Singlestitch brings clothes from the past to State Street

by Jake Rome

The difference between authentic and imitation vintage clothes depends on one thing: the stitching. 


A single stitch at the hem and shoulder was the standard up until the mid to late ‘90s, while a double stitch is the standard of today. It should be no surprise that Singlestitch in Madison is the top shop for authentic looks of the past.


Mitch Hammes, also known as Single-Stitch Mitch, the 22-year-old from a small town right outside of La Crosse, is on a mission to redefine how we shop and dress. Hammes opened his shop Singlestitch in Madison in 2021, and it already sticks out from the rest. 


The store quickly became a fresh and thriving enterprise, thanks to meticulous organization, successful promotion and unique inventory. Nothing like it has been on State Street before, because nobody like Hammes has operated here before. 


It is not money that motivates Hammes. Instead, what makes him feel alive is his love for people, making connections and hand-curating unique, vintage outfits for his customers. He wants people to discover new sides of their fashion in his shop instead of simply seeking mass produced trends.


Sales and hard work made Hammes successful, but his passion for fashion and community is what has made him Madison’s king of vintage.  


Vintage wear and secondhand shopping has exploded in the past decade. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “thrift junkie,” it is very likely that your style, or someone you know, has been influenced by vintage designs.

Mitch Hammes, owner of Singlestitch
Mitch Hammes, the owner of Singlestitch, poses in front of his State Street store. Photography by Perri Moran.

“Whether it’s skateboard culture, sports culture or any of that … it kind of all just stems from vintage,” says Joel Bergquist, manager and creative consultant at August, another State Street shop.


Wisconsin takes pride in its sports and its history, so there is no better way to celebrate both than to wear a vintage Badgers, Packers or Bucks clothing item. It seems like more vintage Wisconsin apparel is out on the streets than designs from the 21st century these days, but there’s a simple reason for how we got here.

The internet

Bergquist and Hammes, like many others, built and distributed their early inventories online, and Berguist says it “propelled everything.” 


Accounts on Instagram, Facebook Marketplace, Twitter and many other platforms made it possible to turn what used to be garage sales into full-fledged businesses. Vintage wear once only existed in the back of closets or at a Goodwill, but now these items can be salvaged and uploaded for anyone to find. 


Another factor in the appeal of secondhand pieces is their individuality. Many vintage items or lines of clothing are either discontinued or are limited-release pieces. To many, this drastically raises the value of a piece.


This is the background to Hammes’ success. He has been thrifting since he was a little kid, when his grandma would take him to garage sales on Fridays and Saturdays. Hammes is certainly the guy to rule over Madison’s vintage wear market, but the timing is what made it work. The market wouldn’t have been ready for his passion just five years ago. 


After high school, Hammes started selling clothes at garage sales. He says he had to “lug probably 800 to 1,000 pieces of clothing up and down a flight of stairs, plus all the clothing racks. And it got to the point where I was like, ‘It was either a storage unit or a store.’” 


Hammes chose the store. 


A small space in La Crosse, on a remote street with just a gym next to it, was home to his first storefront, Lax Vintage. 


Lax Vintage did not match the ornate, hyper-detailed layout of Singlestitch. “When we opened we had plastic hangers, Walmart clothing racks,” Hammes says. “Racks would fall down and break. It wasn’t a pretty sight at all, but it just worked.” 


This is funny, because Singlestitch’s design has incredible attention to detail. Every inch of the store, floor to ceiling, is covered in colorful, vintage trinkets, hats, shoes, T-shirts, jackets, pants, beanies, vinyls, magazines, VHS tapes, overalls, sweaters, toys, banners, coats, video games and more. 


To a vintage lover, it is an adult candy shop. 


Every rack that lines the walls and middle of the store is color coded and organized by garment. Above every rack is seemingly a collector’s item from the 1980s to the early 2000s, and just about anything you see in the store is for sale — if the price is right. 


The only permanent installation is the GameCube and 20-year-old television in the back, with more than 50 games to choose from. Of course, it’s functional. Hammes wouldn’t have it any other way. 


“I’ll never forget getting the GameCube at a garage sale when I was like 7 years old,” he says. “There’s days where you got a kid coming in here and plays GameCube for two hours, doesn’t even realize that he’s been in here for that long, but that’s what it’s for.” 


Hammes’ attention to every detail and to the curation of a timeless experience is what keeps people coming back. 


Though Singlestitch is an upgrade from Lax Vintage, people will go wherever Hammes is. Grace Paar, a senior at UW–Madison, is one of the few who have been to both storefronts. Even with the plastic hangers and Walmart racks, Paar says, “people that were in there were very trendy … and I was like, I need to dress nice to go in there.”


Hammes sets the tone wherever he is. Instead of creating competition between other stores in Madison, he made professional companions. Take Supra Sneakers, a “hypebeast” store selling high-end, street footwear just three doors down from Singlestitch as an example. 


Jason Foss, who runs the store, says he and Hammes are friendly with each other and share ideas for their customers.


“We bounce off each other a lot,” Foss says. “A lot of times people look for shoes, [and] whenever they don’t like some of our shirts, we send them over there.” 


The two even talked about setting up a side-by-side shop in a new location. 


Bergquist also shares this kind of camaraderie with Hammes. “We’re both really adamant on helping each other out with the certain things that we’re into,” he says. “He’d find a certain genre of T-shirt that I’m into and pick it up for me, not charge me anything … I’d do the same for him and then some.” 


Hammes not only shows compassion to his competitors, but his customers as well. His goal is to break away from the hierarchy of the producer over the consumer found in traditional retailer spaces.


“If you’re talking to somebody else who’s behind a counter, they will always be up on a podium,” Hammes says. But, “when you can sit down with somebody on the same couch and talk … it’s totally different.” 


This philosophy goes into Hammes’ plans for future expansion. Singlestitch is closing a deal on a second shop in La Crosse, and Hammes hopes to upsize his Madison location. While expansion is necessary for Hammes’ incredible amount of inventory, he really wants to do it to provide a comfortable space for the community. 


Hammes doesn’t like the power dynamic between the seller and the customer, instead he says “I want it to be personal.” So, he ideally wants to designate around 600 square feet to a TV lounge, coffee table and even says, “I mean, shit, I’d put a pool table in the store if I had enough room.” 


Comfort is one thing for patrons, but Hammes wants his customers to get the most out of their experience in his shop. Another feature that would come with an expansion would be a space for styling, which Hammes is very interested in. 


“Once I get to realize what people are collecting, what people are into, then I can kind of like go out and purchase items for them that I probably normally wouldn’t have picked up,” Hammes says. 


Hammes and Singlestitch are already thriving after just one year, and it seems the passion and care he feeds into his business will only make this success more sustainable. His work is for the community, just as much as it is inspired by it. 


“That’s why I do this, still, to this day. I do this to see other people,” Hammes says. “That’s probably my style … It’s just stuff that I see throughout the day, it’s just seeing how people dress and trying to put my own twist on it.” 

Featured photo by Perri Moran.