Quite Continental Charm School: Day 26 — How to Score Vintage

26/02/2012 § Leave a comment

 The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  My good friend Jahn Hall is a stylist, photographer and the co-founder of the amazing men’s vintage clothing and effects seller BKLYN Dry Goods.  While you must remember to check out their next pop-up shop, BKLYN Dry Goods also has a number of exciting collaborations to supplement your love of vintage in the meantime, namely a kit bag with Loren Cronk, a fragrance called “Spent Musket Oil” with D.S. & Durga, and two beautiful watches (the “Insignia” and the “K-1“) with Dedegumo.

All vintage aside, I am exceptionally happy to host Jahn and BKLYN Dry Goods on the blog today.  Jahn is one of the nicest, most giving and most genuine people I have ever encountered, and I count myself especially fortunate to have met him.  Icing on the cake: he’s also hilariously funny and shares my love of classic films and 90s music.  If you are not yet familiar with Jahn, or BKLYN Dry Goods, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Jahn’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 26: How to Score Vintage
The notion of wearing Americana, wearing heritage & wearing Made in USA isn’t new despite Tumblr’s attempt at sexing it all up over the last couple years.  In fact, my love affair with the aforementioned really came to life around 2005 with my Alden bluchers, my Filson bag & my 45RPM jeans.  Since then, that tight corral of brands living up to they hype of Americana has spiraled out of control spawning literally thousands of brands using Americanaheritage & Made in USA as buzz words to hock their company wares.  At a time where Wal-mart alone imports more cheap crap from China than all of Russia & Taiwan combined, this is certainly good news.  Sadly, this also means thousands more brands have launched selling you their Americanaheritage & Made in USA without the consideration of offering consumers any real Americanaheritage or Made in USA.  Take for example, L.L. Bean’s launch of Signature, a range of L.L. Bean products meant to instill the nostalgia of L.L. Bean’s storied past.  Instead it’s a range of clothing made to look vintage without the commitment to domestic production.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love L.L. Bean.  In fact, the brand’s ubiquitous Bean Boot is still made in the same factory they were years ago & their famed Norweigan sweater is still made in Norway.  Despite the few bits in L.L. Bean’s range still made domestically, the range ultimately fails to genuinely live up to it’s claim of thoughtfully recreating some of the brand’s most iconic pieces & suddenly we’ve tired of hearing Americana, heritage Made in USA because they no longer carry the same weight they once did; nothing more than marketing fodder.

Admittedly, this isn’t supposed to be all about the crooked posture & slick wording of modern marketing.  Instead, one’s left to wonder what’s happened to all that good stuff from back in the day in the first place?

It’s definitely out there & the notion of wearing vintage apparel isn’t new.  I remember rummaging through my grandfather’s closet in the 80s when I was in 7th grade looking specifically for flannel & workwear.  I thought there was something inherently cool about wearing clothing that had already lived a life, something you could have imagined Steve McQueen or Marlon Brando wearing.  Unfortunately, the kids at school didn’t always agree & I’d have to temper my newfound love of vintage with Guess jeans, Nike Dunks & these crazy Adidas sweatshirt hybrids that celebrated each of the Olympic games.

Fast forward 25+ years & I’m still wearing vintage.  I’ve made it my livelihood, launching a vintage menswear pop-up brand called BKLYN Dry Goods with a friend & fellow vintage enthusiast.  In fact, a good portion of my career in fashion came from brands that made product like they were in the good ‘ol days or for vintage vendors whose collections were worthy of a show at the Met.   In that time, the world of vintage has evolved drastically.  Once relegated to garage sales, thrift stores & flea markets, vintage has turned to collectors, eBay & high-street shops pandering vintage wares to a much broader audience than when I was donning my first vintage digs making the prospect of finding vintage a much more sophisticated & involved (read intimidating) affair than before.  There’s still a ton of amazing vintage stuff out there from the Americana, heritage & Made in USA to decades worth of designer duds.  It’s just a matter of getting yourself acquainted with some of the ins & outs before you head out on your first vintage haul.

01:  Take a good look at condition.  Sure, that cashmere sweater may seem like a bargain at $40 but if you’re dealing with stains or moth holes, you may find yourself spending just as much in repairing it.  Other things to look out for?  Linings, buttons, zips & any previous repair work.  If it’s a pair of shoes, check the sole.  If you’re anything like me, it’ll be months before you actually address the needed repairs.

02:  If you are looking to get your heritage on, check the labels to see where it was made.  Most noted American brands like L.L. Bean, Ralph Lauren, Land’s End & Eddie Bauer stopped producing a good portion of their goods domestically in the 70s & 80s.  This may not matter much to some.  Either way, it’s a good way to estimate the age of an item.

03:  Be wary of designer labels from the 70s & 80s from brands like YSL, Dior, Halston & Bill Blass.  The aforementioned, alongside a host of other designers sold their souls (and their names) to mass retailers back in the day to turn a quick buck making these items a modern-day equivalent to a Target or H&M designer collaboration.  Sure, they may be cool, but they’re not really designer & are often made like a Target or H&M collaboration.

04:  Before you drop the dough on any must-have, double check that the item isn’t available for less online.  While a long shot at times, items sold on craigslist sell for considerably less than other on sites so it’s often worth the look.  Case in point?  A vintage Case knife I was on the hunt for made it’s way to craigslist & was more than 75% less than I’d seen it priced a week before at a flea market.  Etsy & eBay also boast an impressive stock of vintage.  While Etsy’s selling prices are often lower than eBay, the auction site will contact you for up to six months if the item you’re searching for shows up on the site.

05:  On a similar note, unless you’re a serious collector (or just willing to empty your wallet) avoid destination flea markets like Brimfield in Massachusetts or vintage shows like the Met Show held in New York.  Odds are, the average selling price is much higher & in some cases, you’ll spend up to $20 just to get in the door.  With that, don’t nix the idea of shopping at spots like this altogether as in many cases, vendors bring their very best out making the hunt a little less arduous.  Well, except to your wallet.

06:  Know the lay of the land.  Vintage stores litter just about every major city & the costs associated with running the business are always part of the selling price.  Avoid high street neighborhoods & stick to areas where you know rents are cheaper — odds are, you’ll find the cheaper the rent is in the area, the better the deal you’ll get.

07:  Don’t be afraid to negotiate price.  Many vintage sellers price their items expecting you to negotiate a lower price & ultimately, what’s the worst that could come from it?  Getting a “no” now & then is completely worth the cash you’ll save when you get a “yes”.

08:  Nothing drives me crazier than a vendor who chooses not to price their product leaving me to believe their sussing you — and the size of your wallet — out.  Sure, we always want to look our best, but leave the flashy watch & bag at home & odds are you’ll get a better price when you’re dressed for a quiet night in vs. a night out on the town.

09.  Make nice with your tailor.  Most vintage clothing was originally tailored for someone else…meaning not your size…however if the fit is close, it’s worth every penny to have your tailor nip & tuck your latest find.

10.  Make nice with the guys at BKLYN Dry Goods.  I hear they’ve got some ins on some pretty great vintage stuff.  In all honesty, we work with clients to address specific requests.  Most great vintage vendors do so if it’s not us you make nice with, make nice with someone who’ll be on the constant look-out for you.

by Jahn Hall, of BKLYN Dry Goods

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 The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
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