Questionable Vintage

Someone once said, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. This image of unwanted possessions, not deemed good enough for oneself but fine for another, still taints charity shop clothing today. Many people chose to avoid going into charity shops to look for clothing due to the stigma that appears to be attached to it. However, I ask, why is there not such a stigma attached to ‘vintage’ clothing?

Vintage is simply a word, attached to clothing that has also been worn before, donated or given by a distant unknown stranger, then put back on the shelves to be owned by another. Why is this chain of ownership not considered when looking at vintage clothing in the same way that it is when considering charity shop clothes? Perhaps the glamorisation of these second, third or even fourth hand clothes is entirely attributed to the word, ‘vintage’. Thrown about causally by fashion editors, promoted by celebrities such as Alexa Chung and Kate Moss, and a seeming way of life for many musicians; the word ‘vintage’ attaches an air of mystery and sophistication to that second hand jacket that is no different in history or quality whether it’s from Oxfam or Beyond Retro. Vintage, when attached to other possessions, such as a car or a bottle of wine, simply means that it is one of a kind, and most likely pretty old, as it is either unavailable, or highly rare today. To me, vintage is something that is a one off, designer perhaps, and a special find. However, the way the term is banded around today, anything that is old and no longer available first hand seems to be classed as vintage. Surely, when you consider this in light of clothing and accessories, it shows that actually any form of second hand clothing could be classed as vintage, as it is also old and unavailable today. Although, to many, a vintage item is something designer, and therefore so unique that there may only be one in the world. Yet this label is now even being applied to many mass produced items, such a band t-shirts or leather jackets, which are in fact, not vintage at all.


The fact that the items in Oxfam or Cancer Research have been worn before doesn’t make them any less clean or desirable than a dress from a vintage shop, or from someone on e-bay. In some cases, you’re actually better off buying from the charity shops, as they have rigorous cleaning processes and quality checks, as opposed to ‘online boutiques’ or individual sellers on e-bay, who may not have bothered to clean the item. Gross? Yup. Just another reason to give charity shops a try the next time you want something ‘vintage’.


Many charity shops have cottoned on to this stigma that is preventing their sales from rocketing the way that those of vintage stores have done. By renaming their clothing ranges with vintage labels, formatting their websites with a cunning resemblance to those of high street stores, and creating displays with accessories that reek of old school glamour (as opposed to musty cupboards), they are attracting the vintage crowd from far and wide.

So next time you’re about to spend your week’s beer money on that ‘vintage’ jacket on e-bay, take a peek in some of Oxford’s charity shops, and you may actually find that they are indeed, full of treasure, not trash.