For a few lucky businesses, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise; Marc Nolan is one of those. During the dog days of COVID, the men’s shoewear company closed the small shop they’d opened in Wicker Park in 2018, and pivoted to an online-based model. The pandemic not only drove people out of stores—it made them work from home. Fashion was definitely influenced by that shift, with a more relaxed approach brought to workwear; dapper athleisure was here to stay. Marc Nolan’s founder, owner and main designer Sebastian Malczewski recognized this surprisingly untapped hybrid workforce market: their comfort prevails over formality, but style is still valued. A hybrid workforce needs hybrid shoes, and that’s what he decided to create. With extra flair and accessible prices to boot.
“Marc Nolan is changing the way that men incorporate shoes into their wardrobes. For years, men have been stuck with two types of shoes: sneakers or dress shoes. Each of these styles have separate purposes and are often not designed with any personality,” Malczewski says “At Marc Nolan, we believe these styles can be combined into a style that you can wear with whatever, whenever. We specialize in shoes and boots that combine the function of a dress shoe and the form of a sneaker, shoes that take you from work to the weekend. Moreover, our shoes are specifically designed with individuality in mind. With the use of bold colors, a variety of textures and combinations of materials, our shoes finally give men an outlet to express their style fully through their shoes.”
“I worked in fashion for quite a few years before I started Marc Nolan. During that time, I saw a gap in men’s footwear where bold and accessible-priced shoes were few and far between. My mission is to create interesting shoes for interesting people,” he says. “Shoes for gentlemen who are not afraid to show their style and don’t want to be boxed in a sea of boring shoes that men have been stuck with for decades.” It is fair to say that the soul of Malczewski’s designs is in the sole of his shoes. Strong colors, such as a signature Klein blue or other bright shades make an appearance with impact at the bottom of Marc Nolan’s footwear—oftentimes in thicker, comfier and stylishly more rugged shapes than their regular counterparts. Their loafers, for example, become irresistibly cool with the sole treatment they get. Special mention to their Godfrey Black Leather Belgian Loafer Sneakers, a delicious mix of polish and ease. Another special mention goes to their best-seller, the Aiden Black Combat Boot, a sleeker grownup version of the iconic Air Jordan 11, with gorgeous sole color options.
But Marc Nolan stands out not only where the rubber meets the road: with an original combination of textures, patterns and colors, their shoes tastefully make a statement, in a non-flamboyant, non-tacky way; they are made with quality leathers and suedes by a small family-owned operation overseas; they are designed, photographed, and distributed from their Elk Grove Village headquarters, where they run their operations; and last but not least, they are unexpectedly affordable, with low-top sneakers or loafers costing about $125 and boots around $160. “I wanted to be able to express my personality through my shoes in a way that wouldn’t break the bank,” says Malczewski.
With that in mind, Malczewski created Marc Nolan, a name that references the two most influential people in his life: his mentor and best friend, Marc, and his first and only son, Nolan. Malczewski is behind most design decisions involved in his company, including the concept behind Marc Nolan’s flagship store, opened last October. Their brick-and-mortar, located in the West Loop, perfectly reflects Marc Nolan’s cool creativity, drenched in Klein blue with red accents, and a live moss wall displaying their logo. It’s very minimal yet fun—a perfect backdrop for their stylish shoes to shine.
Marc Nolan’s online sales have been very successful, and the company has grown from barely three employees to ten, and from shipping a few dozen units a day to several hundred. Proof of their success is their inclusion in the Inc. 5000 Most Successful Companies in America 2022—they were ranked a not-too-shabby 222. They even have a respectable group of celebrity customers, including Ethan Hawke, Nick Kroll, Backstreet Boys, New Edition, Kumail Nanjiani and Winston Duke.
Though the bulk of their business is online, they want to spread their roots in Chicago and have a physical space where they can interact with their clientele. Having called the Windy City home since he immigrated from Poland at the age of twenty, Malczewski, now forty-four, has major Chicago pride: “It’s the city I fell in love with and where I decided to start the business,” he says. “Our roots have been and continue to be in Chicago, and while we mainly do our business online, we wanted to establish a greater presence in our home city and give our closest customers the full brand experience.”
Find Marc Nolan online at marcnolan.com
Journalist Isa Giallorenzo was born in São Paulo, Brazil and has elected Chicago as her beloved home since 2009. She runs the street-style blog Chicago Looks and wants to see this town become one of the fashion capitals of the world.