The Chronicle Herald (Metro)

Going retro to stand out in the crowd

- RYAN CADMAN

With ‘fast fashion' taking over the clothing industry, Robbie Carruthers said it's no surprise more people are hunting down vintage clothes to incorporat­e into their styles.

“People - now more than ever - are after individual­ity,” said Carruthers, owner of Tuck N Roll vintage in Charlottet­own.

He paints a familiar scenario: “You go to the mall, buy one of the same 10 shirts, go to a party and you're all dressed the same. People use this style to separate themselves from the pack a little bit," he says.

That's why he specialize­s in the unique.

“I got 100 sweatshirt­s in the shop but not one of them is the same.”

He says vintage style has recircled its way back into today's fashions, thanks to the evolution of thrift stores.

“Poor kids who couldn't afford to buy new clothing now get to go find and create their own style,” he said. “People then start to look towards their style and it becomes the latest fashion.”

WHAT'S CONSIDERED VINTAGE

There are age thresholds for what is vintage and what is just an old piece of clothing, he explains.

“Clothing is vintage after 20 years. People used to be looking for just 80s and 90s stuff, but now we are creeping into the early 2000s,” he says. “You start looking at the 50s or 60s - that stuff is antique.”

With the evolution of fashion over the decades, Carruthers said the quality of streetwear has dropped.

“Compare a band tee from a fast fashion mall brand, like H&M, and an authentic one,” he said. “The quality of the old stuff is much better. You buy a shirt from the mall today, wear it a couple times, and you need to throw it out.”

MAKE IT YOUR OWN

With retro-style clothing constantly rising in popularity, Carruthers said social media is allowing the new generation to find old styles and make them their own.

“People want to wear what they're seeing on the streets, on social media. Instagram and Tiktok are what people are focused on right now. They see these old fashions on there and adapt it to their own.”

He said it's no different from a magazine in the 90s.

“When I started skateboard­ing in the 90s, I wanted to wear what the guys in Thrasher were wearing, same as 16- to 24-year-olds are seeing ‘vintage fashion' on their feed.”

And with social media always changing focus, today's cheap wear could be tomorrow's next retro trend.

“You look at a brand like Carhart, hip-hop artists started wearing it in the 90s because they could get it dirt cheap at a workwear store,” he said. “People saw them wear it, now it's like a fashion brand!”

There are some styles that never stop being popular, Carruthers adds.

“In vintage, band tees are forever,” he said. “Anything screen-printed and graphic - especially old movies and tv show things, because it's hard to find.”

FROM HOBBY TO CAREER

The harder something is to find, the more fun it is to look for it.

That's the attitude for Alex Pearson, who began thrifting clothes as a high school hobby.

“I'd be thrifting clothes I knew were super cool that wouldn't fit me and I'd sell them to my friends and eventually on ebay back in ‘98,” he said.

He's turned his old hobby into a profession.

Co-owner of Ametora Supply in Centrevill­e with his wife Margaret, the Pearsons specialize in selling clothes made in Canada and the United states before the industry largely moved toward the ‘fast fashion' production in China and Bangladesh.

“In the mid-80s, a lot of brands started to push the manufactur­ing elsewhere; therefore, a lot of clothes made in the United States and Canada just happen to be ‘vintage.'”

Margaret agreed with Carruthers, saying people use this style to stick out.

“Clothes are just a costume,” she said. “You put on that old pair of jeans you're not just you, you're James Dean. There is a romance to the ‘retro' style - the style embodies your spirit, you reflect your attitude depending what you put on.”

Alex's love for material history has led to him tracking down not only forgotten clothes but the story behind them.

“At Ametora we say, ‘You buy the story and get the garment for free,'” he said. “We will buy clothing directly from someone and hear the story behind it, it often holds emotional connection.”

Clothing on some items in the store instructs customers to ask them for the story.

“If I can pass that story on to the next buyer, it doesn't get more vintage than that.”

MORE OPTIONS, SIZES

Current clothing is heavily marketed by size and gender, making it difficult for people with atypical body types or who do not specify gender to find clothing that both fits and represents who they are.

This struggle is turning many towards older, non-binary clothing, such as graphic tees, sweaters, plaid shirts and denim, said Alex.

“Putting a gender on clothing is ridiculous,” he said. “We pride ourselves on carrying clothing that can be worn by anybody, regardless of gender or body type.”

Alex - a self-proclaimed ‘Denim Head' - has been known by his friends and clients to be able to pair any body type with a pair of jeans, earning him the title ‘ The Denim Whisperer.'

“Denim will never go out of style; it's been a major player in all the social justice movements, it's a staple for the working class, people will always buy it.”

But that does not mean all denim is made the same.

"Denim sizing changes all the time, I could take four pairs of size eight jeans from four different eras and lay them over top of one another and they wouldn't be the same.”

Margaret said sizing issues are what makes old denim so popular.

“We carry jeans from all different eras, just because today's jeans don't fit you doesn't mean you can't wear jeans," she adds.

With no right or wrong way to style, Alex said wearing vintage is about embracing how you feel about yourself.

“People should just wear exactly what they like,” he said. “If you feel good, you're going to project you look good.”

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