Magazine article The Spectator

Rumble in the Jumble

Magazine article The Spectator

Rumble in the Jumble

Article excerpt

The craze for vintage clothes is a heartening response to the dreary sameness of high-street fashion, says Olivia Glazebrook

Wayne Hemingway - designer, trendsetter and fashion watchdog - was interviewed by the Telegraph before his festival 'Vintage at Goodwood' took place over the weekend. He made two claims that inspired me, not a natural festival-goer, to dial the booking hotline: 'There will be attendants for each toilet so that they are as clean on the last day as they were on the first, ' he said, and then, 'You'll probably look a bit out of place if you turn up in shorts and sandals.' These are the kind of bold assertions that have made him an arbiter of taste.

Who could resist such a challenge? Mr Hemingway, sir, a ticket please! I ironed my shorts and polished my sandals instanter.

With his festival Hemingway intended to showcase the best of 20th-century British cool, to celebrate each decade from the 1940s to the 1980s. In a green field in Sussex, every group, club or gang from within each of those decades - people who live and breathe their 'niche', who have perfected every detail of their look - could get dressed up in their best clothes and dance all night. This would be a playground for lovers of vintage, and best of all it would be a playground in which no one would get a kicking for their hairstyle, their outfit or their taste in music.

As well as dedicated followers of fashions past there would be dabblers like myself - the truth is, it wasn't just the promise of attended loos that lured me in. Searching out old, used, cheap clothes in charity shops and jumble sales has long been one of my favourite occupations.

It is a habit that used to be rather sniffed at, definitely not something anyone boasted about. Discreet communications might have taken place between rummagers, when one identified another, but open discussion of a preference for secondhand clothes would have been unthinkable.

How times have changed. The word 'vintage' has been dragged - sorry, 'sourced' - from the back of the closet, 'customised', and given a new image. Where once it was applied only to very good wine or, at a push, very old cars (those built between 1919 and 1930, to be precise), now it seems to indicate pretty much anything bought, found, or worn secondhand. My old Nike hi-tops are nothing more than that until I advertise them on eBay when they become, to someone else, vintage.

The trend is a response in part to the dreadful sameness of the high street. To buy vintage is an attempt, however feeble, to assert an individual look. What is new about the current craze is its connotation of mindfulness: of responsibility, of conscience. Today, to state proudly that 'My coat is brand new, it came from Hermes and it cost me a fortune' is enough to put you in the same chaingang as all those other middle-class criminals guilty of such clangers as 'Yes, I need lots of plastic bags, please', or 'I'll have the tuna'.

In a coffee shop the other day I overheard the following exchange between three women:

'Is that a new top?' asked the first.

'Oh my God, don't!' said the second, in a guilty-but-proud voice. 'Yes. It's Stella McCartney. So naughty of me. . . but I couldn't resist.'

'I can't believe you still buy designer clothes, ' sniffed the first woman. 'It's such a waste of money. I could get the exact same thing on the high street for fifty quid.'

'High street!' said the third, looking up from her text messaging. 'Yuk. I mean, it's fine if you don't mind looking the same as everyone else. All my clothes are vintage. …

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