Family Style: The rise of Chicago’s streetwear culture

-Streetwear, Bronzeville, Chicago Boutiques, Events/Exhibitions, Hyde Park, Near West, Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village No Comments »

By Molly Each

Friday night at Leaders 1354 in Wicker Park and a DJ spins beats in the back of the room. Each person who walks through the door is greeted like an old friend, and small groups of guys chat amiably, admiring t-shirts, sneakers and intricate wall murals in between conversations. They speak their own language; a language peppered with phrases like “treated,” “kicks” and “throwing out the tongue” (a reference to shoes rather than the mouth). It doesn’t take long to realize that this isn’t just a shopping stop for the customers here. Sure, some guys stop by to pick up a new shirt or hoodie before heading off to the clubs or parties. But others are here to talk about a new designer or a soon-to-drop limited-edition pair of sneakers, while a handful are here just to say hi to their friends, to hang out in their circle.

“It’s the closest thing we have to a beauty salon, you know?” explains Marc Moran, one of the six people behind Leaders 1354. Here you’ll find the everyday, old-friend conversation of barbershops; where guys go to touch base with friends, the store providing an outpost for streetwear lovers to convene.

Across the street at St. Alfred’s, over at the West Loop’s Self-Conscious, down at PHLI in Hyde Park and even at the Bronzeville outpost of Leaders, any Friday or Saturday night you’ll find groups of streetwear devotees gathering with their communities. Because like mods, punks and rockers before them, streetwear is more than just a way to dress: it’s a lifestyle.
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