London: How vintage shopping has changed
Who doesn’t love a good bargain? It’s amazing how much joy an unsuspecting stumble upon a pack of Fairy Bio in Sainsbury's can bring. When you replace the Fairy with second-hand threads, the fun factor multiplies.
The ‘go to’ destination for cheap yet still chic clothing, bar Primark is a vintage shop.
However, like with dating, our relationship with vintage has changed and, arguably, it’s for the worst. The definition of a vintage garment ceases to exist as a paisley shirt plucked from a good-will haul at your local Barnardo’s.
Nowadays, you’ll find dozens of twenty-somethings trooping the streets of London in washed out Ralph Lauren and reworked Hilfiger. Thomas Burberry is probably rocking - stylishly - in his grave while his famous name has been gifted a ’s’ and embroidered onto the checkered neckline of imitating trenches.
Vintage used to be worn because it was affordable, and while it still exists as some sort of class statement, it sits in reverse. The price of denim dungarees has risen, allowing those finically better off to lounge about in floral tees.
In Shoreditch or Camden, the average price of a flannel will set you back £30, meaning that only students with an admirable loan or income will be able to afford to create an entire second-hand outfit around a shirt. Regular shoppers are made up of those who are so rich they can afford to look poor; a jacket without an Adidas logo is unheard of among them.
If you venture out of the capital, prices substantially drop yet are still high enough to make you wonder whether you are high, or whether you should just be blowing your entire loan in Topshop and Topman, like every other student in a black ribbed roll neck this winter.
London is tricky to navigate as vintage has become a part of the high street. You can find Reclaimed Vintage at Urban Outfitters and Peekaboo at Topshop; re-worked versions of your dad’s old corduroy jacket are now being sold at double the previous value.
Bash through Blitz; raid rails at Rockit - it’s all the same. You are charmed by the intoxicating fumes of wrinkled leather. Before you know it, you’re waltzing over to the counter with an American soccer-style bomber, soundtracked by a 60’s band you have on vinyl, but can’t retrieve the name off the top of your head.
Amongst the many are the few: the devotees. They vacate the floors and know their Presley from their Costello - these are the people for whom vintage stores were made.
It’s difficult to decipher how relevant the term ‘retro’ is anymore. Vintage shops were once museums; flashbacks of the glorious, glamorous movements your ancestors lived through.
Yet, as you rummage through the streets of London, you can’t help but notice that even the streets and regular shop windows are grinning with the warm glow of nostalgia more than ever before.
The way we shop for vintage in London may change, but our infatuation with the past will never fade.
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