The sad state of men’s retail in Chicago

GQ recently came out with their list of the top 25 men’s stores in America. Care to guess how many Chicago stores made the list? Zero. Am I surprised? Absolutely not. For all the hyperbole of Chicago being a world-class city and some sort of fashion capital, the city comes up woefully short in regards to menswear. Yes, we have Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and a Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store. Yes, we have a freestanding Prada, Hermes, Burberry, Zegna, Ferragamo, Marc Jacobs and the only Jil Sander outside New York. This is all great. But in the grand scheme of things, the range of menswear in Chicago is incredibly limited.

Neiman Marcus and Saks are stocked with narcolepsy-inducing assortments. Dolce & Gabbana suits, John Varvatos sweaters and Ferragamo shoes are lovely, but they don’t exactly get my blood pumping. Our local Nordstrom and Barneys are bold enough to carry a rack or two of Marni, Balenciaga and Givenchy, but in very limited quantities and usually the safest styles imaginable. Peruse what’s available and you’re likely to find a surplus of black pants, white button-downs, and crew neck sweaters. Best of luck finding anything remotely interesting.

Chicago women are lucky enough to have independent retailers like Ikram, Blake (which curiously doesn’t have a website), Robin Richman, Perchance, Helen Yi and Sarca. What do we men have? George Green (for a smattering of Yohji), Apartment Number 9 (which used to be a wonderful resource for Dries, Margiela and Band of Outsiders), Shrine Haberdashers (not my personal style, but I very much appreciate what they’re doing) and Haberdash (definitely among the best). Trust me, I’m very grateful these stores are here, but the majority are catering to the “nouveau dandy” trend, i.e. men gobbling up heritage brands (Woolrich, Filson, et al) and those inspired by them (Burkman Bros, Billy Reid). Where is the local equivalent of Colette, Dover Street Market or Opening Ceremony? Why can’t I buy Comme des Garçons, Wooyoungmi, Kenzo, Duckie Brown or bloody Calvin Klein Collection, for that matter?

I sincerely hope I’m not alone in this. Yes, Chicagoans—and Chicago men, in particular—tend to skew toward the conservative side. But surely there are enough people of a similar mind here to support such a store.

Or maybe I should just go back to London…

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