Tag Archives: the Avenue

How to Stage a Boycott, Hon

Most of you probably well remember the Great Hontroversy of December 2010, in which Denise Whiting trademarked the term “Hon” in various forms, and crowed about it in the media in an attempt to drum up publicity for her newly opened tacky souvenir shop, just in time for stocking stuffer season.

Ink was spilled and the fat was chewed (and not just in the restaurant), Facebook groups were formed and street protests organized, but in the end all it really amounted to was a collective “Yeah, fuck that lady.” Fast forward to June 2011: Honfest is upon us again, and Whiting has managed to piss people off even further by banning the sale of cat’s eye sunglasses and cans of hairspray and telling people that their political opinions and religious beliefs are not welcome. Everyone shall worship at the altar of HON, and all hail the mayor of Hon Town.

A visual approximation of our sentiments toward Honfest.

So we’re Skipping Honfest this year. This isn’t really news, since we’ve never actually been to any of the previous Honfests. Shitty grandpa music and overpriced Heinekens aren’t really our cup of tea, and we’re put off by anything that’s so cartoonishly self-referential and clichéd, especially when it’s organized by one of Baltimore’s most hated people. Honfest is not so much a festival to be enjoyed, but a product to be bought, paid for and consumed.

We wouldn’t call it a boycott though, and we bristle when we hear other people use the term. Most people in the modern age have a poor understanding of what a boycott actually is, let alone the skills or wherewithal to organize one successfully. Before you go calling for a boycott this weekend, or anytime, it’s a good idea to know what the keys to a successful boycott are:

  • Fight a grievous wrong. It’s difficult for any boycott to be successful without broad public support. It helps if what you’re fighting against is universally seen as an injustice. Child labor or unsafe working conditions are good grounds for a boycott. While Hon, Inc. has shown an incredible amount of hubris and alienated the community many times over, it’s hard to argue that there’s much actual injustice being done here. Some, but not much.
  • A pre-existing organizational structure. Some of the most successful boycotts in history haven’t been carried off by people coming together, they were won by people who were already together. The Montgomery bus boycott was only possible because churches and civil rights groups were already well organized, and were able to mobilize their members. Ditto with the California grape boycott, the core of which was the United Farm Workers’ Union. A Facebook group by itself is not an organization. It’s merely a tool for disseminating information among an organization.
  • Strong Leadership. At the head of every successful boycotting organization, there’s strong leadership. MLK. Cesar Chavez. Gandhi. Leading an actual boycott is a full time job. It’s not something to which you dedicate half an hour of internet time a few nights a week.
  • Dedicated foot soldiers. A true boycott of Cafe Hon, if it were to have any economic impact at all, would require people standing out on the Avenue morning, noon, and night wearing tee shirts, carrying signs, handing out literature, and making a case to the general public of the grievous wrongdoing we mentioned before. Any volunteers?
  • A manifold boycott strategy. You don’t just send an email blast, show up on a streetcorner and yell boycott. Who are you anyway, Jesse Jackson? A successful boycott requires a lot of advance planning. Even with something as small scale as a restaurant or a festival, if success is expected, there are enormous organizational, logistical, fundraising, and public relations challenges to consider. Do you just want to skip the festival, or do you want to boycott its sponsors as well?
  • An attainable set of goals. Part of that strategy should be a set of goals or reasonable demands. The idea of bringing the big bad evil corporation to its knees by crippling it economically is as cartoonish as the beads and beehives that are about to take over the Avenue. The goal of a boycott isn’t bankrupting anyone, it’s getting your target to change its behavior, e.g. integrating buses or paying farm workers minimum wage.
  • A viable alternative. Key to any boycott is not just saying “Don’t buy that” but saying “Buy this instead.” Fortunately, in the case of Cafe Hon, we’ve already got that covered.

Organizing a legitimate boycott is a lot of work, and can be a very long-term undertaking. When the faux-Hons invade the Avenue this weekend, we won’t be boycotting. We’ll be protesting in a truly homegrown Baltimore way- talking shit, holding grudges, and counting down the days to Hampdenfest.

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Chop on the Spot: Griffith’s Tavern

Part of the appeal of any neighborhood bar is being in a spot where “everybody knows your name,” but as we discussed in a previous post, a little anonymity can go a long way sometimes. There are times when a man wants a little solitude; not too much, just an hour or so to sit in the dark, not be bothered, have a drink and be alone with his thoughts.

It’s at times like these- these blessed, quiet hours, that you might find the Chop in Griffith’s Tavern with a cold draft and our phone turned off, hiding in plain sight. Griffith’s is truly the best of both worlds- the place where the bartender will learn your name and your drink, but where you’re guaranteed not to run into anyone you’d rather not run into.

Griffith's Tavern... the bar that time forgot.

In a way, hiding in plain sight is what Griffith’s does best. It sits there right on Hickory, just a block up from the Avenue smack in the dead-center of Hampden proper. It’s still pretty easy to miss though, being as non-descript as a bar can be. There’s comparatively little traffic passing that corner, and even some of the Hampden locals who pass the place on foot mistake it for being either a private club of some sort, or being closed down entirely. The small sign with business hours posted is the only clue that it’s actually a functional bar. Being attached to the back of a rowhouse, with solid steel doors and tiny, barred windows the place is willingly uninviting from the exterior.

On the interior, it’s nothing less than the bar that time forgot. Stepping inside the door is literally like stepping back in time. Wood paneling is the predominant theme, accented by a nicotine-stained drop ceiling, an ancient, never-refinished wooden bar, and a Bud Light clock over the video poker machine which looks to date from about 1985. One flatscreen TV jammed up in the corner is the only nod to modernity.

The flashback continues behind the bar, where you’ll see a few things that are tough to find in some bars these days; glass-door coolers with cans of Busch, pints and half pints of liquor for carry-out, snack food and a “medicine cabinet” stocked with singles of Tylenol, Advil, and Bayer, which come in handy in the kind of bar that opens at 9 am and has no food menu. There’s even an old coffee pot behind the bar.

Of course, the regulars at Griffith’s don’t notice anything being out of date, because that’s just the way things have always been. Griffith’s caters to Hampden’s last genuine Hons. We’re not talking about the neck-tattooed, Newport-breath, recovery program ‘Hons’ you find in Zissimo’s or Dmitri’s either. Griffith’s is like the beauty parlor; the place your mom and your aunt get together to gossip about the neighbor’s kids. A $2.50 draft is cheaper than a perm. Much like a salon or a barbershop, the conversation here is general. Anyone can take the floor and put in their two cents at any time, and not be thought rude for doing so. Or you can just sit back and listen. You don’t even have to listen that long before you hear a few good digs at the expense of a certain Hampden restaurateur.

Griffith’s may not be the best choice for Saturday night. It’s not the bar you pick to meet a friend for dinner. If you’re looking to flirt or meet someone, you’re definitely in the wrong place. But if what you seek is a cold beer and a peaceful hour, enjoyably spent then there may be no better bar in Baltimore.

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Chop on the Spot: Interview With Sixteen Tons Proprietor Daniel Wylie

As you may already know, the Chop is no stranger to matters of style. Classic American fashion is one of the cornerstones of this blog. So when we heard word of a new men’s shop opening in Hampden, you can believe it raised our eyebrows pretty high.

For too many years quality menswear in Baltimore has been strictly limited to the suit-and-tie crowd, and anyone wanting to look good outside of office hours has had to hump it out to the mall, and as we all know the mall can be a very uncomfortable place, like the back of a Volkswagen.

Daniel Wylie has been a busy man of late, curating goods, rebuilding his shop space from the ground up, and dealing with the myriad other concerns of getting a business together. Sixteen Tons had its soft opening about 2 weeks ago, and we can tell you firsthand, he’s done a hell of a job. The newest store on the Avenue looks great, and will have you looking great by the time you walk out the door.

Busy as he’s been, Daniel was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk to the Chop about his new shop, ideas on style, and how to keep the gentlemen of Baltimore Town looking their best.

Thanks for taking time out to talk to the Chop. With interior design, as well as with men’s fashion, the details can make or break your whole style. As we speak, you’ve got the doors open, but have still been laying on the finishing touches. How has it gone so far setting up shop?

    I agree about the details. I was fortunate after much BS to get a truly unique building in Hampden, The Augusta Bank Building at 36th & Hickory [most recently Squidfire] and that to me is part of the battle as people are just drawn to it. They want to walk in and see what’s inside. The interior was pretty much just a room, raw space needing some serious attention. It hadn’t had much done to it in almost twenty years so I really had to start from scratch. There was nothing I could do that wouldn’t be a massive improvement on what was there. Some may say I went too far, but I really wanted to cultivate a distinct Sixteen Tons environment and experience that will hopefully compliment everything within it. The whole process has been grueling, lots of late nights and sore muscles. Fortunately, I had the Boh Man helping me. (He’s fucking useless really…)

Could you tell us a bit about your personal style, and how it may have evolved over time?

    Having style and having a style I think are different but obviously related; probably cousins. I’d like to think I’ve always had the latter and as I’ve grown (slightly!) older I am learning more about the former. As far as style I mean not so much the rules and regulations, but how and why certain things just look good on me. The terabytes of incredible information that are online have really been like an exhausting college course for me on the history of men’s clothing and everything associated with it .

Who or what do you think has had the most influence on your own wardrobe or style?

    My personal style has probably evolved over time mostly on gut instinct. Though even through those years of ignorance I can now see that I was at least unconsciously drawn to certain things and people for specific reasons. Most of those had to do with a kind of effortless not-giving-a-fuck but looking sharp nonetheless; maybe studied but not labored. I would have to reference as a couple of personal touchstones Sammy Davis Jr. because the man just perpetually looked sharp and Paul Simonon. The whole Rudeboy/Rat Pack/Rockabilly thing I dig, its like the bastard offspring of Ike Turner and Gene Vincent in a Nudie Suit with steel capped Cuban Cuban-boots.

It sounds like you’re talking about the Italian idea of Sprezzatura. Baltimore is a city with 21st century ideals, but very rough edges. It seems that artful dishevelment and organic wear and tear should be as natural here as cowboy boots in Texas or Sandals in Key West. Any thoughts on that?

    Sprezzatura is a new word to me, but absolutely spot on in definition. That is the black belt of fashion (life?) we should all aspire to.

Can you give us a teaser about some of what we can expect to find on the racks at 16 Tons?

    Some outerwear, some knits, some shirts, some no bullshit selvedge denim, definitely some labels new to Baltimore.

Locally exclusive labels, you say? That’s interesting. Care to tease us with some examples?

    Pretty positive that I’m the only one in Baltimore with Farah Vintage, Universal Works, Naked and Famous Jeans, Artifacts and SkunkFunk (who I probably won’t have again after this winter), and possibly Revolution Now, Field Notes and more.

That’s some quality stuff. Many men might cringe at the term “boutique” but 16 Tons is at least what you might call a “specialty shop”. What advantages for the customer does this style of shopping have over, say, a Macy’s or a
Sears?

    I just have to believe that most men loathe malls as much as I do. I’ve always preferred a more comfortable, interesting environment that has a unique personality to 2500 sq ft of racks of whatever. And it’s less complicated in the sense that if you like what the store is doing, its style or whatever, then it saves you having to hunt it down yourself. Also, I think the increased awareness of supporting smaller, local, independent businesses overrides any discomfort of what that business might be listed under in the yellow pages.

You’ve made it clear that 16 Tons is striving for Timeless or Classic style, but what does that mean to you exactly? It seems that there’s a very fine line between timeless and Old Fashioned, and many fashionable men unwittingly cross it when trying to smarten up. I’m thinking specifically of certain NY/Brooklyn or Jack White types who’ve run the slippery slope from fashion into age-inappropriate mustaches, hats, suspenders, etc. and end up looking like an anachronism.

    I think that the standards, the basic building block items of a man’s wardrobe, design wise, say since the beginning of the 20th century, can and have only been improved on so much. Pants are pants, two legs forever. A well cut, well fitting suit just looks good, forever. This is more or less why certain elements never go away, because they’ll never look bad. All the extremes or aesthetic details of different styles or eras are just that, styles, that come and go. A man will always look sharp in a nice hat but you can’t really say that about a dude in spats.

Speaking of going back in time, these days it can be tough to have a conversation about menswear without at least one or two Mad Men references being thrown around. Is this a blessing, a mixed blessing, or a curse?

    I’ve never watched it, but I’m familiar with the reference. I don’t think that anything that encourages men to wear clothes that fit them and not be afraid to look sharp can be a curse. It just depends on how it filters out into the public, good examples to learn something from and apply to daily dressing or a bunch of guys in period costume.”

In terms of fashion, what, if anything, sets Baltimore apart from any other east coast city?

    If my memory serves me correctly, it was the Baltimore market that single-handedly kept the Nike Air Force 1 in production, amazing if you think about it. Besides that bit of minutiae and maybe the Deaconites antifashion/fashion of a few years back, I can’t think of anything that our humble city has that makes it unique, clothing wise that is.

Finally, if you had to pick, what one thing should every man have in his closet?

    Hangers or skeletons…

Thanks again, Daniel. We can’t wait for the chance to blow some of our post- Christmas gift cash in the shop, and get to be looking right for New Years’ Eve. Of course, we may not have to now that you’ve got gift certificates available. Let’s be honest, Baltimore. A 16 Tons gift cert makes a much better last minute gift for the man in your life than that same old bottle of booze.

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Sixteen Tons is now open at 1100 W. 36th St. in Hampden. 410-554-0101 or shop16tons.com. Mon-Thu: 11-6, Fri & Sat: 11-7, Sun: 12-5.

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