Knee Deep Vintage: Looking Good in Pilsen

Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III

First off, this place doesn’t smell bad. I know that’s a strange way to start off a review of a clothing store, but when it comes to places that deal in thrift or vintage clothing, smell is very important. No mothballs, no musk, no grandma-died-in-this-sweater odor. I mean, she might have died in it, but she left no olfactory clues.

Ok, I’m glad that’s out of the way. Knee Deep Vintage, located right off of Ashland on 18th, has an excellent selection of men’s and women’s clothing, specializing in gear from the ’20s-’50s. The store is loaded with all the vintage shop standards: military and letterman jackets, Hawaiian shirts, golf skirts, sundresses, purses, jewelry and paisley ties. Quickly overwhelmed, I was all but forced to remove my earbuds and concentrate.

The first thing I noticed while rifling through some old cowboy shirts was that everything seemed new. I think in my first twenty minutes of browsing I found one missing button. No rips, no CSI stains — nothing. From there it’s deep breathing time: How much is this stuff going to cost? Let this be your answer.

Seriously though, cool blue and yellow ’70s polyester disco shirt in near mint condition? Sixteen bucks. Some Lucille Ball-looking earrings? Four bucks. A good condition vinyl copy of the soundtrack to the original Star Wars? Eight bucks. So yes, a trip to Knee Deep Vintage might cost you a pretty penny (or a bunch of ugly ones), but that’s only because you won’t be able to stop yourself.

By the time I’d made it to the tie rack I’d mentally spent a paycheck and a half. Oh, and then there’s the back room: some cool old books, great looking vintage glassware sets and a whole section of incredible plaid golf pants. Dangerous? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.

If you’re the kind of person with foresight you’ll plan your visits for the second Friday of every month (and you probably didn’t major in English while in school). It’s on those Second Fridays that Knee Deep holds their “Midnight Sales,” where everything in the store is between 25-50% off from 6pm to 12am. If “Second Fridays” in Pilsen sounds like a familiar concept that’s because The Chicago Art’s District has open gallery events on those very same evenings. You can stop by Knee Deep and score some super-cheap style before heading out for a night of free booze and free art. Do it!

The Essentials:

Location: 1425 W. 18th Street
Hours: 12pm-8pm M-Th, 11am-9pm F-Sa, 12pm-6pm Su
Telephone: 312-850-2510

Getting there:

Driving: Street Parking
L: Pink Line, 18th Street exit
Bus: #9 Ashland bus, exit at 18th

Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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