Tag Archives: Winter

Chop Style: Turtleneck Sweaters

If you’ve got a turtleneck in your closet, Autumn is certainly the perfect time of year to break it out. Cool enough for a chill to be in the air, but not quite cold enough for coats and mittens, a turtleneck is practical if nothing else.

There may be no single item of clothing in menswear that is more illustrative of the fashion cycle. Unseen anywhere for years or even a decade at a time, every once in a while some would-be brilliant designer decides to run one down the catwalk in the fall, and it’s been worn so many wrong ways by the first snow that it goes back into hibernation for several more years. It doesn’t have to be this way though. You can look good in a turtleneck no matter how far out of fashion they fall. All you’ve got to do is follow the rules.

Robert Redford

Paul Newman

Miles Davis

Rule #1: Don’t accessorize. A turtleneck is something of a statement piece. Let it speak for itself. Once you start adding in jackets, scarves, hats or anything else the whole thing begins to look clumsy very quickly.

Rule #2: Stay in shape. Just because you’re spending more time indoors and looking forward to holiday parties doesn’t mean a turtleneck is the right answer for covering up any extra winter weight. Whether your sweater is a giant fluffy chunky thing or a slim-fitting cashmere item; if you’re pear shaped, it will be pear shaped too.

Rule #3: Your sweater should be darker than your pants. While the opposite is usually true, somehow a “negative image” works best for turtlenecks. Buy a darker shade and pair it with off-white jeans, faded khakis or something similar.

Rule #4: Wear a good pair of boots. A turtleneck sweater is a pretty substantial thing, so you’re going to need some substatial footwear to match it. You should have a decent pair of boots in the closet, but if you don’t make sure you’re at least wearing leather shoes. You just can’t pull this off in a pair of Vans.

Rule #5: No mock necks! If you’re going to do it, do it right. Get a full fold-down neck. There’s probably not anyone on earth that can pull off a mock turtleneck.

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The Chop’s Père Noël Cocktail Recipe

We would have liked to get this up before Christmas, when we were talking last week about ’tis the season for amaretto, but Christmas will sneak up on you quickly… like the Krampus. Anyway, this is the time of year when you seem to see bottles of amaretto floating around everywhere. Since taking that stuff straight is about as enjoyable as drinking maple syrup, you’ve got to know how to mix it if you don’t want that bottle to collect dust and become something of an annual holiday joke.

An obvious choice in dealing with amaretto is cranberry juice, which is very seasonal this time of year and which has the tartness to offset the overly sweet taste of amaretto. Although the folks at DiSaronno and their vaguely ethnic, very homosexual spokesman would have you think differently, cranberry alone is not a suitable mixer for amaretto. Mixing two things that are gross will never make something that is good. It’s going to take a little more mixing to come up with something drinkable. We did a little more mixing, and the result was the Père Noël cocktail.

If it comes out red, it's got too much cranberry in it.

The Chop’s Père Noël Recipe

  • 3 parts bourbon
  • 2 parts amaretto
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4 parts cranberry juice

Pour ingredients in that order into a double old-fashioned or highball glass full of ice. Stir once or twice and sip.

It’s important not to use too much juice in this. It’s a cocktail and not a highball or juice mixer. When you get it right, it should taste surprisingly similar to the inside part of a chocolate-covered cherry. (Cherry cordials are one of the Chop’s favorite things about Christmas, by the way.) That said, this drink goes really, really well with dark chocolate, so if you’ve got some lying around after the holidays, mixing up one of these is a great way to complement it after dinner, or if you’re in a diet, instead of dinner.

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Photo and more on amaretto at Liquor Snob.

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Best Bets: Compass Box Scotch Whiskies

Words like “craft” and “artisan” are thrown around much too freely these days. Everything we buy now has to have some grand, romantic story attached to it. From furniture to farmers’ markets, from apparel to accessories, stories sell. If you don’t know the name of the guy who made it and you can’t drop by his charming little Gepetto-style workshop on a whim, well, it’s just not worth having, is it? Of course, nowhere is this more true than at your local liquor store.

Let’s face it, wax seals and hand-written barrel numbers are the exact same thing as putting your vodka into a glass skull. It’s selling the bottle, not the spirit. (Although to be fair, there’s a lot of really good whiskies in some of those bottles, whereas all premium vodka is a joke.) In an era when every ultra-premium vodka has a celebrity pitchman, and every distiller in Kentucky is offering single barrel this and small batch that and putting the cute little hand-written batch numbers on the bottle, It can sometimes be hard to tell what’s inside, and whether it warrants its price tag. These days, everyone’s an artisan.

Spice Tree. The best way to warm up this winter.

John Glaser is an artisan. Take that statement for what it’s worth. Compass Box Whisky has a story. We’re not going to bother telling you the story. You can look it up on their site. It’s a lot of technical stuff about wood and blending and aging, which really is interesting if you’re into that sort of thing. What we are going to bother to do is to tell you that this stuff is really, really good.

Of the two lines that Compass Box produces, Signature and Limited Release, we’ve so far had a chance to try three different examples of their whisky. Each one was markedly different, but all were equally excellent. Bottles in the less expensive Signature line are generally available in the $35-$40 range, and compare favorably with bottles costing twice as much. To our palate, a Peat Monster is every bit as good as a Laphroaig, and We’d reach for an Oak Cross over a Glen-Whateveryoulike any day of the week. Seriously.

With Winter now firmly digging in, we’re in all-brown-liquor-all-the-time mode here at the Chophouse. We’re declaring Compass Box to be our house Scotch going forward, and by the time the Winter’s out we expect we’ll have three or four different bottles on hand. We suggest that when you head to the liquor store this weekend you go ahead and buy two or more bottles. They make a great holiday gift, but make sure to keep one for yourself.

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Chop Style: Wool for Winter Part 3- The Topcoat

So by now you know all about pea coats and wool bombers, and you’re looking great and feeling like a million bucks.

But then comes January. Another Snowpocalypse, maybe. Sleet. Rain. Ice. The fucking bastard wind. What you need is more than a mere coat… you need sartorial armor.

It takes a proper overcoat to pull off a scarf and hat look.

The whole point of this series is wool, so we ask you to consider the sheep. Sheep spend their entire lives out of doors, mostly in places with really crummy climes like Scotland and Canada. You don’t see them shaking with cold though. The rain bounces right off their backs and the wind never reaches their skin. They’re covered in wool. If you want to stand outside for hours in January feeling as comfortable as you would in a bathrobe at home, get yourself a good quality wool sweater, cover it with a tweed blazer, and finish it off with a heavy wool topcoat.

The British know a thing or two about dressing well in shite weather. They invented the topcoat, and are still making some of the best ones money can buy. Iconic heritage brands like Burberry and Aquascutum set the archetype with pieces like Aqua’s Sargent Classic, and Burberry’s model, which is so stuffy and British that it’s simply called ‘Long Wool Top Coat.’ This Hackett London offering, the Smithfield Classic will also take you up and down Jermyn Street, or Thames Street for that matter, in ease, comfort and style.

Even better, ditch the scarf and show off your tie.

Are we seriously suggesting that you go up to the Burberry store at Towson and spend $1200 on a coat? Of course not. That would be stupid.

We’re suggesting that you look around at the top of the market to get an idea for materials, style, construction, etc, and then hit eBay. There are a certain few items which eBay really excels at selling, and overcoats are one of them. A quick search of the term ‘overcoat’ in Men’s Clothing turns up 2500 results, which can then be easily sorted by price, brand, material, etc. If you need a common size like 42 or 44, so much the better. (No need to size up for topcoats. They’re designed to fit layers of clothing underneath.) The price-to-value ratio on some of those eBay coats is really outstanding.

Aside from the huge cost savings, availing yourself of a vintage overcoat is a great way to carry off a bit of classic or retro style without looking like you shop exclusively in Brooklyn boutiques or like you’re playing Mad Men dress-up. A good quality topcoat is made to stand up to the elements, but will also stand up to its owners’ wear and handing-down exceedingly well, and most vintage topcoats available are in excellent or very good condition.

This season's hottest accessory? Handguns.

Modern Science may be pretty wonderful in a lot of ways, but Gore-Tex and other materials will never, ever be able to match super 120’s wool for warmth, windproofing and durability… not to mention style. A solid wool topcoat is just as well suited for running around Baltimore today as it was for hustling through Vienna more than 60 years ago, as demonstrated here by Orson Welles in The Third Man.

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Chop Style: Wool for Winter Part 2- The Bomber

Now that we’ve thoroughly covered the ins and outs of the classic pea coat, you might be saying to yourself “Yeah, that’s all well and good Chop, but sometimes I just want to run out and buy groceries.”

We understand this perfectly well. While a pea coat or a proper overcoat is highly desirable as proof against the elements in the dead of winter, it can feel like a bit much at other times. Those tricky fall weeks where the mercury is more volatile than the Dow Jones and the first days of spring when the wind still sneaks in call for something a little lighter and smaller. In a city with three cool seasons, it only makes sense that everyone should own a good three season jacket as a go-to.

Robert Redford looking high and lonesome in a wool bomber.

Enter the wool bomber. It’s inherently a bit more casual than a pea coat, and we dare say better suited to those times when you want to leave the house looking good, but don’t necessarily need or want to be dressed to the nines. Dog walking, a winter bike ride, a quick trip to the store or to a friend’s house are all ideal situations for a woolen bomber.

For many people, the term ‘bomber’ still has them conjuring images of air force pilots and those old nylon numbers most closely associated with skinhead fashion. This is part of the reason we’re so big on wool, and why we’re doing a three day series on how you should be wearing it… because it makes the same simple jacket look a thousand times better. If you need proof, check out these examples from Cole Haan, Filson, and Fred Perry. True, those are all pretty pricey, but you’re internet savvy, right? Surely you can find the same style much, much cheaper.

A woolen bomber will take you effortlessly from the country to the manor.

Need more convincing? Just take a look at Robert Redford here. A woolen bomber was the height of casual cool when he wore them, and the look won’t be fading anytime soon. Hell, we wouldn’t be surprised if Redford’s still got one of those same jackets at hand, and still killing it in his 70’s out there at Sundance.

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Chop Style: Wool for Winter Part 1- The Pea Coat

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s getting pretty cold here in Baltimore. It’s getting to be freezing, actually, and you’re going to need some protection against the elements. From now until April you’d be damn foolish to leave the house without a coat or jacket. You’re going to want something warm, weatherproof and of course, high on style.

Fortunately, the Chop is here to keep you warm all winter long. Over the next few days, we’re going to present you with three solid style choices that are heavy enough to keep you warm, classic enough to carry you anywhere, neutral enough to match any outfit, and sophisticated enough to make anyone look damn good.

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin both display effortless cool in classic pea coats.

The men’s magazines and internet fashionistos waste many, many column inches every year debating the pros and cons of leather vs fabrics, which is great for them but not much help to the man on the street. They’ll tell you over and over how leather is classic, hard-wearing, heirloom quality, etc etc etc.

Since we’re big on blanket pronouncements, we’re going to go ahead and make one here: fuck leather. Don’t get us wrong, we’re still all for leather shoes and belts (although we are a little guilty about it), but to the Chop’s mind those are the only places a man should be wearing leather. (Okay, maybe gloves too.) Leather jackets carry way too many connotations of bikers, daddies, and 80’s cock-rock hair metal. If that’s the look you’re going for, then have at it, Gentle Reader. We don’t like it, and we wouldn’t buy it.

For the modern Maryland man, wool is all you need to see you through winter; this winter, next winter, and plenty of winters after. The only question left to be answered is do you want that wool in the shape of a coat or a jacket?

Okay. You're probably not looking at the coat anymore.

Why decide? The perfect pea coat will serve in place of both, since in a lot of ways, it is both. The differences are subtle, but there are plenty of types of peas generally available, and styles vary widely. Some have the short length, slim fit, and high neck of a jacket, and others the longer, fuller, scarf-friendly design of an overcoat. A classic cut will fall right in the middle, and be the best of both worlds.

There are plenty to choose from on sites like Overstock and Amazon, as well as well as at shops and malls around town. There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping though:

  • 100% virgin wool is best. It’s also very hard to find and very expensive if you do find it. Even most high-end brands and department stores are selling wool-blends.
  • The higher the percentage of wool in the blend, the better. 60% should be the minimum you look for. Price and wool content are not necessarily directly proportional.
  • You get what you pay for, but only up to a point. Look to spend anywhere between $75 and $175. Less than that is too cheap, and more may just be pissing money away.
  • Look for a true double breast- meaning the coat has 2 sets of working buttons down the front.
  • Classic means simple and simple means classic. Stay away from unnecessary bells and whistles like shoulder straps, wrist straps, extra pockets and tons of buttons. Serge didn’t need that crap, and neither do you.

At sea or ashore, a classic pea is an ideal choice for any man looking to get into his first proper coat, or to upgrade his everyday coat to something more stylish. Black, gray, charcoal or navy, you’ll spend the winter looking as good as you feel.

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Chop Style: Fill Your Boots With Ragg Wool Socks

We told you recently about the best boots you can buy under $200. Whether you’ve already hit the shops and picked them up, or you’re polishing up a pair of old favorites for winter service, you’re going to need the socks to fill them. Those casual, everyday Gold Toes are a great choice most of the year, but they may not be quite suited to another Snowpocalypse.

Winter is close upon our heels (yes, that is a pun), and just as you don’t want to wait for the snowfall to buy a shovel, you also don’t want to wait until you’re strolling through slush to keep your feet warm. Thus we declare this weekend the official start of wool socks season, and we recommend REI’s Classic Ragg.

Ragg Wool Socks- $8.50 at REI

We’ve been wearing ragg wool socks for years and years; literally both around the house and around the world. Ours have served faithfully whether we were tromping around in a Belgian winter, or drinking Belgian hot cocoa in our pajamas all day through. All of our pairs are still somewhat serviceable, but after more than 10 years of use a bit of wear is beginning to show.

Now, we don’t make a habit of doing our shopping at outdoors and sporting goods stores, but REI beats the world when it comes to wool socks. There are plenty of brands and types from which to choose, but for our money a basic ragg sock can’t possibly be improved upon. (Because let’s be honest here… the Chop’s not climbing any goddamn mountains anytime soon.)

The best part? At only $8.50 a pair, we can afford to replace a whole drawerful of socks. If nothing else, these deserve a priority spot on your Christmas list this year.

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REI has Baltimore area Locations in Timonium and Columbia.

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