Tag Archives: Wool

Chop Style: Messenger Bags

It recently occurred to us than since we now own a laptop, we’re going to be in need of a bag in which to carry it if we want to take it with us next time we go a-traveling. After all, the TSA is good for more than just groping your grandma and stealing your souvenirs… they also excel at breaking electronics.

We didn’t want to end up with something that looks more like a big, ridiculous piece of luggage, and we’re not too keen on briefcases either, since no one is mistaking us for a businessman anytime soon. So a messenger bag makes for a natural choice.

Besides, we’re also seriously considering buying a bicycle when we come back in May, so a decent messenger bag may end up serving double duty by toting a computer, as well as keeping hands free on a bike. With that in mind, and since we’ve already gone on record as saying fuck leather, we’re probably going to end up with one of the following options. Fendi and Ferragamo they ain’t, but they’re all solid choices for getting around Charm City.

Ben Sherman canvas messenger: $89.

Ben Sherman

We like this Ben Sherman bag, but probably not enough to buy it. We’re mostly including it here because we like the brand and it’s a solid choice for anyone on a tighter budget. It’s probably not worth its price tag, but is likely better than anything else you’ll find at that price. On the plus side it’s well designed and neutral, appearing both modern and classic at once. The downside is that you’re looking at cheaper construction and material than is ideal. The lower grade cotton canvas may fray or open up, and we’d bet the faux-leather lining won’t last long at all. $89.

Fossil 'Ranger' messenger bag: $168.

Fossil ‘Ranger’

A lot of people give Fossil no love, deriding their stuff as cheap, trendy, what-have-you. We’ll grant you that the watches and clothing leave a lot to be desired, but compare this bag to the Ben Sherman above and you’ll see immediately what an extra $79 buys you.

The leather here is genuine, and covers the whole bottom of the bag. The strap is made of the same canvas as the body, as opposed to woven nylon. The closure is mechanical, and not the magnets found on the Sherman or the velcro on even cheaper bags. The interior comes with a dedicated laptop pocket (which is the whole point of this post, eh?) as well as standard zip and slip pockets and is lined with canvas. The Sherman bag has ‘multi-function’ pockets and is lined with…??? Again, maybe not Louis Vuitton caliber, but a very solid bag for the money. $168.

Jack Spade wool felt snap messenger bag: orig. $335.



Jack Spade

Update: The website is now showing this bag as ‘unavailable’

Wool marks a big step up from canvas, and this 80% wool blend, leather lined number from Jack Spade is (ahem) almost worth its ridiculously high price tag. Lucky for us, it’s been marked down significantly, and Jack Spade is offering an extra 25% off even on sale items with the online code 25off until 1/17/11. That’s enough to make it very competitive price-wise with the brands above. We’re kind of torn between this and the also-on-sale soft waxwear folded messenger which is made of waxed canvas and is actually cheaper than the Fossil with both discounts. Wool: $335 $175.88 Canvas: $255 $133.88.

Commuter Bag by Sketchbook.

Sketchbook ‘Commuter’ Bag

Finally, we come to our only option that’s not made in China. A Twitter follower turned us onto the shop of Etsy seller Sketchbook yesterday, and we’re suitably impressed. The design suits us both aesthetically and practically, and you’ve got to love anything that’s 100% natural. Nothing in here but wool, cotton, leather and steel. You’ve got to cut out a hell of a lot of middlemen to get something of that kind of quality for this price, but that’s the great thing about an Etsy find. We imagine there are few things more satisfying than having someone ask ‘Who made your bag?’ and answering ‘Amber Jensen from Minneapolis.’ Plus with a current availability of one item in each color, you can’t get much more exclusive. $140

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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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