The Time is Right for Independence. | A Continuous Lean.

The Time is Right for Independence.

Sep 15th, 2012 | Categories: Chicago, Made in the USA, Retail | by Michael Williams

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

Comments: 17

17 Comments to “The Time is Right for Independence.”

  1. Tim
    on Sep 15th, 2012
    @ 5:28 PM

    Independence is the best thing to happen to the Chicago menswear scene in a while. Props to George Vlagos for opening such a great store, and giving Chicago some semblance of credibility in the menswear world.

    Also, great write up as usual Michael.

  2. mat
    on Sep 16th, 2012
    @ 12:24 PM

    that’s commitment, looks pretty sweet and i can get on board with this even though being from the uk

  3. George S.
    on Sep 16th, 2012
    @ 7:16 PM

    Michael, its seems you suffer from the East Coast’s idea of Chicago and fashion. Yes you can buy some awesome menswear or women’s clothing that is as fashionable as anywhere else in the world, but come winter, I guess you would hear more of FU** THAT! Few people in Chicago care that much..nobody is STARVED for fashion…far from it some exceptional clothing stores are to be found there and its worn, but you will find people are more interested in well made products than well-branded products…. You just mix them in… I wish I still lived in Chicago as opposed to semi-recently moving to Boston..but I digress.

    I’m looking forward to a visit to Oak Street when I go back home for the holidays so I can check out George’s store. I bought a pair of his shoes and love them though they scream geeky old person, which I guess is part of the allure. (No I’m not old). A kick ass wool blanket is far better to me or the vast vast population of style-conscious Chicagoans than another damn outpost of overpriced Italian knit shirts.

    Few people in Chicago are jealous of the East or West coasts except for the far milder weather to be had in both places.

  4. Honey Boo Boo
    on Sep 16th, 2012
    @ 7:52 PM

    Not totally US-made. Some of the Patrik Ervell knits are Peruvian. Whatever. It’s a good shop.

  5. COLDASLIFE
    on Sep 17th, 2012
    @ 2:39 AM

    George is an amazing guy.
    Store is great, staff is cool. and good dudes.
    Support it.
    Chicago, FTW always.
    Whats up Williams!
    Get shredded!

  6. Dave M
    on Sep 17th, 2012
    @ 10:00 AM

    This is a great, small, independent shop that more of us should be supporting. Not only because it is independent, but because we’re also supporting American manufacturing while shopping there.

    Some friends turned me onto it while I was in Chicago and I picked up a Liberty Bottle Works bottle and a cool printed bandana. Looks like their webshop will be up this week, and they’ve got a discount code up for ACL readers right now – jotting it down for tomorrow! Their website will make it easy to buy cool American goods.

  7. Edward
    on Sep 17th, 2012
    @ 11:37 AM

    thanks again for promoting american made products.

  8. Bryan W
    on Sep 17th, 2012
    @ 12:38 PM

    As someone whose both new to the city of Chicago as well as ACL, this write-up comes as a welcome surprise. I look forward to visiting in the near future and supporting their mainstay influence of “Made in America”. Great piece Michael.

  9. Andy
    on Sep 17th, 2012
    @ 1:44 PM

    Having grown up in Chicago, I still think of it from how my father dressed for work, in suits bought at Capper and Capper, the strong and prosperous and class conscious way white collar men outfitted themselves. Even though the whole bottom of dressing fell down in the 1970s, there remained a solid, balanced, thoroughly American style that eschewed Europe and trendy and concentrated on the tried and true. Chicago, as a unique industrial city, which made its own potato chips and root beer and candies, ought to be the epicenter of a made-in-Chicago revival for clothes.

  10. Grieg
    on Sep 18th, 2012
    @ 1:13 PM

    i like American made merchandise, lets bring back jobs back to America!

  11. Mike V.
    on Sep 18th, 2012
    @ 4:30 PM

    Can’t wait to at least shop online here.
    I just got a pair of Oak Street shoes last week (Vibram Sole Trail Oxford) and they are absolutely fantastic. What an awesome pair.

  12. tim
    on Sep 18th, 2012
    @ 10:08 PM

    All of this stuff is so great and this store looks fantastic! Lets hope they keep the actual store well stocked unlike another American Made store (in Boston). But in all seriousness…. do the prices fairly reflect the product or is it just a huge markup? (Great name for the store btw).

  13. hajime
    on Sep 23rd, 2012
    @ 4:56 PM

    I actually went in to give this shop a visit over on Oak street, and the guys there were laid back and helpful. Their Maison Kitsune collection over there is huge as well. Definitely going to be frequenting here.

  14. JDW
    on Sep 29th, 2012
    @ 10:43 PM

    I spot some Emeco chairs!

  15. jmanalo
    on Sep 30th, 2012
    @ 11:39 AM

    Could someone tell me the brand and model of that pair of shoe (upper right corner, 2nd picture)? Muchos gracias!

  16. Dave M
    on Oct 6th, 2012
    @ 6:12 PM

    jmanalo, that’s the oak street bootmakers camp boot: http://oakstreetbootmakers.com/footwear/brown-camp-boot

  17. Jack
    on Oct 13th, 2012
    @ 3:20 PM

    Great post! I wonder if they sell this I’ve been trying to see one in person

    http://www.zeppelinshaker.com/index.html