Guest Blogger From Great Lakes Prep

One of my fraternity brothers is out in Los Angeles right now trying to break into acting. Recently he was cast as an extra for the show The Middle, which happens to be based in Indiana. He forwarded me the costume notes for the show, which read “This is Indiana. Look very average, Midwest, like you shop at Kohl’s.” Now I realize the Midwest is not a bastion for preppy style. Your average Midwesterner considers Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister to be preppy brands, believes cargo shorts are appropriate attire and likely doesn’t know a thing about Nantucket reds. However, you’d probably be surprised to realize that there are several preppy brands based in the Midwest, both up-and-comers and well-established staples. The following are just a few that are trying to incorporate a preppy sense of style into the Midwestern lifestyle.

Bird Dog Bay

Every prep needs to be wearing bow ties and Chicago-based Bird Dog Bay has you covered. The brand takes a novel approach, creating cleverly named silk printed bow ties in a variety of patterns. The bow ties feature buttons for adjustment instead of the typical sliding hardware, a move brought about by the founder’s friends’ inability to tie their own bow ties. The website itself is worth a visit just to read the humorous descriptions of the products and to check out the exploits of the owner’s retriever, Gus.

Salmon Cove

The motto at Salmon Cove is “Against the Current,” invoking images of salmon swimming back against the current to return home. The Chicago-based apparel maker specializes in tailored-fit button downs with a made-to-measure feel, sweaters and polos for the gents and the signature Cove Collar polo with its contrasting collar for the ladies.                         

Chicago Belt Co.

Chicago Belt Co. is new to the scene, starting up last year, but has already made a big impact on Midwestern prep fashion. The sturdy ribbon belts reflect living in Chicago and the Great Lakes area with their variety of motifs. Whether it’s one featuring an outline of the Great Lakes, the Chicago city flag or a classic Chicago dog, it’s a way of showing your Midwestern pride.

Allen Edmonds

Started back in 1922 in Wisconsin on the Midwestern cornerstones of hard work, honesty, humility and trust, Allen Edmonds produces American-made shoes worn by some of the most influential men in the world (Presidents Reagan, both Bushes and Clinton all wore the Park Avenue for their inaugurations). Each shoe is handcrafted following a 212-step process that turns out exceptionally well-made and great looking shoes. It’s this attention to detail that makes a pair of Allen Edmonds an essential in the male prep’s wardrobe.

Luxley and Bernard

Polos are an essential item in the prep wardrobe but students with little to no income coming in during the school year can have trouble supplying the shopping habit. Luxley and Bernard understands this and has created a line of quality polos specifically for the cash-strapped student market. Even if you aren’t cash-strapped, fiscal responsibility is always a good habit to practice.

Cole Haan

Cole Haan may be based in Maine now, but it’s roots are truly Midwestern. Founded in 1928 in Chicago as a men’s footwear label, it’s now moved into a wider range of men’s and women’s footwear and accessories. The driving shoes, nicknamed “frat cleats” by many, have particularly gained a following in the fraternity community. Cole Haan’s shoes have benefitted from its acquisition by Nike and the introduction of Nike’s Air technology which produces a pair of supremely comfortable shoes.

Oak Street Bootmakers

There’s just something about the Midwest and our ability to produce high quality shoes. Perhaps it has something to do with our ready supply of cattle that lends itself to soft, supple, durable leather like the kind used by Oak Street Bootmakers. Founder and designer George Viagos, the son of a cobbler, has been making shoes all his life and his ultimate goal is to preserve the heritage of fine shoemaking. Boots, penny loafers, oxfords and boat shoes are all handcrafted right here in the USA and have quickly gained favor across the menswear community.

I’d would like to sincerely thank the Prep Crew for the opportunity to write a guest post. For more information on the above brands, as well as others from all over the country, make sure to follow my blog, Great Lakes Prep. You can also find me on Twitter (@GreatLakesPrep) and Facebook.

Leave a comment


  1. Great post, I am sure just an oversight not to include Lands’ End to your list.
    Always, Bumby

  2. I ABSOLUTELY love your blog! As one of the minority of Chicago/the Midwest who knows what Nantucket Reds are (and where to get them) and considers a D-ring ribbon or needlepoint belt a staple, I commiserate with your findings. My aim is to bring TRUE PREP style to the Midwest and help we like-minded folks find common links in events, style and all things Second City. I’d love to chat sometime!



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