Consumer Culture

Here’s the thing about consumer culture that we all tend to forget: When it comes to cultivating the character of our city, there’s nothing of greater value than how we choose to spend our dollar. The places we buy and barter from become our politics. Every time we swipe our debit card, it’s like exercising the right to vote.

This is especially true for the evolution of Atlanta. As a rebounded housing market attracts developers to the city’s core, many bring the threat of suburbanization in tow. With the growing morass of cookie-cutter mixed-use construction come chains and brand names as bland and predictable as the architecture.

But the city still has a soul. And that’s what we choose to champion. Every year, we ask readers to vote on their favorite local shopping destinations and service establishments. Then we gather our own critical mass to determine the standout artisans and entrepreneurs whose enterprises contribute to an overall sense of community or creative expression. This year, the critics picks run the gamut — from the Cord Shoes + Boots founder who’s brought the craft of handmade shoemaking back to the Southeast to a record label exec who’s countering the celebration of black male stereotypes with his Never Sold Dope line of hoodies and tees. Among the noted trends, we couldn’t help but appreciate the enduring love for all things vintage in furniture and fashion along with the neo-nostalgia for ATL-branded gear, whether it’s an exclusive cap from Fresh.i.Am or a sophisticated tie clip by Block and Hammer.

Whether you’re looking for the best boutiques or the right spot to soothe those aching feet, we’ve got you covered. Just remember, your vote counts in these streets.

— Rodney Carmichael, senior writer

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