It's been bad news lately on the business pages, and the surly mood is heard in the least likely of places. When the clerk at an exclusive Milwaukee men's store, with custom-tailored suits and shirts and normally nothing on the rack for less than $500, goes on about greedy Wall Street investors and those damn CEOs (i.e. his customers), you know business is down.
The Great Recession doesn't mean that looking bad should be an option. And while Milwaukee guys have a reputation as schlubs, there have always been enough sharp-dressed men to keep menswear alive. Alas, many of the boutiques are national chains and locally owned shops have often been scary places with salesmen trailing you with the hungry eye of car dealers on commission. Aala Reed has been one exception, a friendly lowkey place selling stylish clothing from socks to suits.
But resale has long been the road to fashion on a budget. There are two types of these stores: thrift and specialty. Beyond the predictable Christmas sweaters and XXL sweat pants found at most Goodwill locations, Milwaukee's Value Village stores are the premium of standard thrift, with a larger men's selection and a truly unique variety-particularly of the "ironically" cool type.
Specialty vintage clothing stores should be expected to have a more focused selection, but what makes it better costs the customer more money-remember, someone else is picking through the mid-'90s Brett Favre Packers jerseys and Bart Simpson shirts so you don't have to. A-Hem Vintage and Luv Unlimited, both sizable in selection and character, are among the top in men's specialties. For the extra-persnickety, the racks at Tip Top Atomic Shop are always full of original rockabilly wear, and the jam-packed Yellow Jacket stocks all definitive street-wear from the 1950s on. Annie's 2nd Hand Chic, though not as extensive in the men's department, has prices so competitive that it is worth a trip.
Check out these fashion spots for the men of Milwaukee:
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