From North to South, East to West, London’s vintage scene has no boundaries. Whether it’s the great British charity shops or the hidden, underground vintage gems, Londoners can take their pick from many bountiful vintage hunting grounds.
The cosmopolitan city known for its creativity and bustling commerce scene boasts an impressive apparel landscape, with fashion alumni like Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, not to mention world-class institutions like Central Saint-Martins and London College of Fashion, so it’s no wonder that when it comes to finding a mix of both old and new vintage, the teeming fashion hub will spoil you rotten.
We use clothing to construct our identities and show who we really are. In a city as expensive as London, young city dwellers turn to the safe havens of vintage stores to build up their wardrobes and showcase their offbeat flair and creativity. The act of physically rummaging through the racks and shelves is an exhilarating experience, with the feeling of discovering an affordable diamond in the rust fulfilling, to say the least.
In the mid-80s, London’s independent retail fashion scene plunged and never fully recovered, which gave rise to more and more vintage stores, particularly in South and East London. With garments spanning from the '30s to the '00s, stylish, gritty suburban Londoners are no strangers to mixing and matching items from all time periods and movements. Top that with British tv shows like I May Destroy You, Peaky Blinders, and Crashing which all offer endless vintage-inspired looks from a variety of different decades. With the surge of musical and cultural movements like Britpop and Grunge in the early '90s, rugged vintage clothing became more and more sought after, and this is where vested brands like Woolrich came into play.
After almost 200 years in the game, it’s fair to say that the American brand has released some seriously sick pieces. All about authenticity, good design, and finding beauty in simplicity, Woolrich has secured its position as a clothing brand that can stand the test of time - elevating it to vintage status in the past, present, and future. Woolrich pieces can be found almost everywhere with its unbridled quality shining through. As a brand that honors itself on its detailed and technical construction, you can guarantee that any Woolrich piece you own will serve you well for years to come.
We took a trip with born and bred Londoner Miquita Oliver, and culture connoisseur Sam Trotman to uncover a few of the best spots to get your hands on some of the hottest Woolrich pieces in the city. Trotman is an expert in his field, with his Instagram account Samutaro garnering over 128,000 dedicated followers. Oliver has hosted a multitude of TV and radio shows throughout her career, known across Britain for her knowledge of contemporary culture. Catch them both in the video below exploring London’s vintage hotspots and finding some all-time classic Woolrich garments.
14 Ingestre Pl, London W1F 0JQ
Duke’s Cupboard, located in the heart of Westminster, deals mainly with handpicked vintage designer and sportswear pieces sourced from around the globe. Run by Milo Harley and his business partner Ned Membery, Duke’s Cupboard started as a market stall on Berwick Street in Soho in 2012. "We traded on Portobello Market too until we opened our first store in 2017," says Harley. "At Duke’s we specialize in a mixture of rare and one-off vintage pieces, coming from a variety of brands and also just interesting non-branded pieces. When it comes to sourcing stock, we try to go on about five or six buying trips a year to America and other parts of Europe to unearth the good bits."
A definite pro when it comes to vintage stores and clothing is the moral and environmental aspect of it. "People are more aware of how they shop more than ever today as well as the impact purchasing clothes has on our planet. We believe vintage shopping allows people to shop sustainably & responsibly," explains Harley.
When it comes to one of his all-time favorite purchases, Harley explains how "a few years back on a buying trip in Italy I found a beautiful Woolrich Parka that I kept for myself, and got a few good winters out of! That’s probably my favorite piece of Woolrich I’ve ever owned."
226 Brick Ln, London E1 6SA
Situated on East London’s Brick Lane, you’ll find Hunky Dory. Run by Ian Bodenham and Ian Johns (occasionally referred to as the Ians), Hunky Dory has been sourcing and selling vintage apparel since the mid-’80s. "We opened our first shop in Greenwich in 1990 called The Observatory," they explain, "but we’ve sold bits all over London, first at Greenwich and then Covent Garden and Portobello Market."
Bodenham and Johns were mainly selling items from the '40s, '50s, and '60s as they were plentiful and inexpensive back in the day. "We started going to the US to source denim, workwear plaids, and flannels by brands such as Woolrich, which were huge off the back of Grunge. '70s styles became increasingly popular in the early '90s, with scenes like Rare Groove and Acid Jazz, and many of the bands such as Brand New Heavies and Young Disciples were our customers."
The store, whose name is a nod to one of the Ians’ biggest inspirations, David Bowie, still stocks many of the same types of items today as it did then. "Some things just never go out of style, like a peacoat or a mackinaw. There are always fads and particularly hot items, but the core remains unchanged and classic," they explain. "Over the decades, we’ve built up solid and long-lasting relationships with various suppliers all over the world, as different countries have styles specific to them, like French workwear, the casual and utility wear from the US, or the dressier styles of Italy, France and UK, so we cover a lot of bases in a small shop!"
"Vintage is perhaps even more relevant now than it was 40 plus years ago when we started, with the recycling element being of great concern, so more people have an increased appreciation of investing in clothes that can be worn for years to come. Therefore we return to timeless, iconic styles with a utilitarian heritage in their design, such as Woolrich - always relevant, endlessly versatile, and adopted by successive generations like rockers, beatniks, grungers, and hip-hop."
When asked about his favorite Woolrich piece, Bodenham explains how it was a purchase in 1991 that he can’t forget. " I acquired a mackinaw with a fleece Sherpa collar from a NY Army and Navy Store on our first trip there in '91. It spoke to me and I couldn’t walk away! I guess that would be my motto for vintage shopping, ideally a personal connection to a piece, fit is important, but that can vary from style to style, oversize is (literally) huge now, and if you can, consider spending a little more - it’s something with longevity. Lastly, of course always double-check the condition, though in some cases, a little wear and tear can add character!"
In collaboration with Hunky Dory and Duke's Cupboard, Woolrich is giving away five signature, vintage pieces. This giveaway will take place on Highsnobiety's socials so stay tuned. Check out the Woolrich site for more.