News & Runway

The Gender Gap Dot Com: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

When I worked at a magazine in Chicago, I always got a little sad when the men's issues rolled around. Not because I don't appreciate a good bespoke blazer or male model casting (certainly not the WORST part of an editor's job), but because Windy City offerings were so slim. I could only call on one Adam Beltzman so many times before the pages started looking like a personal advertisement. Then again, that would be one good-lookin' magazine…

Beltzman owns Haberdash, THE boutique to set the Chicago man’s fashion bar. He opened its doors in 2005 and, since then, has been stocking racks with the likes of Alden, LBM 1911, and Gitman Bros. Vintage, all with a Midwestern sensibility that, let's face it, ultimately resonates with dudes in every area code.

So imagine the squeals elicited from my office when I saw his name in the headlines of my WWD last week with an announcement that Haberdash is launching a full e-commerce site soon. It seems the news of the men's market boom has reached Lake Michigan shores and Beltzman, in true entrepreneurial fashion, is thinking outside the brick-and-mortar box.

Now, along with magazine launches (M Magazine) and designer collaborations (GQ x Gap), Haberdash joins the larger national conversation surrounding the oft-ignored men's fashion market and how retailers (and e-tailers) are scrambling to be man on top. I caught up with Haberdash co-owner Jerry Kamhi to pick the brain of the brain behind the operation.

Julie Bensman: To what do you attribute the recent focus on menswear?

Jerry Kamhi: The interest is being fueled by a young guy with the internet at his disposal and a world of menswear content available to him. It’s part educational, but a big factor is the desire for individuality and creativity in an otherwise mass-marketed, over-hyped modern world. 

JB: Talk to me about the evolution of Haberdash. What has fueled decisions as you’ve continued to grow and expand?

JK: Haberdash initially opened in Chicago’s Old Town [neighborhood], a start-up location that limited our exposure and appeal. The original merchandising strategy was based on the fashion direction at the time, so it was focused on denim and elements of designer sportswear. Two major strategic changes drove our decision-making: One was to relocate to a higher-profile neighborhood, Chicago’s River North, where we could fulfill our vision and create a lifestyle brand; the second was to focus the merchandising strategy on authentic, classic, updated styling, and high-quality merchandise to service our clients’ total wardrobe needs. We continue to stay on this path by compartmentalizing the brand into two distinct lifestyle components: Haberdash Bespoke and EDC (Every Day Casual).

JB: You’ll be launching e-commerce on your site soon – why now?

JK: E-commerce was conceived as very synergistic to our blog, which currently attracts approximately 15,000 unique visitors a month for its lifestyle content. We suspect it will be a successful launch.

JB: What new designers/brands are you particularly excited about?

JK: We offer a tremendous lineup of brands we’re proud to feature. A few newer brands we’re developing businesses with include Reigning Champ, RRL, Hertling Trousers, Southwick, Trickers, Drakes, and Baldwin.

JB: If you could give men everywhere one piece of style advice, what would it be?

JK: Give a damn about the way you look…if you think no one is noticing, you’re dead wrong.

May the best man win.