is another way to go. With suits that loud though, you have to make sure all your accessories are as gigantic and bright as possible and that your haircut and facial hair are as ridiculous as possible.

If those instructions aren’t precise enough, please to enjoy this video in which Williams takes you into a store and shows you point-by-point how to dress like a complete and utter clown.

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Chop Style: Straw Hats

Please understand: we are very wary about endorsing hats as a point of style. Very few people can pull them off in the modern era without affectation, and where you see a fedora or trilby anywhere in the media, you can bet one of America’s biggest douchebags is under it.

However, as Hunter S. Thompson shows us here, sometimes a man in a hat is a bad mother fucker.

An ideal example of form following function.

Thompson was a very bald man who spent a great amount of time chasing assholes around the desert. He knew a thing or two about keeping the sun off his head. In fact, everything Thompson wore was extremely functional; sunglasses to shade the eyes and hide bloodshots. Boots for pounding pavement or kicking the way out of a jam, lots of pockets for cigarettes and drugs and guns and whatnot… you get the idea.

So with the weather turning warm now and the sun shining longer and longer by the day, we’re in the market for a new straw hat. We’re thinking we might head down to Hippodrome Hatters and try on a homburg or a snap-brim for the Summer. This endorsement is not unconditional though. There are a few rules to keep in mind with hats to make sure they look natural and effortless, and not like this.

    1. Strictly Summer. We’re talking about natural fiber hats here. You wouldn’t wear shorts or sandals after baseball season, and the same goes for straw.

    2. Be sure it fits the rest of your outfit. It’ll look fine worn over a linen or seersucker shirt, but downright clownish worn with jeans and tennis shoes. A summer hat should complement an already cohesive style.

    3. Be over 30. Or at least damn near 30. This is just not a young man’s look. Youth has plenty of advantages, but the ability to pull off things like elbow patches, loafers, beards and hats is not one of them.

    4. Stay in the sun. No man should ever be wearing a hat indoors, and likewise they’re equally out of place after the sun sets. Straw is subject to the same rules as sunglasses. Anyone wearing them inside or at night or both is a douchebag.

Perhaps no other accessory is so fraught with the possibility for disaster. Wear it wrong once, and tagged photos could be following you around the internet forever. Wear it right though, and it’ll fit so naturally it would be hard to picture you without it.

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