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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Independence Menswear Shop Brings American-Made Clothing, Shoes To Former Neighborly Space In Wicker Park

The store sells a range of upscale men's clothing from brands hard to find anywhere else in Chicago, owner George Vlagos said.

Independence owner George Vlagos at his store in Wicker Park on July 14, 2022
Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
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WICKER PARK — A menswear store with an emphasis on American-made clothing has opened on Division Street in Wicker Park.

Independence, 1909 W. Division St., opened in May at the former home of Neighborly gift shop, which closed its Wicker Park location in April.

Independence sells a range of upscale men’s clothing from brands hard to find anywhere else in Chicago, owner George Vlagos said.

“It’s focused on workwear, early Americana workwear,” he said. “It’s a lot of inspiration from what the Japanese interestingly have done with American workwear. And that’s stuff that we carry.”

Independence grew out of Vlagos’ first business, Oak Street Bootmakers, which he founded online in 2010. He said it quickly exploded in popularity, bringing the brand a lot of attention and success “overnight.”

Vlagos started Independence in 2011 to broaden his focus to jeans, shirts and all types of clothing.

“I decided to start Independence, which would focus almost exclusively on made-in-USA brands and brands that I loved that I could find in New York, that I could find online, but did not have any retail presence in Chicago at the time,” he said.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Tattooed boots at Independence, 1909 W. Division St. in Wicker Park

Since then, Independence has moved from its first small store in the Gold Coast to West Loop before settling in Wicker Park, where Vlagos lived for many years.

“I always wanted Independence to be there, and there never was the right spot. And when we were looking, there still wasn’t a spot on Division. But we heard that Neighborly was going to be moving out. … And I was immediately like,’ This is it. This feels right. This is going to be the longterm home for Independence,'” he said.

Reception to the store has been great, Vlagos said. Earlier this month, members of Rage Against The Machine stopped by when they were in town to play a show at the United Center.

They aren’t the first famous musicians to shop at Independence over the years. Vlagos said he’s sold clothes and shoes to the Avett Brothers, Jack White and rapper Earl Sweatshirt, among others.

“The shoes were kind of initially the draw. That’s what we’re most known for. But Independence is essentially the flagship home for Oak Street Bootmakers and all these other great made-in-USA brands,” he said.

Independence is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday-Monday.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Menswear store Independence opened in mid-May on Division Street in the former home of Neighborly’s Wicker Park location
Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Hats, sweaters and other items at Independence, 1909 W. Division St. in Wicker Park

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