It seems like every time work takes me to Chicago, I only get one day to explore. And the more I visit, the more apparent it becomes that I need much more time in The Second City. The food/drink scene alone can dominate the better part of a week’s furlough. While time was limited on my most recent trip, I did have a chance to visit a few stores I have been hearing about as part of my ongoing, unofficial quest to document every good store in America. Certainly deserving this call out and your own visit is Independence — which is the retail outpost of Oak Street Bootmakers. The store, by concept, sells only US made goods—one of the only stores I have seen that sticks to such a defined subject.
There’s a lot to buy at the shop, but what really stands out to me is the opportunity to try on and take home a very nice selection of footwear from Oak Street Bootmakers. That said, there is all sorts of other good stuff from Batten Sportswear, LVC, Gitman Vintage, Post Overalls and Imogene + Willie. Also present are a bunch of very nice (and well priced) wool blankets from the fairly recently relaunched Faribault Woolen Mills — which are highly likeable things.
What Oak Street did with this shop is interesting for the simple reason that few others thought of it first. It could have just opened a plain-old shoe store, but instead it created something more interesting purely through concept. While the stockist is not revolutionary, it seems very palatable and cohesive. The ironic thing is, it is probably a harder sell in a place like Chicago than in New York or L.A., because my guess is guys in Chicago want designer labels, not rugged domestic goods. But during my quick trip I saw signs of change afoot, which makes me think that the timing for Independence could be just right. After all, Made in USA has itself come a long way over the past few years.
Independence Chicago | 47 East Oak Street | 312-675-2105