By Henry Barsch ‘20

On the South Side of Chicago, pride runs deep in the culture. So deep, that two men from Garfield Ridge, Joe Wodark and Mike Vaickus, have created a clothing brand stemming from their love for everything South Side.

These two have sought to model their company, Grit Clothing Company, after the values the South Side seems to embody. They identified the word “grit” as a central theme and felt that it touched all aspects of the South Side life.

The Grit Clothing Company says it best themselves; posted on their website is a brand statement that the company follows. The website says, “The South Side of Chicago is a tough place, but not necessarily a bad place. Those who grew up here know that we do things the blue-collar way. We work long hours, overtime and side jobs to provide for our families. We hang out in city parks and corner bars. Our neighborhoods are sacred to us. People try to describe our way of life: some call it a mentality; some call it a lifestyle; we call it, GRIT.”

The company is especially focused on giving back to the city that has made them, and proceeds from every purchase go back into the neighborhoods. They even made a special edition Michelle Obama shirt with proceeds going to her foundation.

Out of the many neighborhood designs, city park designs, and White Sox designs, there is a very special collection named the Varsity Collection.

The Varsity Collection is the collection that Grit Clothing has complied to show off South Side school pride, and more specifically the Chicago Catholic League (CCL). Both Wodark and Vaickus are graduates from De La Salle Institute on 35th and Michigan, and know the CCL is very important to the South Side.

The Varsity Collection is comprised of hats, coffee mugs, and shirts that have the street signs of each school on the front. For example, the Brother Rice hat has a Chicago-style 99th Street and Pulaski Road set of street signs. An impressive detail is that the signs are modeled after the appearance of the signs in real life, down to the directionals. The St. Laurence hat looks different from the others because the street signs are modeled after Burbank signs, not Chicago signs.

The apparel of the Varsity Collection is very well made, detailed, and of high quality. The brand is becoming more and more popular recently. It was recently sold in the Brother Rice bookstore at the school.

“I like wearing hats. Hats are nice,” said Ryan Rice, senior at Brother Rice.

Another senior Dan Golon said, “I liked the grit part, along with the style of the street signs. It’s like we own 99th and Pulaski.”

The Varsity Collection can be found on Grit Clothing Company’s website at