Greg Svirnovskiy, Assistant Sports Editor
December 3, 2019
“Love your mother.”
It’s the first thing I saw as I walked into the storefront, in cursive print, emblazoned on a white shirt with a heart-shaped earth scribbled on top. Its owner, a mannequin donning a poofy gray Champion jacket and black sweatpants, was dressed more expensively than I’ve ever been.
The Evanston Urban Outfitters: one of the largest clothing stores in immediate proximity to Northwestern’s campus. It’s where I spent my money in the first quarter of freshman year, determined to build a skater boy vibe despite not knowing how to skateboard. I hadn’t been back since. Last week, armed with $20, I was back.
I felt drawn to the checkerboard-patterned flannels, blues and reds and yellows and blacks, which occupy their own display, and the racks of vintage hats on the far back wall.
But with my cost-conscious budget in mind, I headed straight to the clearance section and parsed through the array of shirts still on the racks. I slung two shirts over my forearm and moved on towards the jeans section, where I picked up a pair of stonewashed skinny jeans.
The dressing room at Urban is minimalist, with wood panels on either side of a large central mirror, hooks on the side for clothing. I walked in and set my backpack and coat on the floor.
I tried on the first combination, pairing the light blue jeans with an oversized patterned tee. The shirt is red, black and white, lined with rows of alternating motifs to give it a textured appearance. It’s super comfortable, silky smooth.
All the clothes here are like that, light and breezy — as if an angel has touched them, like they’re made of the stuff from shampoo commercials. Lush.
The next shirt is a nod to the Phi Slama Jama days of the University of Houston’s basketball team, a two year period from 1982-1984 when the team dominated the college basketball landscape. In it, an outlined basketball player dunks in air, yellow bubble letters in the background. A good vibe.
And then my favorite. A white tee with a massive picture of Bob Ross at the center. His eyes follow you no matter where you stand, dominating the shirt and any conversation you’ll have while wearing it. I loved it — until I saw the price tag. $29. Yikes.
In the middle of the trip, I broke a hanger after crashing a jacket into the wall as I tripped over my shoelaces. I’d later grimace while passing by the sales clerk on my way out of the building, knowing what he’d find in my changing room.
I popped the jacket over the ensemble. Gray and yellow plaid on the inside and brown fur covering the inside. It’s boujee, coming in with a price tag of $147. But it’s the only thing here that I’d really consider buying. There’s a picture of it on my Instagram now @Gregsvirnovskiy.
Urban thrives off of people like my freshman year self, who come to college determined to change our looks without any idea of what that actually means. It paints an idealized version of how teenagers dress, with shirts that remind shoppers to “teach peace” nestled next to overpriced Fila bucket hats. But in doing so, it alienates some shoppers.
The store’s entire vibe is hipster-lite, hell-bent on making you feel like you’re really shopping for streetwear, when in reality, it’s anything but. Soft alternative music plays in the background, and yellow and black posters of bold print line the windows. It feels niche, blazing its own trail, a different kind of store. But perhaps owing to its level of popularity, Urban literally defines the mainstream.
At any rate, when there are only so many clothing stores in a town, and one of them is a GAP Factory, nothing is ever really niche. It’s just a store.