To many people, vintage clothing is just a guise for used (and potentially very old) garments being sold for much more than they are worth. I know this sentiment because this is how I felt years ago, but allow me to attempt to convert you into a believer and demonstrate the merits of repurposed clothing. If you feel perturbed at the prospect of wearing clothes that someone else has once adorned, it may be of some comfort to know that Queen Elizabeth II is said to employ a Royal shoe-wearer to wear in all of her shoes to ensure that she is never in discomfort. Although this does not equate to her shoes being vintage, the reasoning behind this curious habit is the same – the allure of clothing that looks and feels broken in, having lived an entire life of their own. If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for us. Plus, it’s sustainable.
Versatility is the name of the game. “Where to start?”, I hear you ask. Begin with basic and iconic garments that have stood the test of time. This includes Schott leather jackets, Levi’s 501, and Harley Davidson T-shirts. These are items that were made to a higher quality during the past decades, and only get better with time and wear. Another prime example would be military surplus items such as jacket liners and work shirts, which in recent years have been reinterpreted by cult Japanese brands such as Visvim and Kapital. If given the opportunity, why not opt for the original for a fraction of the price.
As you progress on your vintage journey, you will hear terms like “Big E” and “new old stock (NOS)” being thrown around. Vintage enthusiasts too can be snobbish and will seek out pieces with the most storied history, for example, denim juggernaut, Lee, debuted its cowboy denim trucker jacket dubbed the “Rider” as a slim and flattering competitor to Levi’s more boxy counterparts. Versions of this jacket from the 1950’s are most sought after, having been worn by silver screen icons Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman and even Marilyn Monroe. The approximate time period may be identified by minute differences on the label of the jacket (an entirely separate article can be written on this topic alone). A key signifier of quality is denim or workwear that is made in the USA, which many identify with higher production standards from a bygone era.
The vintage market is a minefield, and for the uninitiated this may be daunting. Denim jackets made by Levi’s and Lee with two hand warmer pockets should generally be avoided. These were produced from the mid 1980’s onwards, and are less desirable. I would also advise against purchasing second hand footwear, unless it is NOS. The final piece of advice should be common sense but, avoid any garments with sweat stains!
The rule of thumb for beginners would be to mix in one vintage element into your ordinary outfit, especially if it is a statement piece such as Gurkha trousers. As you gain more experience, you may feel confident to incorporate more vintage elements per outfit. Fair warning: to wear a full vintage outfit is risky unless you wholeheartedly embody that aesthetic. Another tip would be to be consistent with your theme. For example, if you have chosen workwear then wear items which are from that world or compatible with workwear, for example, casual sportswear like a sweatshirt or vintage style sneakers. Lastly, feel comfortable and confident in what you are wearing, and remember that the only person you need to convince that you look good – is you.
Where to find reputable vintage clothing in Hong Kong:
2/F, No.39 Yin Chong Street, Mong Kok; +852 6288 0524
2/F, 14 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay; +852 6498 8208
Room R, 14/F, King Win Factory Building, 65-67 King Yip Street, Kwun Tong; +852 9345 6477
Shop 58, G/F, Victoria Centre, 15 Watson Road, North Point; +852 2802 6886