Why Millennial men are tapping into the vintage streetwear market

Why Millennial men are tapping into the vintage streetwear market

Oscar Ousback-King is patiently explaining the finer points of the price difference between a T-shirt from Elton John’s 1992-93 world tour (around $120) and the rarer Versace Elton John tee ($380). Draped on the wall behind Ousback-King is a vintage 1994 “tour tee” of the Elton John/Billy Joel Face to Face tour, priced at $150.

“A very rare band T-shirt from the 1990s can be valued in the thousands,” explains the genial 26-year-old, who is manager of The Stitch Up, a go-to vintage clothing store in Sydney’s inner west. But Ousback-King, who is sporting a Gucci watch from the late 1980s (which he snapped up for $40), Stone Island jeans and Mossimo runners, makes it clear he’s not a fan of old rockers; it’s all about the design.

Oscar Ousback-King (left) and Alex Vellins find their vintage wares are popular among Millennials.Credit:James Brickwood

“Nobody listens to their music,” he says, glancing back at the Elton John tee. “We’re all into rap.”

Alex Vellins, the tattooed owner of The Stitch Up, tells me Millennials are into vintage clothing because of “affordability and quality”. Vellins, whose late father, Ian, owned Ashwoods record and book store, a Sydney institution for more than 70 years until it closed in 2009, says he met the likes of Frank Zappa and Dave Gilmour when they visited his dad’s shop. “We’ve had celebrity visitors in our shop, too, but we don’t really care about that.”

While vintage clothing shops are nothing new, it’s men aged under 30 who represent a growing portion of their customer base. It’s a trend propelled by rappers like Pharrell Williams, Travis Scott, ASAP Rocky and Kanye West, who are regularly spotted shopping at vintage shops from Los Angeles to Tokyo to Paris and sporting the gear in videos.

There are three Vintage Soul stores in Melbourne.

Ed Podlubny, manager of the three Vintage Soul stores in Melbourne, has noticed the same uptick in young male customers. “Hip-hop and pop artists have definitely contributed to the explosion of vintage streetwear.”

Vellins calls this “lads’ wear” but acknowledges that it’s part of a wider trend stemming from the extortionate cost of new-label threads, which are beyond the reach of many young people working in the gig economy, as well as the growing awareness of the environmental cost of fast, disposable fashion.

“You get to wear and trade some cool stuff, and you’re reducing waste.”

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