Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mods wear double-breasted suits too!

My closet has a fair amount of suits. Some are of the off-the-peg variety, a few are never before worn examples of the genuine article from the sixties and a handful are custom made to fit my Mod sensibilities. One thing seems to be missing from my wardrobe: the double-breasted suit.

Wilson Pickett
When you think of the Mod style, a double row of buttons on a suit jacket is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, there is no doubt that Mods have been parading in them since the start. So when I learnt that my tailor was making another visit to my city, I had a single purpose in mind, have one done.

I took my inspiration from a few sources. A couple of ideas came from one of the leading Mod clothes makers around, DNA Groove. They have a few stunning jackets for sale that can instantly turn any Mod into an Ace Face. I promise myself that I will make my first purchase from Claudio in the near future.

Modclothin also has a nice option that can make heads turn. I particularly like the pattern used in this fine example.

When confronted with a choice of fabrics for the garment, I went for a light brown, subtle Prince of Wales check with a hint of blue in the pattern. I always believed that the Prince of Whales pattern and the double-breasted jacket were the perfect match. It’s been a while since I’ve owned a Prince of Wales suit. The last one I ordered was from a Merc catalog back in the late eighties.

Aside from the typical features you usually find on a Mod suit like the slanted pockets with flaps, covered buttons, working cuffs and customary ticket pocket, I decided that I would go for a 6 button jacket instead of the 8. The narrow lapels, so often associated with the Mod look, are a bit trickier to achieve in this case. But a sixties inspired look, when compared to the flared look of the seventies, is easily distinguishable. Normally, I would give the jacket a bit more of a slim fit but it would simply not look good on me.

Since Mods are usually all about the details, I direct your attention to the stitching around the buttonholes. I chose a light blue thread, similar to the single strand of blue found in the Prince of Wales check.

I believe that this custom made narrow silk tie and matching pocket square, with its orange and brown tones and sparse paisley pattern, will match the rest of the outfit perfectly.

With a jacket that has such a complex and noticeable pattern, the shirt must be chosen wisely. The obvious choice is the classic white shirt. For the nights when I feel adventurous, I had this shirt made to go with the jacket. The black and brown vertical stripes don’t overpower the checks of the jacket. The orange stitching used for the buttons is meant to accentuate the orange hues seen in the tie.

The trousers have the required tapered leg. A 7-inch opening is what was needed for me to have a comfortable fit. A small notch, sometimes seen on the detail obsessed Modernist’s pants was added to the list of customized features.

The popular frogmouth pocket was an obvious choice for me.

I rarely discuss the accessories I would choose to tie the look together but I think that this time I will dive in and offer a few options. First, with these colors, I don’t think you can go wrong with anything that is gold. A vintage golden tiepin with ivory inlays would be first on my list. Similar cufflinks can add that extra classy touch.

My friends all know that I’m a watch fanatic. For me, it’s THE male accessory. This is why I have a watch for every day of the week (if not the month). In this case, I would opt for my Brooks Brothers gold tone chronograph watch with alligator skin band. 

If you want to carry out the vintage look, how about this 60s Seiko windup watch.

Let’s discuss footwear. I think that a pair of classic tan brogue boots from England’s premiere shoemaker Loake is appropriate.

If you want to go retro, how about a pair of these similar color vintage loafers?

So? After reading this, do you see a double-breasted suit finding its way into your closet?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Buying Soul 45s in Chicago: Part II

After writing this post, I just hope my friends will still talk to me. When you have a record shop like Logan Hardware near you, you want to keep it all to yourself. I don’t blame them because this is one of the best-kept secrets the city has to offer.

Don't tell these guys I wrote about this place. I still want them as friends.
For one, you have a ton of 45s to dig through and the prices are dirt-cheap. Once you have spent a few dinero, you can access the back room full of vintage arcade games and you can play at your heart’s content free of charge. How’s that for a perfect day?

Not only this store has an incredible looking storefront (that’s right, it used to be a hardware store back in the day) but also the staff is friendly and helpful. If any of you regularly frequent such establishments, you very well know that record shops are usually owned by two types of people: crazy paranoid record hoarders or petulant snobs. This might be a greatly exaggerated caricature but you know I’m not that far from the truth.

The staff at this place does not fall in any of these two categories. The charming salesperson even politely escorted out a homeless character who was monopolizing the listening station for a while. Not that I should have preferential treatment but he did listen to the whole A-side of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was quite entertaining to see him leave spewing out a few “Gawd Damn Maaan!” Nothing too dramatic it seems because apparently he will be back the next day to listen to that same obscure and priceless record.

Aside from the captivating drama, I did leave with a few choice records. I only have a single complaint. I still don’t understand why some stores still insist on putting price tags on the labels. The label is damaged almost every time when you try to remove it. Can we settle for  having it on the dead wax or the record sleeve please?

Here are some of my favorite picks.

Breaking Point – Etta James – Argo
The Urge Keeps Coming (Dance, Dance, Dance) – Jo Armstead And Band – Giant
What Time It Is (Part I) – General Crook – Down To Earth
I Need Somebody – Little Milton – Checker

Beverly – Billy Watkins – Kent
Hands Off – Betty Everett – Vee-Jay
Have More Time – Marvin Smith – Brunswick

Count Down (Here I Come) – The Young Hearts – Minit
It’s L.B. Time – Joe (Youngblood) Cobb – Gossip Tree
Don’t Turn Your Back On Me – The Mandells – Trans World Sound

This funky number is a reworked version of the Isley Brothers' hit It’s Your Thing with politically incorrect yet disturbingly funny lyrics like "If you kick my dog, I'll beat your cat".

I’ll Pay You Back – Magic Sam – Minit

On a less positive note, I also visited Dusty Groove America. Although they have an impeccable store with some of the cleanest records around, they certainly lack in friendly customer service.

In fact, you feel like a nuisance. You are only allowed to listen to 3 records and they will play them for you over the store’s system. My record dealer friend Laurent, who usually walks in a place with a few hundred dollars to spend, hasn’t had the best experience in the place. He once had to insist on having some service all the while having his name on a poster on the wall behind the counter.

Let’s just put it this way, Dusty Groove is not your friendly neighborhood shop, it’s a business. But if you're looking for a mint copy of a rare Jazz LP, by all means visit the place but you might as well just order from them online.

This explains why I left with a single 45 and Laurent with only 3. At least the record is one hell of a cracking Northern Soul killer.

Good Lovin’ Man – Dolores Hall - Keymen

I don’t think Chicago needs this little blog to cement its reputation has one the best places in the world to buy Soul and RnB records but just in case some of you had any doubts, it’s right up there with Detroit, New York, Memphis and New Orleans. With many prolific record labels that saw the light on Record Row, it’s a gold mine for any Mod wanting to expend his record collection.

I leave you with a very compelling and significant segment of a documentary about Soul and RnB labels in Chicago. This is only part 5 of the full documentary and I urge you to seek out the first 4 parts on YouTube. It's narrated by none other than Etta James.

Chicago has it all and I will miss it. I feel right at home here and the street art only reinforces the reasons why.

GO TO JAIL For Public Douchebaggery

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Buying Soul 45s in Chicago

What happens when you put a dozen Mod DJs, a few record collecting nuts and some 60s music aficionados all in one room, that are ready to buy, sell, trade and swap records? A mighty good time, let me tell you! Plus, you get an incredible opportunity to find some smokin’ deals!

This is the precise scenario of what happened on the traditional Saturday afternoon MODchicago record swap that was held at Favorite Records. I had brought my own little box of French Canadian goodies that I knew would interest some of my compatriots. 

DJ Derek See record diggin' with the concentration of a Buddhist monk
Although about half my records found new deserving homes, I didn’t come back with a lighter suitcase. It was quite the opposite actually. I came out like a bandit and found some killer Soul. What is great about dealing with friends is that they slowly start to know your style, your taste in music and what floats your boat. They then start handing you records and phrases like “Listen to this Pat, you’ll like this for sure!” and “Do you have this? Oh man, you NEED this!” gets tossed around pretty often.

DJ Amanda Otto with her angelic smile
Lets be realistic for a second, when DJs congregate at a record swap, they are not there to sell off the best records of their collection BUT they won’t bring crap either. The old time saying “someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure” does apply perfectly here.

DJ Bossy Boots and Midnite Cowbwoy
So I’m more then happy with what I put my hands on here. I found some Soul that is made for the dance floor at a more then reasonable price. Here’s a good sample of what I left with. 

I Can't Turn Her Loose - Sam Baker - Sound Stage 7
Go-Go Girls - Lee Rodgers - D-Town
Get Set, Be Ready - The Auditions - Freckless
My Lucky Day - Frankie Newsom & The Soul Invaders - GWP
Don't Mess With My Lovemaker (Part I) - Frankie Newsome - Savern

Plastic Saddle - Joe Dossett And The Chattanooga Coachmen - Mercury
Boo-Ga-Loo Baby - Tommy & Cleve - Checker
African Boo-Ga-Loo - Jackie Lee - Keymen
(Papa Chew) Do The Boo-Ga-Loo - Tom & Jerroo - Jerry-O
People Sure Act Funny - Lucius Lawton - Laurie
You're Doing Something Awfully Good - Jackye Owens - Groovy

I Can't Use You Girl - The Vanguards - Whiz
Save The People - The Creations - Virtue
The Cold Letter - The Soul Shakers - Loma
Say I Do - Jackie Wilson & Linda Hopkins - Brunswick
A Good Man Is Hard To Find - Roy Head - Black Beat
I Can't Stop Loving You Baby - Linda Jones - Loma

Love In Them There Hills - The Vibrations - OKeh
The Truth - Aesop's Fables - Atco
Flowers On The Table - Bobby Merritt - Musicor
Take All - Lloyd Price - Jad
Hook It To The Mule - Fred Toyles & The Jacksonians - Way Out
Ain't My Stuff Good Enough - The Mirettes - Zea

Pain - Micheal's Mystics - Charlie
I Can't Stand It - Pacific Ocean - VMC
Little Bitty Pretty One - Popular Five - Minit
Lovin' Machine - Rodge Martin - Bragg

My mate, DJ Laurent Réus, a record dealer by trade, had also brought some desirable European gems that I simply couldn't let pass. You have to love those French picture sleeves!

Le Responsable EP - Jacques Dutronc - Vogue

Like we Used To Be - Georgie Flame & The Blue Flames - Colombia
Ne T'en Va Pas (Comin' Home Baby) EP - Sylvie Vartan - RCA Victor
The Lonely One - Tom Jones - Decca

If you want add to your own 45rpm record collection, it's all possible to do it online. Laurent will ship worldwide and all you have to do is hop over to his website at Revolver Records.

For more great deals, have a look at my man Eric Colin's eBay store here. He sells on a regular basis  and all his records have sound files. I dare you to find something that won't get those feet tapping!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The End Of An Era: The Last Of MODchicago’s Our Way Of Thinking

It took me a couple of weeks to come out with this post. I have  three good reasons why. One, I’m still riding high from the incredible 4 days I spent in the Windy City with people that I could probably describe as family. It took me a while to have my feet planted back on terra firma. Two, it’s hard for me to put into words how wonderful this event is and how it will be missed. Third, I spent the last couple of weeks preparing and shooting a TV show. More on that soon…

The last few posts were all about the incredible DJs that traveled from across North America  to attend the last Our Way of Thinking and with whom I had the honor of sharing the bill with. That's right, after a 10 year hiatus,  sadly the curtain is being drawn on the Our Way Of Thinking weekender. Let me just say that the DJs brought their "A" game  for the occasion and they delivered the goods! Let’s not forget Rhode Island DJ extraordinaire Ty Jesso and French spin master Laurent Réus that were not featured in the previous posts but will surely need posts all to themselves.

World traveler Laurent Réus teaching us a thing or two about Soul music
Ty Jesso lighting the dance floor on fire
None of this would have been possible without the Grand Poobah himself, Sir Eric Colin. Kudos to him for gathering such an incredible line-up! When you have people that are ready to travel from all over the world just to be part of the festivities, it says a lot about the man’s character.

The Man (with a capital M) Sir Eric Colin showing us what style is all about.
Let’s be honest, the crowd does not compare with a European weekender, with a few hundred people in attendance at best. In terms of quality, I have no doubt it can rival any of them.

In the DJ tradition of the past events, here’s my set list for both Friday and Saturday night.
Friday night set @ Liar's Club 
The Deltones – Gimme Some Lovin’ – EMI Colombia
Yvonne Elliman – I Can’t Explain – Purple
Tony Clarke – Landslide – Chess
Danny White – Keep My Woman Home – Atlas

Thelma Jones – Stronger – Barry

The Belles – Don’t Pretend – Mirwood
Billy Storm – Baby, Don’t Look Down – Loma
Johnny Rivers – Seventh Son – IR Imperial
Nancy Wilson – Uptight (Everything’s Alright) – Capitol
Rose Batiste – Hit & Run – Revilot
Ronnie Taylor – I Can’t Take It – Nassau
Georgia Soul Twisters – You Shot Me (Through The Grease) – Mainstream
Sonny Raye – Whip It On Me – Jetstream
Les Hou-Lops – Pas Besoin d’un Docteur – Apex
The Human Beinz – Turn On Your Love Light – Capitol
The Hardtimes – Fortune Teller – World Pacific

DJ Miss KT in the Groove
Friday night crowd at the Liars Club warming up the dance floor
 Saturday night set @ Late Bar

James Kirk – Tell Me Please – Guyden

King Coleman – Do The Booga Lou (Part I) – Port
Eddy “G” Giles – Eddy’s Go-Go Train – Murco
The Metros – Since I Found My Baby – RCA Victor
The M.V.P.’S – Turnin’ My Heartbeat Up – Buddah
Gwen Owens – I Lost A Good Thing – Velqo
Wendy Rene – Bar-B-Q – Stax
Lee Rogers – Craked Up Over You – Wheelsville
Lou Lawton – Knick Knack Patty Wack – Wand
Elvis Presley – Rubberneckin’ – RCA Victor
Vandyke and the Bambis - Doin’ The Mod – Piccadilly
Charlotte Leslie – Les Filles C’est Fait Pour Faire l’Amour – Polydor
The Children Of Darkness – Sugar Shack A Go-Go – Royce
The Quid – Crazy Things – Eagle
Little Willie John – I’m Shakin’ – King
The African Beavers – Find My Baby – RCA Victor
Memphis Slim – Clap Your Hands – Fontana
Roy Redmond – Ain’t That Terrible – Loma

Vernon Harrel – Slick Chick – Lescay

DJ Derek See from California & DJ Parka Pat
DJ Bossy Boots & the lovely Ashlea
LA's DJ Soulmarcosa hard at work
Sir Eric Colin and DJ Midnight Cowbwoy exchanging loving glances
It was a bitter sweet ending to a great weekender. Sighs that will only be alleviated by some wonderful memories and lasting friendships.

The next post will be all about the incredible records I brought back from Chicago. Some great Soul coming your way!