Hot Stuff for the Hot Season
But you can't work it looking like you just got off the bus from Hazzard County. So take your tie-dye shirts, your cut-offs, and your flat, beat-up sandals, douse them with gasoline, and set them on fire. Now, with your wardrobe properly incinerated, it's time to go shopping.
America is always going to be nostalgic. For the longest time, we were reliving the '70s--bell-bottoms, ringer T-shirts with iron-ons, and white guys with those pixie afro cuts. Last year, we flirted with the '80s. This year, America falls in love with the 1950s all over again.
As always, Hollywood and the music industry are major influences on fashion. With the 20th-anniversary rerelease of Grease, a documentary about John Waters (Divine Trash) hitting the big screen (Baltimore in the '70s was still pretty much the '50s, fashionwise), and the resurgence of lounge and rockabilly with acts such as the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Royal Crown Revue, and the Rev. Horton Heat, '50s clothing styles are making a comeback.
Guys can take part in this '50s renaissance by picking up a flashy bowling shirt or a vintage-looking work shirt. If you've been hitting the gym and want to show off your guns, you can always sport a plain-white T. (It's also a good way to show of your tattoos if you've got them.) Ladies can cash in on the trend by picking up a light cardigan sweater or anything with a leopard print. Capris and clamdiggers are also coming back in a big way. (For those of you not in the know, clamdiggers and Capris are those tight pants worn by Laura Petrie and Peg Bundy.) Celebrities ranging from Claire Danes, Fiona Apple, and Ru Paul have already picked up on the trend.
The fashion industry has been quick to rework the originals for modern times. Companies are now making clamdiggers and Capris in denim and khaki instead of spandex and polyester. You can find them in area stores such as Hot Topic (Towson Town Center,  769-8620, White Marsh  931-1955) and Contempo Casuals (various locations). (Disclosure: The writer works at the Towson Town Center Hot Topic.) Purists who insist on the real deal can comb through the racks of area used-clothing stores such as Killer Trash (1929 Eastern Ave.,  675-2449) and Dreamland (1005 N. Charles St.,  727-4575), but you'll have to search hard. "The '50s fashions were really popular back in 1981," John Jacob, who works at Dreamland, says. "It's interesting to see the style come back. But now the supplies aren't as plentiful as they used to be." Still, it's worth the search. Used vintage clothes are usually cheaper than new stuff, and every real find will make you the envy of your friends.
It's not all back to the Eisenhower era, though. The influence of skateboard, punk, and hardcore culture will be a major force in what's popular this summer. These styles thumb their noses at the Jordache look with super-baggy pants. The baggiest of the baggies are made by companies such as Jncos and feature pant legs as big as 50 inches around. Parents of kids clamoring for them should bypass the mall altogether and head to Chat Street (623 S. Broadway,  732-6956; 518 York Road, Towson,  321-8834).
Urban culture and hip-pop also maintain their influence in the fashion world. In this world baggy pants are also the norm (just stay away from the 50-inch-wide legs). Tommy Hilfiger is all well and good, but if you want to be down this summer, flash some Fubu or Wu-Wear. Both companies make the baggy pants, and if the labels aren't big enough for the world to see, you can always get a shirt with a big logo emblazoned across it.
When you go swashbuckling through your local mall/shopping center/retail outlet waving your credit card like a rapier, though, remember this. All the above-mentioned styles will make you look punk/street enough to impress the suburban mall rats, but all the real punks and hip-pop fans (i.e. the people who work these store you'll be patronizing) don't give a damn about brand names. For them, anything cheap that looks good will do.
For the girls, skin is in this summer. If you've got it, flaunt it. Just like with the guys, baggy pants are in, but make sure they hug your hips tight. If you've got a nice tummy, show it off with a cool halter top or a baby T.
What's up on the piercing front? Two years ago, nose piercings were all the rage. Last year, it was all tongues. This year, facial piercings will be the big thing--the wilder, the better. Eyebrow, septum, and below the lower lip are the new popular piercing locales, but don't limit yourself. If you want to make your piercing a little more unique, take a trip to either of the Chat Street locations or Harm City (416 York Road, Towson,  823-1416) and find something on the menu that will make strangers stop and say, "Damn! Did that hurt?"
Summer is a popular time to get pierced, but before you get pierce-happy, first a little preaching. Go to a reputable establishment. Don't let a friend do it with a hatpin and by all means, do not do it yourself. And take care of it once you get it. With all the swimming, camping, and beachcombing you're going to be doing this summer, your new hole can get infected very easily. Infected piercings hurt, and they can get pretty gross, so it is in your best interest to learn how to take care of them while you heal.
Finally, let's not forget about all the thick people out there. Forget those big-and-tall specialty stores: The clothes are overpriced, and whoever stocks these places seem to think that just because you're hard to fit you have absolutely no kind of aesthetic and will be content to schlep around all summer in tacky-ass sweats, Hawaiian shirts, and no-name sneakers. Hell no! Sometimes you'll have to search hard, but Burlington Coat Factory and Value City (numerous area locations) often have some kicking clothes for people of size.
OK, now get out there and get funky. If you're having trouble putting together your new look, the friendly characters at the cool-clothing emporium of your choice will gladly help you to transform your shabby pumpkin of a wardrobe into a horse-and-carriage ensemble, as long you don't behave like a wicked stepsister.
Sizzlin' Summer (5/19/2010)
Our annual comprehensive guide to surviving, thriving, and diverting yourself until September
The Scenic Route (5/19/2010)
Rediscovering the countryside from a skinny-ass bike seat
Parks and Rec (5/19/2010)
Power Trio (12/15/1999)
Imbue, Rebel Amish Radio, Margret Heater
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201