The city of Philadelphia can get a bad rap, but what’s often shrugged off as the home of just cheesesteaks and Rocky Balboa has undergone an amazing cultural revival in the past few years. As New York has steadily priced out young innovators, many visionaries in food, fashion, art, and drink aren’t looking to Brooklyn but Philly to start their next venture.
As progressive bars, restaurants, and galleries have sprung up in neighbourhoods like Olde City, Northern Liberties, and East Passyunk so too have menswear boutiques catering to a new interest in raw denim. Take a good look below as we count off the best places to get and stay raw in the city of brotherly love.
1. Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Olde City – 116 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Art in the Age is the nexus of refined alternative culture in Philadelphia. Like the name implies, the store stocks products of the past still living in the present. Edison lightbulbs, hand-stitched quilts, and hatchets sit alongside Gitman Bros. Vintage shirts, Battenwear fleeces and selvedge denim from Tellason, Raleigh Denim, and Philly’s own Norman Porter.
Such an eclectic collection could come off as contrived, but Art in the Age is so plugged into the local art scene – they constantly rotate work from local artists in a gallery corner of the shop – that it feels more like a representation of the area instead of romantic fantasy. Their house line of spirits are also worth a stop in on their own – I’m particularly fond of their Root – catch their happy hour between 4 and 6 every Thursday for a free taste.
2. P’s & Q’s
Hawthorne – 820 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
This South Street boutique represents perfectly the next stage of sneakerhead evolution in Philadelphia. The kids who used to wait outside Foot Locker all night for the next pair of Jordans are now outside Ps & Qs to cop a pair of Naked & Famous but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of kicks to go around.
Ps & Qs is the brainchild of brothers Ky and Rick Cao and their friend Jackson Fu, the trio responsible for the Chinese restaurant/stealth sneaker store Abakus Takeout. As they matured so did their style, leading to the new wave Americana collection they have on offer. New Balance, Gant Rugger, Patagonia, Topo Designs, and their confessed favourite brand Norse Projects compliment a denim selection from Naked & Famous and Baldwin.
And with frequent special guest events and lectures (Brandon Svarc of N&F and all the guys of The Madbury Club just last month) Ps & Qs is quickly establishing itself as the gathering spot for all things Philly streetwear. Stay on top of their blog feed to keep track of what’s coming next.
3. Totem Brand
Society Hill – 529 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
The latest and greatest selection of raws to be had in Philly is another South Street boutique, Totem Brand. How owner Phillip Yi can cram this much inventory into such a compact space boggles the mind. He’s got Left Field, Rogue Territory, Norman Porter, Raleigh Denim, Taylor Stitch, Pointer Brand, Imogene+Willie – and that’s just the jeans!!
Totem Brand aims for that heritage outdoorsy cool and it shows in the selection and decor. The store is finished like an old barn, with rough wooden floors and industrial style shelving. Alongside the jeans there are boots from Danner and Red Wing, bags from brands like Kelty, Filson, and Archival Clothing. You’d break the hashtag key trying to document the rest.
Yi opened the location a only four months ago, but with his unmatched selection in all things heritage, it looks like Totem Brand’s going to have a home on Philadelphia for a long, long time.
Olde City – 124 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Even though it’s still less than 10 years old, Sugarcube® would have to be considered the “old guard” in the Philadelphia raw scene. Established in 2004 by owner Elisa Buratto, this Olde City favorite combines vintage with the contemporary for a timeless collection of denim from APC, Williamsburg Garment Company, Levi’s Vintage Clothing, and Big Star.
5. Trove General Store
Paoli – 82 East Lancaster Avenue, Paoli, PA 19301
Trove is a little far out of the center city, but it’s well worth the drive. The enormous Paoli showroom has all the charm of a country feed and seed but with the selection of a curated boutique.
Trove takes aim at a farming aesthetic with a slightly southwestern influence. Their denim selection includes Norman Porter, Tellason and Imogene+Willie as well as tried and true heritage brands like Filson, Levi’s Vintage Clothing, and Bill’s Khakis.
6. Norman Porter
Fishtown – 150 Cecil B. Moore Ave #301, Philadelphia, PA 19122
Our last selection isn’t exactly a store, per se, but anyone on a denim pilgrimage to Philly would be loath to miss it. The Fishtown workshop of Philadelphia’s Norman Porter company is one of the coolest raw denim spots anywhere on the east coast.
Pretty much every single pair of Norman Porter jeans has been designed, cut and sewn by founder Michael Stampler in the room you see above. He started off making messenger bags several years back, but soon got the jean bug and has since taught himself everything he knows about working with denim. He slowly started acquiring old machines–button-holers, triple-stitchers, and even a prized Union Special–and now has everything it takes to personally transform a few yards of fabric into pair of jeans in just four hours flat.
Although Norman Porter doesn’t go as far as bespoke jeans, Stampler can customize pretty much any aspect of the pattern he makes to your liking, just be sure to email ahead of time for an appointment. He’s also a master of reupholstering so you can get all your furniture kitted out here too.
Did we miss anything? Sound off with your favourite Philly denim spots in the comments below.