As the school year approaches, it’s likely that summer has taken a toll on your wardrobe. Jeans wear through and styles change. If you’re tired of Gap and Urban Outfitters, don’t fret. We’ve picked out three vintage stores close to school. With their extensive selections, you won’t have to worry about someone else having the exact same shirt. Start by taking the 1 train up a few stops to Christopher Street and walk a few blocks west to Housing Works for unique pieces. Then get back on the 1 and go up to 14th street for cheap vintage t-shirts, jeans and boots at Rags-a-Go-Go. Finally, hop on the L train to Bedford Avenue and walk over to Beacon’s Closet to buy a winter coat and anything else you could possibly want: this place has an extremely wide selection.
West Village Housing Works
On a recent visit to this location, there were people waiting outside the store for it to open at 11:00 a.m. Once inside, it’s clear why: they wanted to get the first look at the store’s fashion offerings du jour. In fact, the store is mostly run by volunteers whose main incentive is to peek at the wares before they hit the racks.
The small store is filled with everything from quirky finds such as a white Moschino wrap-skirt with closures that look like Band-Aids ($30) to $20 to $35 quality collared shirts for men to Cheap Monday jeans with rainbow pinstripes for $5 (however, at a tiny size 24, these skin-tight jeans would most likely only fit the smallest freshmen). Also noteworthy is a wide assortment of belts ranging from $3 to $8, a pair of $15 black leather boots, $10 heels and a colorful variety of books and music. CDs are cheap at a mere 50 cents each (four for $1) and books range from $2 to $8 (finds include a hardcover copy of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook by Gary Shteyngart (’91) for $4).
All of the proceeds from Housing Works go to helping homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. “Every [Housing Works] store specializes in something. This store specializes in clothing,” said Lonnie Perry, an employee at the Housing Works location in the West Village.
245 West 10 Street, Manhattan, NY
It’s the American Apparel of the vintage realm—gone western.
One step in and a woman wearing a vintage t-shirt cut into a tube top and a vest asks the discount question of the day: Who did Obama pick as his vice-presidential candidate, what state is he from and what percent of votes did he get in Iowa? Answering all three parts correctly (Joe Biden, Colorado, one percent) is rewarded with a $10 discount. Be prepared to find out how she feels about it as you engage in a possibly lengthy conversation about where our country is headed.
In 1989, Joshua Suzanne came to New York City “with a broken heart.” She laughs at herself with an “Aww” before she continues. “[I had] two garbage bags and $350 in my pocket.” She soon became a manager for a massive vintage clothing venue and a year later she started her own booth of vintage jeans and cowboy boots. She claims that the day her booth opened, she foresaw the booth’s transformation into “one of the best-known vintage stores in the city.” Once she gathered enough money, she opened up her own store: Rags-a-GoGo. The store’s emphasis is clearly on men, although there are a few dresses, shirts and accessories (such as purses and heels) for women. Everything in the store has been handpicked from international warehouses by Joshua Suzanne herself. Rags-a-GoGo has set prices for each type of item, with vintage shirts for $8, track jackets and heels for $25, dresses for $28, and boots at $75 a pair. “This is the place you come to get street fresh vintage,” she said.
218 West 14 Street, Manhattan, NY
This is the store where you will the need to restrain yourself if you’re short on time. Everywhere you look you will find beautiful, quirky garments to fit any style.
Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Beacon’s Closet is large enough to be a warehouse. In fact, many customers find they need to make two rounds through the store in order to sift through it all. As far as vintage stores go, this one is extremely organized. It has two rooms for women’s clothing (with pants, shirts and jackets in the front room, and skirts and dresses in the back) and one room for men’s clothing. The store is also organized by color, creating a structured rainbow effect. If you are looking for the perfect pair of cheap designer jeans, pants and shorts are organized by size. Accessories such as hats, wallets, bags and belts are located near the entrance. Shoes of every shape, size and color rest along the walls and on top of the racks.
As the colder months approach, be sure not to miss the impressive selection of jackets, coats and blazers. Not only does the section hold an immense number of finds, it is also one of the easiest to browse through since a fitting room is not needed.
The store buys its wares from the general public at a counter in the men’s clothing section. Although they are rather particular about the items they accept, they will give you 10 percent of the total value of your clothes in cash or 15 percent in store credit. Though this might not sound like much, it usually amounts to a decent discount from Beacon’s Closet’s purchases, due to how low their prices already are.
Shirts are priced anywhere within the $5 to $30 range, with most leaning towards the lower end of the spectrum. One pair of Betsey Johnson jeans went for $24.95, as did a pair of jeans by 7 for All Mankind. Whatever your budget, you’re sure to find something to suit your needs.
88 North 11 Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY | 220 5 Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY