Even if you can afford to buy new season Margiela, that doesn’t mean you should. Buying vintage means one-off pieces that no one else will have, which can inject life into a tired wardrobe. “During the 1990s the vintage shopping culture really took off, especially amidst the 1970s revival and Britpop craze,” says Bridget Buffy, Store Manager at What The Butler Wore.
“Ultimately, vintage pieces work because they don’t make you look like anyone else.”
When To Buy
Most vintage store buyers supply their shops with merchandise once a week, so quiz your local on when the drop lands to get first pick. If in doubt, go early to mid-week when the stores are quieter and there is space to browse.
Most outlets will also hold back select items, which range from standard vintage denims to current designer pieces, for marketing reasons – follow your favourites on social media to get the jump on when the best stuff is on the shelves.
Feeling a bit #thisisengland.#adidas polo shirts have just landed here in our #hanburyst store. pic.twitter.com/wKCKzloJKS
— BLITZ LONDON (@BlitzLondon) March 26, 2016
What To Get
As previously mentioned, the whole point of vintage shopping is to get your hands on stuff you can’t anywhere else, such as handmade shoes or a one-of-a-kind coat. But it also makes financial sense to invest in hard-wearing or luxury pieces that would normally drain your bank account if bought new.
“Go for a quality leather biker jacket and team it with a pair of jeans and your favourite tee,” says Pierce Byrne, store manager at Absolute Vintage. “When you come into the store, always try items on to make sure they fit right – but don’t let that deter you. We don’t do tailoring in store but you can make a vintage piece fit you, which is unique and of much better quality than anything on the high street.”
Try What the Butler Wore for a variety of high-quality 1970s patterned shirts, and look to The Vintage Showroom in Covent Garden for authentic French workwear, US army combat jackets, and American hunting gear.
The Vintage Showroom
Some stores, like Retro Man in Notting Hill, specialise in the kind of designer brands you would usually spend hours trawling eBay for. “One of our key current trends is the androgynous look pioneered by Rick Owens,” says buyer Frankie. “We are advocating Kit Neale print wear this spring.” You will also find second-hand garments from more obscure labels such as A Diciannoveventitre, Guidi and Marsell footwear, as well pieces by designers like Damir Doma and Raf Simons, sitting alongside mainstream brands such as Acne Studios, Nike and Levi’s.
How To Get Smells Out
For all vintage’s benefits, one downside remains; clothes left unworn often develop a funky smell. But there are a few tricks that will bring your second-hand bargains back to life.
First, pick up some activated charcoal, or cat litter, from a pet shop. Then seal it in an airtight bag with the offending item. Both substances suck up smells, so after 24 hours your new find should be wearable without wrinkling noses.
Another well-known style hack involves raiding your liquor cabinet; fill an empty, thoroughly washed out spray bottle with a little vodka, spray onto the affected garment and leave in a well-ventilated area to dry. Much like hand sanitiser, the vodka kills odour-causing bacteria, leaving your vintage purchase smelling good as new.
Recommended Vintage Shops In London
The Vintage Showroom, Covent Garden (@TVSvintage)
14 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, London, WC2H 9LN
What The Butler Wore, Waterloo (@whatthebutlerwore)
108 Lower March, London, SE1 7AB
Rokit Vintage, Brick Lane (@rokitvintage)
101 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SE
Absolute Vintage, Brick Lane (@VintageAbsolute)
15 Hanbury Street, London, E1 6QR
Beyond Retro, Brick Lane (@beyondretrouk)
110-112 Cheshire Street, London, E2 6EJ
Blitz London, Brick Lane (@blitzlondon)
55-59 Hanbury Street, London, E1 5JP
Blue 17 Vintage Clothing, Islington (@London_Vintage)
162 Holloway Rd, London, N7 8DD
Fat Faced Cat, Islington (@FatFacedCat)
22-24 Camden Passage, London, N1 8ED
Mint Vintage, Stoke Newington, (@mint_vintage)
71-73 Stoke Newington High Street, London, N16 8EL
Retro Man, Notting Hill (@retroMN)
4 Pembridge Rd, London, W11 3HL
The Complete Guide To Vintage Shopping
Buying new is a mug’s game. But the ‘pre-loved’ rails are trickier to navigate. Here’s how to buy unique, for less
Image: The Vintage Showroom, Covent Garden