Staying on the cusp of urban-sneaker culture is a tough mission that involves a constant dialogue between the word on the street and the drafting table. But Kris Fry and brothers Randy and Mark Kleiner decided to give it a shot last year, opening The 400 as a real working retail laboratory. Besides doing research for clients in the skate, action-sports and running-shoe industries, the three operate a storefront where they display and sell shoes you won't find in the malls, from such seriously up-to-date collectable lines as Adidas Trendline, Nike Quickstrike, Gravis Blackbox and Onitsuka Tiger. The 400 also exhibits artwork by local graffiti artists and graphic designers on First Fridays; in the crowds, just be careful not to step on anyone's shoes.
What you put on your face has to be carefully considered, since that's where people look first, and the glasses you wear should speak for you. If you want your face to say "hip" and "cutting-edge," head to DisRespectacles, the only outpost of this big-city-style store outside of New York. For chunky, oversized shades, updated aviators and freaky, fat rectangular frames that make a statement, look no further than this Platte Street spectacle.
If you're gonna play poker, you're gonna have to dress poker. If you were a bulldog, a visor and cigar would be all that you'd need. But two-legged folk like a fuller house. That's what area tournament player/ real-estate investor/Vegas hustler Michael Turnbull banked on when he created PokerMade, an online shop hawking T-shirts, caps and women's panties emblazoned with poker slogans and symbols that range from the straightforward "Deal Me In" to the iconic, Last Supper-parody "Poker Night With the Boys." Read 'em and weep, boys, read 'em and weep.
Your Best Friend's Closet
If you can squeeze into something smaller than a size fourteen, Ranelle Gregory's inviting vintage, thrift and consignment clothing shop is a bargain paradise. Fittingly, Your Best Friend's Closet is best experienced with a friend, so take one along who enjoys stroking fabric, eyeing jewelry and mining for good labels. Help each other pick out outfits and then model the results: More often than not, you'll get lucky in Your Best Friend's Closet.
Safari Seconds Thrift Store
Safari Seconds isn't the biggest, the cleanest or even the most discerning thrift store in town, but it supports a very good cause: The shop is a fundraising venture of the non-profit African Community Center and employs immigrants in need of social acclimation and job experience. Tucked behind Manos, Safari Seconds can be tough to find, but there are a few specialties here that make the hunt worthwhile, particularly the Ethiopian coffee, the trinkets and store manager Jerry Baack, a Vietnam vet with a big heart and an eye for antiques and vintage glass. It's a jungle out there, but Safari makes it worth the trek.
Eras Vintage is everything a good vintage store should be: cozy, cluttered and brimming with surprises. Every time one layer is excavated, another trove of treasures is uncovered. Proprietor Bobbi Boynton opened her shop last May and filled it with hats and shoes and bags and clothes and pitchers and needlework and Tom Collins glasses and more; the list goes on and on. She keeps the clothes impeccably repaired, and her selections befit a woman who always has an eye on fashion -- a trait she attributes to her mother. The only way Eras could be better is if it were a secret stash you found in your grandmother's closet.
Located in super-hip Highland is the equally hip Swank. On the scene for just a year, Swank has the quintessential elements of a successful independent clothing store: itty-bitty clothes; oversized, crystal-encrusted jewelry; sequin-adorned everything; and no more than three of one item. Jeans that already look worn and whiskered to perfection -- at a mere $100 per pair -- line the exposed-brick walls, and dry-clean-only satin tops hang on metal racks. Owner Wendy Vandermaas brings in the freshest designs from California, New York and Europe to outfit Denver's most stylish and independent-minded residents.
Michael and Susan Mote believe that doing laundry doesn't have to be boring. So when the couple bought Clean Green nine months ago, they went with an atypical look for laundromat decor. They decorated the outside with lodgepoles, boulders, trees and a rustic welcome sign; on the inside they hung plants, vintage skis and pictures of mountain scenery for a cozy ski-lodge look. In addition to providing a cheery space in which to wash your clothes, the Motes host weekly Senior Days and Singles' Nights and operate a Kids' Corner decorated with old sleds. Give it a spin.
Denver's evolution from a vast prairie to a bona fide big city has been closely chronicled by photographers. Shutterbugs started snapping in the mid-1800s, and they haven't stopped since. And an exhaustive archive of their work -- more than 600,000 historical images -- has been compiled by the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado Historical Society and the Denver Public Library's Western History/Genealogy Department. The grainy black-and-white photos are a portal through time, reviving everything from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show to women in big, weird hats on Larimer Street at the turn of the century. The images are arranged in galleries searchable by keyword at www.photoswest.org or in person on the fifth floor of the Central Library. For about twenty bucks, DPL staff will print and ship a nice digital copy of any photo in the collection; all you have to do is slap on a frame, and you've got grown-up-looking art that's picture-perfect for your wall.
Can't afford a real Monet, Chuck Close or Czanne? BetterWall.com has you covered: Instead of a cheesy framed poster by an Old Master or modern maestro, BetterWall.com specializes in museum-exhibit banners. Remember the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art's controversial show Will Boys Be Boys advertised with the banner featuring Chloe Piene's topless Little David? The seven-foot-by-two foot original can now be yours for $549. BetterWall.com founders Nick and Nora Weiser run their company out of Denver, but they get old exhibit banners from more than a dozen high-profile museums all over the country, including the Denver Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, so customers can look well-traveled and art-conscious even if they only point and click. The couple splits the proceeds of sales with the museums, so buying here helps fund future exhibits -- and keeps remnants of the old ones out of landfills.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of