Vintage Clothing Pros: Chicago Men Need Fashion Help

By Chloe Riley on February 4, 2013 7:34am 

PILSEN — Sherman Brown is on a mission to get Chicago men to dress better.

The 27-year-old former New Yorker who now co-owns Salmons and Brown tailor shop at 44 E. Superior St. says many men here simply do not know how to dress well.

“There’s not a culture here. Even with the hipsters,” he said, smiling.

Now he’s looking to change all that by partnering up with the owner of Pilsen Vintage and Thrift in hopes of making Chicago men fashionable.

Paul Gazar, who started the vintage shop at 1430 W. 18th St. over three years ago, said he’s confident that fashion conscious Chicago men are out there.

“I know they exist. They’re here,” he said.

Gazar, 55, said he’s watched men come in to his place after shopping at Knee Deep Vintage across the street.

But since his place has about “85 percent” women’s vintage clothing, Gazar said the men usually scavenge for a hip-looking tie and then leave. 

The men first met when Brown came into Gazar's shop and "spent all this money" on vintage pieces for his tailor shop, Gazar said. After that, Gazar, an upholsterer by trade, helped refurbish several pieces now decorating Brown's clothing store.

By spring, the two men plan to tear down a wall and dedicate a whole room in Gazar's shop solely to high quality men’s vintage clothing from the 1940s, '50s and '60s.

To get the shop on its feet, Brown will donate some of his personal vintage clothing, including a horse hide World War II leather jacket that originally cost him $600 in New York.

“And I don’t mind selling my things, because my favorite movie as a kid was 'Goonies.' And, like, 'Goonies' was the ultimate treasure hunt. And that’s how I feel about vintage shopping,” he said.

Growing up on the South Side in the 1990s, Brown wore pink polo shirts. Now he regularly wears a fedora.

“Starting out, I wanted to play for the NBA and I find myself now dressing NBA guys, so I guess I got a little close,” he said.

He got those NBA players through connections he made while working at a high-end tailor shop in Chicago. Brown said he had to hustle to get sports players' attention, but eventually he won some of them over.

One NBA player — former Chicago Bull and current Sacramento Kings forward John Salmons — was so impressed with Brown, he's now his partner at Salmons and Brown.

Brown said he gets “the feeling” when he walks into New York vintage shops — such as Stock Vintage or What Goes Around — that wow him.

So far in Chicago, the only place that’s done that for him is Gazar’s store.

“If New York is a teenager or an adult, I saw Chicago like a toddler,” he said. “Over time, it could be something really amazing if someone with some cool ideas comes here and does something different.”

Brown said he and Gazar’s long-term goal is to create a brand, with both clothes and a look appealing to the style and pocketbook of the area.

“We definitely will cater to this neighborhood. We’re not gonna be foolish,” he said.

And if a $100 leather jacket is just calling out to that broke hipster?

“We’ll have a dress here that’s worth $100 and somebody's eyes will light up and I’ll say, ‘Oh, you gotta have it. What price do you want to pay?’” Gazar said. “There’s a lot of love in this store. Everybody will tell you.”

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