If you had to return from a visit to Texas with one item, certainly it would be a pair of homegrown, ruggedly natty boots. A good start would be Joshua Bingaman’s East Austin boutique HELM Boots, which exclusively sells the brand’s handsome, locally designed, handmade leather creations for men and women.
Uniquely stylish, Bingaman – who had previously been peddling vintage sneakers at his San Francisco shop Subterranean Shoe Room – rhapsodically describes his boots as “chic, strong, beautifully designed, with just enough of a rugged touch.” A long list of enthusiastic clients seems to agree.
With the annual Austin media / entertainment – pilgrimage / extravaganza that is SXSW coming up March 9 – 13, we asked him to take us around town to some of his favorite shops, from apparel to books to candy. After all, one always needs an escape from all that cultural pontificating over at the festival – and what could be better therapy than a spot of good shopping?
Okay, be forewarned – and I speak on knowledge and experience primarily from my wife’s wardrobe – that once you buy esby you might only buy esby. I’ve seen it happen. It was founded in 2014 by designer Stephanie Beard, and features designs for women and men with a menswear mentality – and by menswear mentality, I mean if you like to buy well-made clothes and wear them often. It’s fit to flatter, with an emphasis on comfort and wearability – a couple of my wife’s faves are the Kate Dress and the Duster Jacket. The store itself is a converted garage space that is well lit and well designed, the white brick and concrete is clean and welcoming.
T-shirts, button ups, denim, sweaters, jackets, bags galore – all of it. When you walk into STAG you walk out with more than you planned, every time. The space is an old laundromat that’s just the perfect amount of rustic rugged, balanced out with thoughtful art pieces, vintage jewelry and a plethora of accessories to boot. This store is like taking multiple of your favorite men’s stores and wrapping them into one. Drop a good array of RRL in and there you go. On South Congress next to Homeslice Pizza, so plan to grab a slice or two post-shopping. Oh, and they’ll give you a Lonestar beer in STAG while you shop – ’cause that’s just the Texas way.
Um, can I please live in my Outdoor Voices apparel? Austin proudly hosts the first retail location from local Tyler Haney, and the store is in a historical part of the Central Westside. It’s simple, clean and organized for a perfect shopping experience. With a multitude of new unisex “athleisure” brands currently trending, OV stands out for quality, care, style and design – my wife buys the two- and tri-tone leggings for yoga and jogging; I own every length and color of the men’s shorts. There’s also the sense of community you can join by “Doing Things” with the brand’s multi-city gatherings, that help keep you in good spirits and in good shape. Anything you get from OV is going to be your favorite of its kind.
Multiple levels of books upon books and so much more. I’ve lived here for 15+ years and I can still go into BookPeople and get lost for hours. In a world of digital reading devices, it’s amazing to go somewhere like BP and feel a sense of rebellion to it all. Every book section has multiple reviews and favorites from staff members – all handwritten. The second level of the store has author readings and signings, and sometimes you get to just sit in and experience something amazing you never planned. They have a section of toys and novelties that are always clever and hilarious.
That’s right, a candy store. It’s unlike any other. The ambiance and impressive amount of old and new school sweet sensations will blow your mind. Super fun to see people of all ages having nostalgic trips, while at the same time young kids are discovering the favorite candies of prior generations that are still popular.
So good. The smell, the feel and the live, in-store shows, just like real record shops used to be. You can explore and find treasures amongst the new and used CDs and vinyl, and listen to them on headphones – yes! All the newer tunes you need, but just as many of those hard to find albums that I used to score at Amoeba on Haight in San Francisco. There’s always a keg of free beer next to the stage – so drinking beer out of a plastic cup while you watch one of your favorite bands play, and then having them sign your record…as cool as it gets. Not to mention because it’s Austin, you can expect to spot some of your favorite rockstars standing next to you at the show.