The idea of vintage clothing has redefined menswear over the last 15 years: inspiring designers and a revivalist movement alike, recalibrating our understanding of the history and quality of clothing and even creating brands dedicated to reproductions.
The value of exceptional pieces – once discarded as ‘second hand’ or, worse ‘customised’ in some dreadful way – has rocketed since word got out. And no wonder, now supply of the good stuff is running low. By good stuff we mean benchmark examples of design and construction, often created for the specific needs of military personnel, labourers, sporty types or the well-to-do; not the piles of loud polyester tat or tired charity-wear that graces many ‘vintage’ stores.
Of course, vintage is relative to one’s age: to a cash-strapped student, a garment made in the early 1990s is ‘vintage’. But as an entirely random rule of thumb, Rake readers might choose to consider anything made in one’s lifetime to not be vintage. And beware anything calling itself ‘retro’, ‘fancy dress’, ‘heritage’, ‘vintage-style’ or ‘groovy’...
Here then, in this choice selection of just some of the UK’s best menswear vintage stores – made best by their buyer’s particular contacts, knowledge and eye – we’re mostly talking garments made pre-1960s. Luckily enough, this was the golden age for menswear: back when men’s clothing was proper, when – self-evidently – it was built to last.