A Premium Shopping Experience
With most shoppers today swayed by speed and convenience, fast fashion retailers and multi-brand online stores seem to be ruling the roost. But the heart of the boutique is still very much beating.
Providing truly personal customer service, select edits over heaving inventories of products, unique interiors, as well as the experiential aspect of shopping, independent menswear stores up and down the UK continue to offer something incomparable to even the most discerning of style enthusiasts.
Here’s our guide to the top ten you need to know…
Oi Polloi (Manchester)
Established in Manchester in 2002, Oi Polloi was born after its two founders bonded over the idea of selling tie-dye Lacoste polo shirts. The shirts in question never quite materialised but the Northern independent is still to be commended for its offering, which goes above and beyond the usual made in the UK and Scandinavian brands offered at run-of-the-mill indie stores.
Included in their unconventional catalogue of brands are Munich-based operation A Kind of Guise, Japanese workwear brand OrSlow, the store’s own brand label Cottonpolis, as well as accessories from the likes of Il Bussetto and Fisher Space Pens.
Their online store is easily navigable and nicely complemented by some original content in the form of the ‘Deck-Out’ series. Somewhere between a traditional magazine ‘shopping’ editorial feature and inventive prose, ‘Deck-out’ offers inspiration on how to wear Oi Polloi’s varied brands in a highly original manner.
If you’re still not sated, pore over their blog for exclusive interviews with iconic personalities, reviews of independent films and local eateries, as well as dispatches from the staff’s far-flung travels.
You can also feast your eyes on Pica-Post: the store’s dedicated online fanzine that brings together all of the aforementioned and more.
Address: 63 Thomas St, Manchester, Lancashire, M4 1LQ
Phone: 0161 831 7870
Autograph / atoo (Birmingham)
A concept store based in Birmingham that’s been trading for over twenty years, Autograph has been commended by the likes of FHM and Esquire for its comprehensive brand mix.
With a base of British heritage brands including Sunspel, Grenson and Crombie, the store builds on this foundation with a contemporary offering from the likes of 3.1 Philip Lim, T by Alexander Wang and Neil Barrett, as well as several lesser-known names like streetwear brand FI5TH from Manchester and Italian reversible jacket experts Fifteen & Half.
Autograph’s close-knit ties with brands such as Paul Smith mean you may even be able to find a store-exclusive piece or two.
Autograph opened brother store atoo on Ethel St in 1998 to provide the men of Birmingham with easy access to brands with a utilitarian bent. The current roster comprises grade-A American denim manufacturers like Levi’s, as well as a host of Scandi stalwarts including Our Legacy, Norse Projects and Rains.
Mixing up this stable of fairly standard independent brands are glasses from British eyewear specialists Eye Respect, bags from Madrid upcycling label Ecoalf, as well as plenty more accessories and reading materials. Pore over their succinct yet incisive blog posts for inspiration on how to wear key pieces.
Address: Autograph Menswear, 15-17 Ethel St, City Centre, Birmingham, B2 4BG
Phone: 0121 633 3540
End Clothing / End Hunting Co. (Newcastle)
One of the UK’s foremost menswear providers, End started out in 2005 in Newcastle. Split over two floors, the store takes pleasure in providing customers with globally sourced brands in a no bullsh*t environment.
In late 2009, End Hunting Co. was opened to house End’s more premium offering in upscale surroundings that falls somewhere between rustic hunting cabin and British country manor.
Online, End’s offering runs the gamut from the slickest of streetwear to homespun British clothing; some labels worth exploring are Ally Capellino, Bleu de Paname, Fracap, Tanner Goods and VISVIM. Appreciating that today’s man needs more than high quality clobber to impress, End also stocks an array of grooming labels from Murdock, Aesop, Imperial and Baxter of California along with fragrances from Comme Des Garçons.
With a roster full of world-renowned brands, you may need a word of advice on where to spend your money first. Luckily, the store’s blog is updated daily with posts focusing specifically on noteworthy products, collections and labels, all featuring rich, illustrative photography shot by the team at End themselves.
Also worthwhile scouring online is the store’s ‘Gifts’ section, which makes finding that perfect something for Father’s Day, your mate’s birthday or brother’s wedding that little bit more manageable.
Address: 4-6 High Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1EN
Phone: 0191 231 3983
Accent Clothing (Leeds)
A family-run business established way back in 1984, Accent is located in the Queen’s Arcade, Leeds. Honing in on edgy, contemporary yet accessibly priced labels, the men’s online store now stocks around sixty brands including 7 For All Mankind, Baracuta, Gibson, Eleven Paris, Swims, Victorinox and Weekend Offender.
If you’re in need of a brief respite of shopping their well-curated range, head to Accent’s blog, which is an eclectic mix of news of the latest arrivals at the store as well as brand profiles and commentary on the hottest new advertising campaigns.
For those on the hunt for details on what their favourite celebs are wearing and where to buy, the store’s Instagram account is regularly updated with ‘Get the Look’ posts.
Spurred on by the success of the Accent men’s store, Accent Juniors was opened in 1986, focusing on outfitting kids from newborns to teens in brands like Armani Junior, Diesel, Nolita and Timberland. Finally, the ribbon on Accent Ladies was cut in 1992, ensuring Leeds style devotees of every age and gender were fully serviced.
Address: 11-20 Queens Arcade, Briggate, Leeds LS1 6LF
Phone: 0113 234 6767
At 35,000 square feet, Psyche, found on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road, is by far the largest independent on our list. Not dissimilar to a department store, it’s a veritable fashion emporium spread out over three levels, with menswear on the ground floor, tailoring on the first and womenswear on the third.
Psyche began life as a modest punk-themed boutique in 1984, being one of the first UK-based stores to stock internationally renowned labels such as Dries Van Noten, Prada, Jil Sander and Helmut Lang.
In 2002, Psyche took over the site of ailing outlet E. Upton & Sons, transforming the space into a lavish department store with a distinctly boutique-flavoured atmosphere. It’s not gone unnoticed – Drapers has twice awarded the store the title of UK Retailer of the Year.
Founder and MD Steve Cochrane populates the several thousand square feet of Psyche with the world’s most esteemed brands, from heritage labels like Hackett, Farah and Paul Smith to European heavyweights Armani and Hugo Boss.
Address: 175-187 Linthorpe Rd, Middlesbrough, TS1 4AG
Phone: 020 7183 4767
Intro Clothing (Manchester)
Intro Clothing first shook up the Manchester retail scene ten years ago and has since continued to provide its clientele with of the moment essentials with a streetwear bent.
Home to a chock-full roster of both home-grown and far-flung lesser-known labels – including The Cuckoo’s Nest, Fi5th, Good for Nothing and ABE – it’s one of the most unique retail destinations in the UK.
But it’s not only hyper-florals and all-black sports-inspired styles. Here, London-based chino brand MQT rubs shoulders with the likes of white shirt-centric label Simon + Simon, while Jeffery West and Linda Farrow make up the smart shoes and eyewear contingent.
If you’re on the lookout for jewellery that sits apart from your average department store fare, Intro again delivers, stocking intricately detailed bangles from Parisian label Tobias Wistisen.
For the punter pressed for time, the store gears its online content around occasions and looks that feature the season’s major trends. Check out the ‘Lookbook’ section of their website for shoppable editorials and use the ‘Trends’ menu to browse their collections by key trends, from bomber jackets and longer length tees to nautical and colour pop footwear.
Address: 51 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2AY
Phone: 0161 839 5323
Weavers Door (Liverpool)
Centred on what they dub the ‘true brands’, Liverpool independent Weavers Door champion labels manufacturing high quality goods with watertight integrity.
Established in 2010, the store is nestled among the neighbouring exclusive retailers of the city’s Cavern Walks, providing a haven for those tired of fashion’s needlessly frantic pace and who prioritise quality over quantity.
Here, you’ll find the top tier of UK-native clothiers including Barbour, Sunspel, Universal Works and YMC dotted amongst smaller gems from Mamnick, Northern Goods Co. and grooming specialist Mr. Natty.
The Weavers Door Journal, helmed by store manager Lee Fleming, sheds light on the craftsmen/women and creative minds behind the brands they sell. The third and most recent issue features interviews with Liverpool-based photographer Mark McNulty, watchmakers Oli Fowles and a visit to steins and breins establishment Salt Dog Slims.
Weavers Door has won love from Northern lifestyle blogger Mat of Buckets and Spades, who called it a “hidden gem […] with a big presence, heaps of personality and a dedicated following”.
Address: 1 Cavern Walks Shopping Centre, Harrington St, Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 6RE
Phone: 0151 236 6001
Xile Clothing (Edinburgh/Glasgow)
Arguably Edinburgh’s most exciting clothier, Xile burst onto the Scottish capital’s streets in 1984. Since then, it’s expanded into a small retail empire that spans three physical stores in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as an online store that epitomises clean and considered design.
What sets Xile apart from its competitors is its assemblage of British brands with a contemporary edge, including 140-year-old Scottish label Lyle & Scott, the more street- and sportswear-led Blood Brother and BOY London, as well as coveted international brands such as Yohji Yamamoto, Saucony and Canada Goose.
A refreshing alternative to many retailers’ overly commercialised editorial, Xile’s blog revolves more around satellite areas of interest from marketing campaigns the team considers captivating, to whatever tracks are currently on their playlist.
Elsewhere, Xile provides a valuable lesson to all online retailers in the form of its ‘Features’ section, which highlights the labels they stock – sharing their histories, unique brand pillars and various USPs.
Address: 12 Frederick St, Edinburgh, EH2 2HB
Address: RU59 Ocean Terminal, Ocean Drive, Edinburgh, EH6 6JJ
Address: Unit 55, St Enoch Centre, Glasgow, G1 4BW
The Goodhood Store (London)
What started out as a self-funded project in east London’s Hoxton in 2007 has since established itself as one of our capital’s most significant retail destinations and creative forces.
The Goodhood Store first set out to bring like-minded brands that pride themselves on independence and exclusivity to the area’s burgeoning design scene.
It rapidly caught on, and in December 2010, the store expanded to two floors, with spaces dedicated to both menswear and womenswear. Shortly after, an online store was launched to offer those outside of London access to its impressive inventory of products from brands such as Gasius, Fuct, Mark McNairy and Soulland.
In early 2011, building on its commercial success, Goodhood founded the Goodhood Workshop, a studio and exhibition space in conjunction with Galleries Goldsein, which plays host to exhibitions as well as one-off brand-dedicated launches.
In addition, the Goodhood Creative emerged, which brings the store’s vision to bear on projects with brands such as Carhartt, fledgling denim brand Kings of Indigo and coffee purveyors Aston & Magill.
Everyone from Time Out reviewers to influential bloggers (Steve Salter of Style Salvage) have lavished praise on The Goodhood Store, and given its seamless combination of commerce and creativity, it’s easy to see why.
Address: 41 Coronet St, London, N1 6HD
Phone: 020 7729 3600
Wolf & Badger (London)
Founded in 2009 in West London’s Notting Hill by entrepreneurial brothers Henry and George Graham, Wolf & Badger gives young, exciting and emerging design talent pride of place. Here, you can expect to find Ollie Proudlock’s Serge DeNimes alongside Peregrine and London’s rising menswear stars, including Karim Maher and Domingo Rodriguez.
Wolf & Badger have two permanent stores in Mayfair and Notting Hill, an online store, and every now and again expand their reach through pop-up stores, having to date had pop-ups in Selfridges and Porto Montenegro.
As well as the rich, well-edited product selection that’s won Wolf & Badger high praise from The Financial Times, Vogue and Vanity Fair, there’s plenty of useful content including ‘How Tos’, store news, designer profiles and food reviews, as well as a slick print edition magazine highlighting need to know brands.
Once you’re kitted out, turn towards their extensive ‘Homewares’ section, which offers everything from prints and plates to lighting and stationery.
Wolf & Badger Mayfair
Address: 32 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NE
Phone: 020 3627 3191
Wolf & Badger Notting Hill
Address: 46 Ledbury Rd, London, W11 2AB
Phone: 020 7229 5698
That ends our guide to the ten hottest and most respected independent UK menswear stores. But now we want to hear from you – have you found a gem in your local area that you want to bring to our readers’ attention?
Let us know who they are, where they’re based and what makes them unique in the comments section below…