How to shop vintage online. (A Basic Guide) Good vintage stock is getting very hard to find. Unfortunately, unless you live in a major city with excellent curated shops, the internet is your best bet for quality vintage items. We are too far beyond the generations when quality pieces were donated to thrift stores. All the good stuff is pretty picked already if it even hits the shelves to begin with. Ever looked at Goodwill’s online auctions? They’re pretty savvy. So, what do you do? You troll the nets biggest auction sites for killer outfits. But before you go haywire on what ‘appears to be’ a mega deal on some rare-thang, let’s lay out some guidelines to keep you from getting burned. 1. READ THE DESCRIPTION. You will get a fairly solid picture of a garment simply by how the seller has described it. Pay attention to detail though - as a good description of a piece implies that whoever is selling it has ACTUALLY PAID ATTENTION to what they’ve got. As in, they didn’t miss those pit stains and they did see those big brown splotches on the back side and they told you they were there (with photos, duh). If a piece is coming from overseas, there may be a translation issue which is what brings us to…. 2. LOOK AT PHOTOS. Look again. And again. And again. (And preferably not while drunk, as that is the worst time to shop online). The adage - what you see is what you get - is exactly true. Do not lie to yourself about those stains on that dress. Do not assume that they will wash out. Assume that they have been cooked into that fabric for more years than you’ve been alive and will never release their grip from that lace collar. Sleeves look a bit short? THEY ARE. Got a few holes that look like they might be too big? THEY WILL BE. Do both yourself and other sellers a huge favor and behave responsibly. We are vintage dealers, not magicians. Expect no surprises. 3. IGNORE TAG SIZES. Don’t even think about these. People were miniature years ago compared to what we are now in height and width. If a seller doesn’t provide actual measurements - in inches - in a listing, skip them. They’re amateur salespeople and are unlikely to back anything up when it arrives to you in ‘other than what was described’ condition. 4. CHECK THE SHIPPING PRICE BEFORE YOU BUY. Why would a T shirt cost you $24.99 to ship in your own state? Was the sale price unusually cheap? Disreputable sellers will sometimes cheapen a price and pad the shipping - this is both insulting and stupid - in an effort to maximize their profit. Look at it before you commit - trust us, we have been there. 5. DO YOU LIKE RETURNS? This is tricky. We’ve touched on unethical sales practices and here’s the part where we talk about you - have you ever: a. Ordered something, worn it and tried to return it? b. Made an impulse purchase and attempted to immediately cancel your order? c. Ordered a bunch of stuff (like you’d take to a fitting room in the mall) and tried to ship it all back? d. Ordered something and it didn’t fit/wasn’t described accurately? If you’re guilty of a, b and/or c, shame on you (d is negotiable). The best vintage dealers have integrity and have spent a very, very long time amassing incredible knowledge about minute details like button codes, stitching colors and pocket patterns. They can date garments by their zippers and by feeling them in the dark. (Don’t believe us? Come down and we’ll show you) It is wholly wrong to treat these hard working people like fitting-room attendants at a discount store. Vintage stock doesn’t come from ‘the vintage store’ - we have to go out into the world and hunt it down like treasure. We know dealers who spend 9 months and more of their year traveling from town to town. Don’t be a nasty person by behaving like that doesn’t matter. Here’s a summary of what you’ve just learned - Be a smart shopper with honest expectations. Understand that you’re almost always buying one-of-a-kind items that somebody actually made an effort - both financially and otherwise - to find for you. We get how cool these items are - remember, we bought them first - so man up and act like you want what we got. To close, we’re giving you the best advice you can have -the vintage cardinal rule, if you will - because the worst thing you can do to any vintage dealer is to lob a lowball offer. Ask to negotiate first - we always will.Continue reading
Buying Vintage; the only real way to be Ethical, Sustainable and (Slow). Doesn’t it seem like every last aspect of life has some term or definition either coined or associated anymore? Fleak. Basic. Woke. Lit. Organic. Fomo. Cult. Ugly. Millennial. Yuge… …And ethical and sustainable and slow(fashion). What does all this mean? Are these terms just a days worth of teenage slang or do they lurk deeply in the marketing machine that lives to get their hands in our pockets? Most of them are light terms - your fleaks, wokes and lits - they’re only adjectives. Fomo has some leverage - as one may actually miss out on something, and ugly, as a description, is just downright nasty. (We won’t debate the relevance of Millennials) However, sustainability and ethics matter and are becoming ever more important for the safety and health of the planet. (We’ll get back to slow in a minute) Sustainability relates to the issues and harm the garment industry brings to the environment - obviously including waste, energy reductions, packaging, transportation, water usage, recycling etc. Ethical issues also include the obvious - labor practices and how garments are produced - think silks, wools, leathers - where they come from and how those animals are treated. Now, Slow Fashion devotees pride themselves on buying durable and long lasting garments that are produced with care and positive intent. Unfortunately, buying long lasting garments produced with care and positive intent are usually very expensive. However, there is a lesson to be learned from that - that it is far wiser for a consumer to invest himself financially in a garment that will last some time versus buying some cheap junk every few months. When buying vintage, you’re combining the practices of acquiring sustainable goods within ethical boundaries that were produced in a “slow” manner for a fraction of the price. Stocking your vintage closet keeps new-waste-fast-trash-clothing from ending up in your landfill. There’s a pretty good chance that what you’ll buy was produced in a decent system - made in USA, probably under a union contract that treated its workers and suppliers with fair wages and conditions. And older garments were just made with higher quality materials. Do your millennial bros a favor and buy lit vintage goods.Continue reading
The word “Vintage” and what you should pay for it.
What does Vintage really mean? Seems like everyone believes they have “vintage” gold in their closets, attics and garages. I will blame this phenomena on Television. Pickers, Storage bidders, Auctioneers - all of them have simultaneously exposed a very old profession to the unknowing public for entertainment. And thats great - those shows can be interesting for a few episodes. However, there’s the huge underlying issue of value - implied, imposed, suggested and fabricated value.
Just ‘cuz it’s old, don’t mean its valuable, and just ‘cuz it’s old don’t mean it’s vintage, either. You’ve gotta factor quality, scarcity, and condition.
What’s the difference between old, antique, vintage and thrift?
You’ve got old shoes - but are they “vintage?” A “classic” car must be at least 15 to 25 years old to be in the category. Etsy defines their all-encompassing vintage category as anything produced before 1998. Vintage clothing dealers generally adhere to the 25 - 75 year model where vintage starts at 25 years and stops at 75. Textiles under 25 years old are considered “thrift” - the kind of stuff you find at thrift stores. Garments older than 75 years are in the antique category - think lacy prairie dresses and seriously old denim.
Regardless of which category you’re buying or selling from you must be realistic with your expectations. As in the case with old shoes - you can easily thrift a pair of Chuck Taylors that were made in China the 2000s. You may see what you believe to be the same shoes in a solid vintage showroom for a lot more money - and rightfully so. A real deal pair of Converse, blue label, made in U.S.A. sneakers with cotton laces and striping will fetch good money. A trained eye is key. Be warry and be savvy as the deal spectrum has been closing over the last decade.
Good goods are never cheap, and cheap goods are never good - unless whoever is selling them doesn’t know what they have. Take a stroll through most curated vintage clothing stores today and you’ll see amazing pieces that have been hand selected from thousands of pounds of junk. Very, very rarely do amazing time capsules of mega vintage pieces come to the market anymore. There simply isn’t that much good stock left. Manufacturing left the USA and cheaper materials became the norm a pretty long time ago so the resale market is now saturated with all of that stuff - thrift junk.
Some sellers tag insane prices on pieces and sometimes they get them. One can never truly know how badly a buyer wants something. Buyers can be completists looking to close out a collection and are often sentimental and on the hunt for something they once owned.
Lastly, in terms of vintage also ask yourself about quantity. How many of these things were actually made? Always hunt for the best. Collect the best and wear the best. You can afford to be a choosy buyer and stay patient. There are tons of us out there digging through a world of vintage clothing and we know what to look for and we know what we’re doing. We’ll find that t-shirt you wore in 1984 for you, we promise.Continue reading
Lee or Levis?
A brief history of the two denim icons.
Levis (the brand, as we know it) was founded in May, 1853 by German immigrant Levi Strauss. Strauss “borrowed” denim work wear from France and capitalized on the booming US/California work trade by offering durable and affordable chore wear for the working classes. (Denim was originally - like ORIGINALLY originally, worn by Italian sailors and later adopted by the French who attempted to imitate the strong fabric and failed. The hybrid they invented was adopted by Strauss. The concept of “Blue Jeans” was invented by Jacob Davis while working with Levi’s in 1871.)
Lee was founded in 1889 in Salina, Kansas, by Henry David Lee as a mercantile company producing work jackets and dungaree style pants. Lee became known for their all-union workplaces and for the introduction of the modern “overall” as we know it today. (Davis also invented overalls at Levis in the 1870s)
A series of earthquake related fires destroyed Levis headquarters in 1906. (Levis experienced multiple fire related devastations - as San Francisco was known for its urban fire problems)
In the 1940s a major flood wiped out the entire Lee Kansas City Distribution center (except for Buddy Lee Dolls).
Both brands pushed denim in all forms - jeans, jackets, skirts, overalls, you name it through the blue jean era (60’s - 80’s). Lee was purchased by Vanity Fair and became a real Brand. (Levis had been a brand for almost 100 years by that point)
And then came the off brands. Imitators flooded the market with off brand denim forcing Lee and Levis to focus on new products (Dockers, the Ms. Lee Women’s fit collection, kids lines etc). Levis was forced to close 60 factories in the 1980s due to market competition.
Lee had to deal with a huge factory strike in 1981 when 240 workers staged a protest against moving a factory from Scotland to Ireland. What was planned as a single event turned into a 7 month protest.
During the 1990s, Levi’s experienced some trouble over “made in USA” tags and foreign working conditions. They began suing every blue jean maker they could find for infringement in the early 2000s - Levis filed stitching trademarks in 1978 and successfully battled over 100 companies for the rights to their patterns.
Lee introduced National Denim Day as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and has since raised over $75 million to fund cancer research. In 2013 Levis purchased the naming rights to the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
Both brands experienced a decline in sales during the early 2000s and have since revived the brands with new campaigns and collaborations. Levis reported revenues of 4.6 Billion in 2016 and Lee was relaunched in Paris in 2014.
So next time you think your jeans are just a pair of pants, think again. There is a long and storied history behind those garments you put one foot into every day.Continue reading
What is a Vintage T Shirt? (I mean, really.)
So you’re into vintage? We’re going to assume you probably fall into the a late GEN-X category since you’re still digging for those killer vintage scores.
You probably started out as a youngster watching classic shows, subconsciously identifying with eras that tapped into your soul. The 1970s just seemed so cool. Chicks had feathered hair and wore bellbottoms. Dudes wore boots and corduroy and rock t shirts. They drove cool cars. They did what they wanted. Life was simpler. And you understood that, (well, you kind of understood it). Lets skip past the 80’s - that’s a conversation for another time - and slam right into the 90’s when grunge rock had oozed into the mainstream. You wore flannel and converse and shredded Levi’s 501’s. You bought CDs. Or maybe you were too young for all that and the emo wave hit you during the late 90s. Did you wear girls jeans and vintage kids size XL t-shirts? If that was you, thats fine. We understand. Every generation has their youthful peak and it doesn’t much matter whether you stood in line to see Black Sabbath at the palladium or stood outside of some church hall to watch at a shoe gaze band.
You see, the point here is where the iconography falls in the spectrum of your formative, teenage years. And, for you reading this, you know that the number one item in every vintage wardrobe is (and was) your favorite vintage t-shirt.
The vintage t-shirt is an icon. It’s not just a thing. And it’s certainly not just a shirt. (John Cusack did not simply hold a “boombox” above his head in the rain…)
Vintage Tees mean something because they basically fall into two categories:
1. It was Given to you and/or Stolen from your EX.
i.e. You totally stole his favorite Soundgarden T Shirt to sleep in and kept it for years even after the stupid break up. Yes, you did. And we hope you still have it.)
2. You found it in some obscure/dumpy/thrift-hole and considered it the score of a lifetime. There are two categories within this section -
First - While looking for kitschy wall art at the local Value-Village you decided to peruse the mens clothing bins. Inside said bins was a original, 1978 Neil Young Tour tee with a whopping price tag of .99 Cents. You forgot about your art.
Second - after scouring all 7 Goodwill locations in your hometown in a day-long thrift marathon, you finally found your perfect irony-laced-somewhat-smart-assed-goofy-logo tee from bank/sports team/elks lodge that probably said something like “We Finance Love Affairs” or “I’m So Horney, The Crack of Dawn Looks Good.” You wore that shirt every day, to every show and through every mosh pit until you - (Choose honestly!)
A. Got a real job and were forced to grow up.
B. Got a girlfriend who didn’t get your taste in music/films/fashion.
C. Got a little fat for it to fit.
D. Wore it out.
You see, those of us who lust after what seemingly looks like dirty old clothing are just reliving the same sentimental uniform attachments that every generation has had. The leather jacket, the poodle skirt, the flapper dress and the varsity sweater all relished in their eras. For us, the T-Shirt was king.
So now, by todays measurement, anything produced before 1999 is vintage. Which is a scary piece of context as most of you were either in or just out of high school at that time. Here’s something to try at your next trip to Whole Foods - dig out one of those old tees and wear it. See how many nods and looks you’ll get. It’ll give you a nice feeling that there are more of you out there than you think, and those times were the greatest, fashion choices and all.Continue reading