Words by Seb Morgan
Ximending (Ximen), Taipei’s premier entertainment district, is an overload of neon store fronts, chaotic arcades, and (ugh) that shitty toilet restaurant. But blink as you jostle your way through the garish commercialism and you’ll miss one of the trendiest spots in the city. American Street, actually the T-junction between Lane 96 Kunming Street and Lane 120 Wuchang Street, totes edgy record stores, trendy barbers, and some of the best thrifting in the city. Ready to pop some tags? Here’s eight awesome ways to do American Street like a pro. (Read more: Taiwan’s Shittiest Restaurant)
Pick Up Sick Threads and Treads at 9CE
New boarders on the block 9CE only opened on American Street three months ago, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming firm favorites of Taipei’s skater community. Flick through the racks for some awesome streetwear by the likes of Yardbird, Frog, and Fucking Awesome. If you’re looking for some new wheels, make sure you check out their great selection of tracks and retro-inspired decks. Check Instagram ahead of your visit for some real special finds, like this vintage Taiwan board by Pass-Port, we found last week. (You might also like: Breaking into the Mainstream: Meet the Spanish B-boy Helping to Grow Hip-hop Dance Culture in Taipei)
Dig Out Some Fantastic Finds at Rana Fashion
Ximending has more than its fair share of low-quality k-pop brands. Saris though? Only here. Give yourself a couple of hours and you might just scratch the surface of the hundreds of tunics, padded jackets, and traditional dresses available at Rana. Everything on sale here has been painstakingly hand printed using wooden blocks by the local businesses that Rana supports in India. What’s more, it’s all natural cotton, making these the perfect things to slip into when the stifling Taipei summer comes around.
Stifle that Sugar-Craving at Childhood Ice
Got a bit of a sweet tooth? You’ll love this fully-saturated shaved ice joint. Decked out to look like a ‘50s diner, Childhood Ice serves bowlfuls of the summertime staple in a full rainbow of pastel-popping colors. You’ll find all the usual favorites here, but if you want our advice, order the tri–colored watermelon shaved ice, which comes with an icy pile of zesty lemon shavings. You can also choose between fruity yoghurt shakes, or in winter, soul-warming tangyuan. (Read more: 4 Classic Ice Cream Shops in Taipei)
Not a desert person? No problem. Childhood Ice serves up a mean bowl of Taiwan’s famous beef noodles. Get their version of the Taipei favorite (with or without tomato) to really make your taste buds pop.
Pop Tags at Flea Market
Look for the Mad Magazine Kid (remember him?) and you’ve undoubtedly found the best vintage store shopping in Taipei, if not the whole island. Don’t be fooled by the piles of knitwear, leopard print, and leather that have accumulated on top of practically every surface in this place. You won’t have to do much “digging” here. Flea Market’s main man travels to the States every couple of months to do his searching and it shows. Try on corderoy campus bombers, real Army camo, and denim that’s been kicking around since the 1890s.
Spin Tracks at Species Records
Regulars of Taipei’s underground techno scene will love this second-story record store. The collection might look a little small, but what Species lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. Flip your way through minimalist, Chicago house vinyl records, or even pick up some “warm earth music for plants” (whatever that is). Best of all, Species Records doubles as Ximending’s resident DJ academy. Book a set of seven classes in English or Chinese and learn how to attack each set like an old skool pro. If you can’t make it there during store hours, don’t worry: they’ll open for you. (You might also like: 5 Places to Feel the Music in Taipei)
Tame that Mane 1931 Hair Salon
Fading right in with the retro decor you’ll find throughout American Street, this trendy barber shop offers great cuts at very reasonable prices. Treat yourself to an essential oil head massage or do what this writer is still umming and ahhing about and take advantage of the competitive coloring rates. That’s not the only thing going for cheap. At only NT$400 for a cut, this might be the most wallet-friendly chop you’ll find in the area. (Read more: A British Barber in Taiwan)
Get Lost in a Lolita Fantasy at Retro Storied
The Pinky Honey Lemonade and Lychee Coffee on the menu here might sound sweet, but it’s barely a spoonful of sugar compared with the knick knacks that clutter this kitschy Victorian wonderland. Set across five floors, Retro Storied has something different to say on each level. The first floor is giving us turn-of-the-century saloon, while the second, “An effigy of flora” sits under a canopy hanging dried flowers. Make sure you call in advance before diving through the looking glass, though. Individual floors at Retro Storied are periodically rented out as photo studios by newlyweds and living dolls alike. (Read also: Not Another Hipster Café : Taipei’s Old-School Coffee Shops)
Take Home Something Completely Unique from reCHIC
Edgy, deconstructed fashion is what’s on offer at this industrial boutique, opened and run by self-taught fashion designer, Rickie. reCHIC has its own take on fast fashion. Everything you see in store is made by Rickie himself, who puts out new unisex collections every week. Even then, there’s only three of each item in stock—so once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Come On! Don’t Skip on the Best in Ximending, Taipei
For better or for worse, we’ll never escape the chaos of Taipei’s loudest shopping district, but American Street is your best chance for filtering out the noise. If you’re serious about cutting out the crowds and landing yourself some really unique finds, this grungy gem should be the first place on your itinerary. Customize your trip to Ximen now. (Read more: A Day in Historic Ximen)
（cover photo by Henry & Co.)