Paul Galvin: Old school
Paul Galvin on the virtues of vintage
Published 02/04/2011 | 05:00
Old clothes are like old women -- they can look and feel old, but they can never, ever be called old. A woman is never old, merely of a certain vintage. Like wine, and classic pieces of clothing.
The year 1998 was a vintage year. For me, anyway, as I bought my first vintage pieces of clothing in London -- though I'm never entirely sure what qualifies as vintage and what's simply secondhand. Are they not just the same thing? I'll have to ask one of those fashion experts.
In Camden Market, I bought a navy duffel coat with a shearling lining and a navy corduroy blazer, all for £35. There's something about the word 'vintage', isn't there? It's such a cool word, I find myself wanting to use it a lot. Which is fair enough when I happen to be wearing something vintage and someone is so kind as to ask where I got it.
Like the YSL dicky bow, for example, that I got in a vintage shop, sorry store, called Rokit on Brick Lane, London. Why is it that clothes shops in general can be called shops but vintage shops have to be called stores? I'll consult a fashion expert on that, too.
Anyway, when asked about my bow-tie, I come over all coy and bashful, assuming a modesty that couldn't be more false if I bought it secondhand, and wait for my right of reply.
Vintage dressing is really more apparent in womenswear. Sienna Miller, Fearne Cotton and Pixie Lott have all got the vintage/boho look nailed down. Kate Moss named a perfume Vintage, and Katy Perry loves the 1950s.
Yet, when I think of the ultimate vintage look for women, I can't help but think of Helena Christensen in a maxi dress. Cinched at the waist with some rope. With beads around her neck. And a floral headband. And bangles stacked on one wrist. And Grecian sandals. Or maybe barefoot.
One thing I have learned is that nothing is cooler in fashion than owning 'many vintage pieces' bought from one of your favourite 'vintage stores'. I own a few, I admit.
Every city has its own vintage signature style. Following my London experience, I continued to search out vintage stores in Ireland. I picked up a few pieces in Cork as a student. There was a great little store on Fr Mathew Street where I began buying tracksuit tops, flares -- yes, for many years in my college days I wore flares -- a few cool T-shirts and a few not very cool shirts. That store has since closed down.
It was also during my college days that I discovered charity shops. Now, as student life goes I was pretty comfortable. I got drawn to charity shops, though, as you can always find something totally unique, with character and history.
Barnardos on North Main Street was on my way home, so I popped in a lot; picked up some great blazers and leather jackets for nothing. The only trouble was, sometimes these jackets picked up more than just character and history on their travels. After buying a nice brown suede blazer in an Enable Ireland store for all of 12 quid while in college, I went home and hung it in my wardrobe, waiting to break it out at the right time.
After a few days, something stunk my room out. I discovered that the offensive odour was in fact BO from my new jacket. It was appalling. I had to surmise that whichever hobo owned it previously lived in an ancient time. BD, perhaps -- Before Deodorant. Possibly even before running water. That's the thing with secondhand clothing -- there's no second chance, just first-hand assault on the olfactory system if you get it wrong.
This week's looks were fun. Mostly my own stuff. The navy velvet blazer is from Eager Beaver in Temple Bar and the yellow jumper is from Harlequin, which must be the best vintage store in Dublin. Velvet is the perfect vintage fabric for men.
The shirt is years old. I found it at home and cut the collar off. The jumper is made from bouclé and is possibly a woman's, though I got it in the men's section. Anyway, who cares? I like it, especially the colour.
The second look is my own stuff, too. The top is Junk De Luxe, which has sadly departed BT2, and, though not vintage, it has a very 1970s feel. I spotted Paolo Nutini wearing it at a summer festival last year. I had it first, mind you!
The trainers, also from Harlequin, are Carus. I love the colours navy and silver together. They do great old-school trainers -- not in huge volumes, but what they stock is brilliant.
When it comes to vintage, I had to give a nod to 'That '70s Show'. I love some of the gear on that programme. The 1970s were such a watershed for fashion and the fact that 1970s fashion has never really gone out of style is testament to that.
The maroon Farah pants are from TK Maxx, as is the red cotton top. Colour blocking is also a product of 1970s fashion. Red Forman would have been proud of this ensemble. He is, in fact, a style icon of mine. No angry, middle-aged man can pull off flares and tight-fitting polo shirts like him.
Wild Child is another good vintage store near George's Street Arcade in Dublin. Lucy's Lounge on Fownes Street is another.
Vintage dressing really isn't the same without accessories. They're a big part of the look. It can be anything from across-the-body satchels to flowers to sweatbands to badges to beads to bracelets to silk scarves and toe rings.
Layering is a great way to work the vintage look. Vests are perfect in the summer for guys or girls. Worn on their own or under a cardigan with accessories (for the girls of course) they're very versatile and hark back to the days of beach parties, free love and flower power.
I'm getting really into vests myself lately. They're useful for keeping warm and layering. For a vintage look for men, I can't help but think of one of my favourite movies, 'Donnie Brasco'. Check out the style in that movie.
Part of the deal was looking the part. If Lefty Ruggiero wasn't lounging around in a red flared tracksuit with huge collars, worn open over a vest, he was slicked up in fine leather jackets or overcoats, or blazers and polo necks and smart flared trousers.
There's a great scene where he walks down the street with his protégé Joe, played by Johnny Depp. Having just told him to get rid of his tache, he looks down at Joe's jeans and says: "And get a pair o' pants will ya, this ain't a f***in rodeo. Dress like I dress." Lefty is wearing a cream suede overcoat with a fur collar plus a bowler hat and a pair of shades.
Vintage clothing is serious business. While people will always want something new, they also want a link with the past. So for designers to stay relevant and create something new and exciting, they look to the past. This season, Marc Jacobs, Prada and Alexander Wang have all looked to the past to see the future.
DVF's new creative director, Yvan Mispelaere, trawled through his print archives and created a mini line called Diane, based on vintage, which includes his famous wrap dresses.
Louis Vuitton has gone back to the 1920s for inspiration from the Orient, while Marc Jacobs, with his spring/summer collection full of halternecks, jumpsuits and platforms, is in full-on 1970s mode.
Old movies, art, literature and music still influence fashion today. H&M's design team were influenced this season the gypsy style of the 1970s. I love the gypsy style in the movie 'Snatch' -- tracksuit legs with leather boots and leather jackets. Lots of layering. Open shirts over vests. Leather bowler hats. Class.
'Trainspotting' was responsible for the 'heroin chic' look of the mid-1990s. This scares me a little. Not the idea of violent junkies influencing the fashion world, but the fact that the mid-1990s were my mid-teens. The 1990s are now regarded as a bygone era. A reference point for the distant past. My distant past.
I feel old. Sorry, I mean vintage.