For those of us who emerged from the sheltered conformity of suburban high schools, the unique atmosphere and trendy merchandise of Urban Outfitters is a treasure chest beneath the State Theater. Colorful display tables and illuminated lanterns contradict the warehouse-like environment of this Ann Arbor favorite known for its distinctive offerings. Upbeat music rings in the background, making the brightly lit shop welcoming, especially for some browsing between classes. Commended for both men’s and women’s clothing, Urban also outfits the home with wall hangings, pillows and rugs, offering plenty for the Ann Arbor urbanite.

Candice Williams, a student at Washtenaw Community College who works as a cashier, says the clientele is pretty consistent. “We see the same people,” she commented, “but we get a lot of people from out of town.”

Long drives result from the fact that Ann Arbor is home to one of only two Urban Outfitters in the state. Born in Philadelphia, the chain now spans 22 states, with several stores in California and New York, two Canadian cities and three European locals.

Recently reconfigured, the new layout of the State Street favorite displays women’s clothing to the left and men’s in the back with household items found interspersed throughout. The new setup removes the messy piles of clearance items from the back corner, putting discounted material more central, near the check out.

Women’s merchandise outnumbers men’s, showcasing everything from bathing suits to vintage looking skirts and a surplus of accessories. Less unique is the simplistic men’s section, overrun with hooded sweaters (but, can guys really ever have too many?), button down shirts and a wall of jeans. A rainbow of tennis shoes is available in various styles, and Urban promises to even outfit the underwear.

While the standard Puma, Adidas, Levis and Calvin Klein fill racks, it is the unique Urban style offered by lesser-known brands that draws students. “The clothes look like they were found in someone’s attic,” LSA junior Amy Keller comments with a laugh, “it’s like an overpriced thrift store.”

With jeans reaching $100 and tops nearing $40 or more, the wanting eye often loses to the checkbook here. After all, unique doesn’t come cheap. However, frequent sales make prices fairly reasonable for Ann Arbor, and there’s always something to pick up, even if it’s just a hat.

Though female shoppers are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about Urban, males find it less deserving, and almost too trendy. Nevertheless, Urban Outfitters is awarded best men’s and women’s clothing for being something different, an effort to save us from the conformity found at the other end of State Street in the world of Abercrombie and J. Crew.

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