Shopping Madison | Context

On a recent adventure to the Badger State I made a long overdue visit to Context, one the best independent shops in the country. Owners (and brothers) Ben & Sam Parker, and Ryan Huber have built a truly unique destination for menswear aficionados in Madison, and of course for the rest of us across the internet. It was a real pleasure to finally check the place out and see first hand how nice the shop really is.

I didn’t end up getting into Madison until the evening after Context had closed, but Ryan sent me a text on my way into town saying he and some of the fellas were going to be re-merchandising the store until late and that I should come on by after dinner to get together and grab some beers. Eventually I made my way over and we spent a-while shooting the shit before heading down the block for some refreshments. At the bar the conversation continued and the topics drifted from boxing to denim, from the challenges and pleasures of running a shop and everything in between. Before long it was time for me to head to the hotel and for Ryan and the others to head back to finish getting the store back in shape for business.

The next day, once everything was back in order and the store was looking great, I went back by to take some snaps and see how the half-beer-soaked re-merch turned out. I was really impressed with what Sam and Ryan have done with Context, and I was also impressed with the area as a whole. Madison definitely lives up to its reputation as an amazingly livable city. I can see that – after only spending a few nights there – that the place is really great. Lots of charm and cool old spots, coupled with good old Midwestern down-to-earth-sensibilities. And of course, the Context folks fit right into that mix. Laid back and accommodating, you can tell they love what they do and are in it for the right reasons. A refreshing combination and worth a trip to Wisconsin to experience. Shit, I bet they would even take you out for beers. [Context]

Context owners Sam Parker (left) and Ryan Huber (right).

The famous Alden x Context Roy boots. Good lookin.

My first look at Inventory No. 2. Looks great fellas.


Comments on “Shopping Madison | Context

    Simon on June 4, 2010 6:40 AM:

    I love Context. I got the s/s Gitman pictured here shipped over to the UK. I love the box recycling idea it’s well cool. You guys are worth the Duty. Really love the pics of the shop. Hope I can visit one day.

    mike on June 4, 2010 9:24 AM:

    I bet a good majority of your readers aspire to do what these guys have, including myself. Kudos.

    lineage of influence on June 4, 2010 9:47 AM:

    Looks like a great store. I really like the layout, there’s plenty going on but it all looks well laid out at the same time.

    They ship to the UK too? That’s good to know.

    Foster on June 4, 2010 10:24 AM:

    Madison is an awesome town. Both my parents went to school there. Glad to see some a good shop in mix,

    doane on June 4, 2010 10:40 AM:

    Great looking shop.

    Dave on June 4, 2010 11:59 AM:

    Where did you guys get drinks?

    Jeremiah Simmons on June 4, 2010 12:57 PM:

    Love their online shop… one of the best around concerning prices and offering.

    Nick on June 4, 2010 12:58 PM:

    These guys are bar none some of the best customer service you can get in this industry today. Accomodate to the customer first, great merch, would love to make the hike from Iowa over to visit someday.

    Fashion Dad on June 4, 2010 3:07 PM:

    Lucky. That is a great looking shop. Ping me before your next visit to Seattle and I’ll hook you up with similar shops like that…


    Fashion Dad

    Darryl on June 4, 2010 3:10 PM:

    Best customer service around. I live in Canada and when I returned something via mail they were very accommodating. Very nice gents. Have to make a visit to the actual brick and mortar store eventually.

    Howard on June 4, 2010 3:12 PM:

    Are there any other stores you recommend in Madison, or Milwaukee?

    robbie on June 4, 2010 3:16 PM:

    really need to make the trip … wow.

    Ryan on June 4, 2010 3:19 PM:

    Thanks for all the kind words. My partners Sam and Ben Parker and I have a blast meeting dudes in Madison and across the globe who appreciate what we do.

    Dave, we grabbed a couple of PBR at Natt Spil. Michael had dinner at the Tornado Club– too bad I had to re-merchandise the shop, the Tornado is one of the best Supper Clubs in the country.

    Rob on June 4, 2010 4:12 PM:

    Great call including a post on Context – I stopped by there, having never heard of it, last time I was in Madison and it was great. Friendly guys, great looking store and really well chosen and displayed goods. I wish there were a place this good in Chicago.

    eric on June 4, 2010 4:16 PM:

    Sam and Ryan set the standard for customer service. Using their detailed measurements and personal experience on how garments fit and wear, and I have been able to get more satisfaction than at any brick and mortar store in my neighborhood. More and more I find that the clothes I always reach for are from Context.

    steve on June 4, 2010 4:56 PM:

    …yup, looks like a friendly and inviting shop…and i don’t mean to change the subject, but i’m a brand new subscriber to ACL and i’ve got a question for you…back in the late sixties, i used to buy casual shoes at a place called BLOOM’S on 6th ave near bleeker street…do you (or any of your reader’s) remember this little shoe store?…more to the point, they used to carry a brown, sueded shoe…no eyelets, but rather (same) suede loops where you passed the laces through…nothing fancy, mind you, but these were extremely comfortable and very hip, as well, and i haven’t seen a pair since my last pair wore out around 1970…by that time, i was onto the next thing, but i’m amazed that no one has re-done that style since…any idea of what i’m talking about?

    unitedstyle on June 4, 2010 5:05 PM:

    Great looking store and those Alden boots are sweet!

    erik on June 4, 2010 8:01 PM:

    Great midwest post…

    Stop by Comet Coffee for a similar aesthetic in Ann Arbor, Michigan…

    George on June 5, 2010 11:09 AM:

    Enjoyed the online service at Context. Most helpful and assuring online shopping experience for me. Good to be able to see the shop through the pictures and also to put a face to the nice people behind the emails.

    John Pitman on June 5, 2010 1:25 PM:

    Context is on the short-list of reasons I will miss living in downtown Madison. Great people with a unique vibe and the best clothes anywhere. I’ve been spoiled to be able to walk 3 blocks to the shop and poke around from time to time. Rock on Context guys, be expecting to ship lots of orders to NYC for me.

    william on June 6, 2010 9:28 AM:

    Mr Williams, Very cool site! I love it – I found it by bouncing around the Cool Hunting site. Anyway I have to ask can you tell me who made you the kick ass Motel keys that you have in the shop and I guess were giving away? They are awesome!!!! Our small company needs those as a promo!!!! SO COOL!!! Can you tell us who made them?

    william on June 6, 2010 9:28 AM:


    RJ on June 6, 2010 9:05 PM:

    Context is unmatched in their customer service. Coming from a fellow retailer, I say this with full confidence.
    Thanks for everything.

    chaz on June 7, 2010 6:16 AM:

    I live in the UK now but went to school in Madison. A great city. I sorely miss the Tornado. I’ve never had a steak as good as theirs. Nothing in London compares.

    Jonas on June 7, 2010 10:09 AM:

    That store is wicked cool. What a clean style with the decorum. Looks great lads!

    edwin jeans on June 8, 2010 8:01 AM:

    liking the store, nice ethos…

    Kellen on June 8, 2010 11:57 PM:

    So great to see this on a blog I love to read.

    I love Madison- as it will forever be my Hometown.

    I remember the day Context opened and am thrilled that it has been able to sustain and thrive so well in the area. The store’s arrival forever changed my personal style and my thoughts on fashion.

    Great article, great publicity. Keep up the good work and let’s hope that more stores like CONTEXT continue to pop up and thrive across the country.

    Larry on June 9, 2010 4:35 PM:

    I couldn’t agree more, these guys a class acts and have one of the best storefronts I’ve ever seen (they also run a killer online site too).

    Michael Kebbekus on June 10, 2010 9:16 PM:

    What an awesome surprise to see Context on ACL! I’ve spent most of my life in Madison and am glad to hear you enjoyed yourself. It’s an incredible place and Context surely contributes to the city. It is undoubtedly one of the best mens stores in the country–impeccable selection, reasonable prices, and awesome people.

    Mike on June 13, 2010 7:30 PM:

    When I accepted a job in Madison, I was fully planning on bemoaning the death of my retail habit that I had developed growing up in San Francisco. Context was my savior. Sam, Ryan and Ben are some of the best in the biz – friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

    Monica on June 15, 2010 3:42 PM:

    I’ve got an interview on my site with Ryan from Context that you might enjoy.

Comments are closed.