The best menswear stores in Boston
One of my biggest personal interests is menswear, and men's style. And what better place to practice writing a little bit about those subjects than my very own blog? Sometimes I astonish even myself with my genius.
Before I finished at Boston magazine, I was allowed to photograph a bunch of menswear stores around Boston that I'd researched both through my own shopping and online for a piece that would round up the best places in the city to hit for top quality dudes' duds.
The piece never ended up getting published, so rather than just let the photos go to waste, I figured I'd use them and the article as a way to ease into writing more about menswear on my own site. So, what follows is a list of what I think we could consider the top menswear stores in Boston.
Ball and Buck
When I first arrived in Boston, one of the stores I was most excited to live in the same city as was Ball and Buck. One of the foremost proponents of the Americana / vintage trends, Ball and Buck has not only made a name for itself as a brand in the Northeast, but across the country, as it takes its American Field Market — a trade show of Made-In-America goodies, designers, and dope craftspeople — from Atlanta to San Francisco.
But it all started in Boston. The company originated in the North End, but soon snapped up the chance to move to the famous Newbury Street, where it now occupies a subterranean unit decked out like a hunting lodge, complete with taxidermied animals and a vintage motorbike to complement the vast array of American-made denim and hunting-inspired apparel. They also shelve fellow local American-made brands like New Balance sneakers and Randolph sunglasses, house a grooming section, and the coolest bit of all, a high-end barbershop in the back, where you can get a throwback haircut that looks cutting edge in 2017.
I think the concept is one of the most original in the city, and seamlessly blends classic prep, Americana, and hunting styles to create a truely unique, refined but rugged Boston style.
Ball and Buck may be king of the menswear scene in Boston, but for me, Sault NE is the more beloved prince.
Sault NE lives on Boston's small business strip, the South End portion of Tremont Street, and is a beautiful addition to the neighbourhood. Everything feels so much less serious than Ball and Buck. There's natural light that floods in the front windows, a wide collection of seasonally rotating, classically inspired, preppy menswear pieces from plaid shirts to rain jackets, USA made denim, Americana tees, and Jack Purcell Converses.
It also has a thoughtfully curated apothecary, an unparalleled selection of gifts for men, and a collection of books both whimsical and stylish, like the contemporary encyclopaedia of menswear brands that I picked up from a recent sidewalk sale — Oh, and the best collection of candles I've ever laid nose on. (Side note: I've actually modelled for Sault NE recently, and spent most of the store credit I was paid in on candles.)
That's not to say owner Philip Saul isn't serious about his New England style. You may remember him from a video I produced a little earlier in the year. After working retail and merchandising jobs for years before he opened his own store, his eye for interior design and curation is unparalleled. Not only does he find everything to stock the store with himself, he also built half the fixtures and decorations too! He may not originally be from the area, but his love for New England is unparalleled. Just ask his second store, in quintessential NE coastal town, Portsmouth New Hampshire.
Ministry of Supply
This is the shop to go to for tech workwear done right. As athletic gear is now all dry-fit as standard, why shouldn't any of the same technology be infused into your regular wardrobe? Sure, hopefully you aren't sweating as much at a white collar job as when you're exercising, but for the cyclist commuters and those who just want their clothes to keep them looking as put together as possible at work (i.e. no pit stains in the presentation) this place has all the secret weapons you need.
On that theme, the name comes from James Bond's quartermaster, Q. Q was based on a real person who designed gadgets and clothing for British Special Ops. His cover was working for... the Ministry of Supply.
In case you couldn't tell from the NASA-tech infused garments that fill the minimalist space on Newbury Street, the company was started by three MIT grads. The location in Boston was the store's first brick and mortar. It's head to toe performance gear — elevated office wear, if you will — for the modern worker, but there are no hideous neon colour schemes.
While students these days are more likely to be found wearing sweatpants and hoodies to run to class, there was a time when undergrads would dress up for class. Like it was a big deal, or something.
A leftover relic from those times, J. Press has been outfitting Harvard's best dressed in repp ties, sport coats, and classic varsity looks for generations, and carrying the torch for New England's prep-tastic culture. It's undoubtably the cleanest cut spot on either side of the Charles River, and the company is huge in Japan. That should tell you just how cool it truly is.
A visit is as much a trip to a time capsule of when American men cared about looking good, and enjoyed the luxuries of classic tailoring and suiting. The lush red carpets richly textured fabrics on display scream upper-class, but for a bit of a menswear nerd such as myself, it's like a trip to the candy store. I'm not going to be able to get anything, but that doesn't mean I can't drool over everything.
Bobby From Boston
If J. Press is a time capsule, then Bobby's From Boston is an exquisite menswear museum exhibit.
Located in the South End's SoWa Arts District, the museum metaphor is apter still. Except everything is for sale, and everything is so cool that industry titan designers from Ralph Lauren to Tom Ford have spent time browsing the historic racks of classic, vintage garments. Displays burst with denim, shirts, wool sweaters, and boots.
Even period drama movies, some 50 of them, used Bobby's to outfit their casts, because the clothes are all originals, not replicas. If there's anything that you're looking for that you can't find, the store will happily offer its warehouse's number.
The owner, Bobby, sadly passed away a few years back, but his legacy of the most finely curated collection of vintage clothing in the city will live on a long time.
A hip little hideaway near Berkeley's campus, Bodega is the city's coolest spot to get your sneakies and streetwear.
Concealed in the back of an ordinary, dusty convenience store, half of the magic of Bodega is finding it. But once you're inside, the hardwood floors gleam like a basketball court, and the shelves are stocked with streetwear's hippest and most fashionable labels.
The sneakers are the main attraction, and the company has not only all the biggest releases, but also collaborates on designs with other local manufacturers, like New Balance, for limited run pairs. But footwear is far from all, as jackets, hats, and tees are also all for sale — might I suggest a Bodega-branded one, just to show you're part of the secretive club?
The store is a Boston original, and one of the few sneaker head havens the Hub has to offer. Thankfully, it's all you could need.
For most men, there comes a time when flashy sneakers are no longer publicly acceptable, and they begin to need to tone it down.
ar be it from me to tell you how to live your sartorial life, but if you do want advice, you'd do worse than to take it from Gary Drinkwater. The man has been in business in Somerville for 13 years and his store is stocked with classic men's clothing items from the basics like buttons downs and corduroy pants all the way up to finely fitted, high quality suits.
It really is a one stop shop for great men's clothing. There's an elegance and timelessness to the garments on sale that make each of them investment pieces. That being said, the atmosphere is anything but stuffy as an exposed brick wall and spotlights keep things fresh, and the owner is on hand on the sales floor almost daily to offer a professional opinion on whether that shirt goes with those pants.
Perhaps the best part of Drinkwater's is that you don't have to worry about those things. All the clothes seem to work together marvellously. That's probably why the store has won three Best of Boston awards. A visit will leave you a better dressed man than when you walked in. How much more do you need to know?
If Kanye West shopped in Boston, he'd be at Riccardi.
This high-end clothing emporium on Newbury is as if hip little Bodega had a lovechild with Bobby From Boston. The place is stuffed to the gils with all the latest in fashion house finds, and despite the size of the collection, the curation is no less stringent. The store claims to have introduced various European and Japanese designers to Boston, and has been family-run since its opening in 1978.
Major labels — your Gucci, Saint Lauren, Givenchy — are all present, sharing a home with new street-inspired upstarts like Off-White, Vetements, and, yes, Yeezy. If it's on trend on the runways, it'll be on the shelves at Riccardi.
Another of the South End's great small businesses, Uniform's racks are stuffed with high grade basics, and quality classics like jeans, button downs, and sneakers. And as you can see from the photo, a great assortment of colourful Happy Socks. Underwear is important.
Unlike its South End neighbour, Sault NE, Uniform skews towards larger brand names, like Levi's, Life After Denim, and Scotch and Soda, as well as stocking a small array of great grooming products that any modern men's boutique must in this day and age. The aesthetic is less preppy too, but each piece they sell would look right at home in any Boston guy's wardrobe.
The brick and mortar store also has exclusive brand collections, and offer personal styling sessions by appointment. True to its name, Uniform will set you up with timeless pieces that work everyday.
Honorable mention: Caramelo
An unfortunate reality of independent businesses is it can be hard for them to stay open. It didn't make me any less sad to see that the only independent menswear store in the rapidly developing neighbourhood of Jamaica Plain closed its doors recently. I won't harp on about it as there's no point saying what was there when it's no longer accessible, but it was a great family-owned business — so much so that the store won a Best of Boston award a few years back — with a great selection of basics from brands it would be hard to find anywhere else. It balanced form with function, and is a real loss for both the indie business market, and the Boston menswear one. Sorry to see you go, Caramelo! RIP.