By B. David Zarley
Traffic and passersby on Belmont Avenue reflect off of the glistening metal panels that make up the building’s facade, undulating gently like Lake Michigan mellowed out on alprazolam. Rising four stories high from the sidewalk, the business beneath the wave has survived since 1975, weathering fads, recessions and location changes. In Lakeview, a neighborhood of fickle tastemakers and expendable income, Belmont Army is sacred ground: Macy’s meets Mecca.
Temples are rare on multifarious ground, as they require a consistent bedrock upon which to be built. Despite the throbbing, well-muscled and ever-spreading mass of frat-mentality dumbfuckery reaching out its menacing tentacles from Wrigleyville in an effort to become the dominant cultural milieu—one primarily composed of polo shirts, drunken girls with longer heels than dresses and noxious “DJ’s” spinning the absolute lowest-grade electronic dance music, which, granted, is an admittedly fun atmosphere with the right company and chemicals in a Goodall-amongst-the-chimps sort of way on a Saturday night—Lakeview still has a vast array of subcultures. Girls in blonde pixie cuts, high-waisted shorts and big glasses ride fixed-gear bicycles; men with handlebar mustaches and Wayfarers driving mauve PT Cruisers; salon girls whose tight black clothes cling to them like the smell of cigarettes and perfume, tattoos peeking out from beneath the short sleeves. A vibrant LGBTQ community bustles, while young professionals travel from Sheffield Avenue to the Loop for work, a mass migration of ties and pencil skirts twice each day. It is a mess of youth and money and life, drawn together in its existence below North Clark’s grim weekend realities and its willingness to embrace the hip. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s Friday night and the sounds flowing off the DJ’s decks easily drown out the traffic outside the doors on Milwaukee Avenue. But the noise doesn’t seem to faze the boisterous crowd of sneaker heads, hipsters, bloggers and beauty queens gathered within, checking out the new wares and, of course, each other. Just like another shoe-release shindig for the St. Alfred’s regulars, perhaps, but we’re a long way from Niketown, tiger. This is Nike+St. Alfred’s coming-out party.
The global shoe giant and the Chicago sneaker mecca have teamed up in a promising retail collaboration that’s taken over the Hejfina space next door to Saint Alfred’s storefront on Milwaukee Avenue, starting this Thursday, and lasting through this summer’s World Cup, at the least. The pop-up shop offers selective Nike sportswear, most notably its licensed soccer gear from competing countries, Saint Alfred x Nike Co-Lab pieces and exclusive artist collaborations. Read the rest of this entry »
By Emily Torem
Two still fresh-on-the-scene streetwear boutiques in the South Loop prove that the Windy City is not just a place for trends to proliferate; it’s where they’re made. Lifestyle store Jugrnaut stocks everything from clothes and accessories to art, hats and action figures, while self-described “sneaker geek and stylist” SuccezZ focuses on providing rare and limited-edition footwear to the shoe-obsessed. Both stores are big supporters of local talent, whether it’s through music, art, style or design.
“There are people who are fashion forward in Chicago that are ahead of the curve, like in Japan, but not that many. It’s a slow process, but we’re getting there,” says Roger Rodriguez, one of the South Loop streetwear shop Jugrnaut’s owners.
The team of four men—Rodriguez, Brian Navado, Manny Rodriguez and Arthur Banks—opened the store in October of 2007 after a previous venture fell through. The four own and operate the shop, as well as their own eponymous brand, which includes hats and shirts with the store’s lightning-bolt logo. The partners emphasize that the store is more than just a retailer of apparel. Read the rest of this entry »
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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