A few weeks back, we bumped into Charlie Veitch from the Love Police who was haranguing shoppers with his megaphone on Brick Lane. While we like Charlie speaking truth to power at a high volume, we couldn't understand why he was getting up in people's grills about buying vintage -- or as he says, 'second hand' -- clothes.

So we had a little chat with Charlie over email to see if we could figure out why he turned his wrath away from the corporate crypto-fascists and towards 'hipsters' on the lookout for new winkle pickers. Read through to see us muling over the importance of fashion, the self, and the makings of a new Gok Wan-style fashion show.
Hi Charlie,
Good to see you on 'Prick Lane' the other day. As you may know, I admire your work with the Love Police, which campaigns for democracy, equality and -- most important of all -- freedom of expression. But our encounter left me perplexed, and I hope you can enlighten me as to why:
1) You chose to harangue people shopping for second hand clothes with your megaphone, when there is so much corruption, inequality and censorship still out there? It seems to me you have wandered off message, abandoned your role as Chief Constable of the Love Police, and become one of the Fashion Police. You're a cool guy. But a man who looks like a sack of spuds should probably avoid commenting on other people's dress sense, especially with a megaphone.
2) You were trying to deter people from expressing themselves through the clothes they wear. Doesn't this detract from your beliefs in free love and freedom of expression?
3) You resorted to using the term 'hipster' as an insult. I've been called this many times, and have always thought it says more about the person saying it than it does about me. The people using it as a derogatory term always seem jealous of people who have a better dress sense.
4) People who buy 'vintage' or, as you put it 'old' clothes is so objectionable. With so many people buying products made in slave-labour sweatshops, surely recycling materials is a step in the right direction.
Fight The Power
Substance
Hello Substance
1. There is indeed a lot of corruption and inequality in the world, but from my frontline experience, there is NOTHING one can do about it from a third-party perspective, except to make people think and inspire them to....be more human? More humane? For there to be a master-slave relationship, someone has to accept the "slave" position voluntarily. OK, let me try to rephrase. Certainly not Fashion Police, but I do see conditioned behaviour and a "cult of cool" emerging from Brick / Prick Lane, much like we see on Oxford Street. OK, the clothes are more 'vintage', but the inbuilt desire to change inner soul through outer clothing is still the same. I may dress like a sack of spuds, but luckily once a year I get some new clothes from my sister (former hipster) that keep me almost up to date. After all, isn't a pair of jeans, t shirt, jumper and jacket enough?
2. Was I really trying to deter people expressing themselves by the clothes they wear? Would you not say this is a defensive interpretation of my megaphoning the vintage clothes shops? Was I not simply helping people to think about paying 100 for a fur hat from the 70s? Also, most people understood the jovial haranguing. It was good humoured. Also, I do not feel any segment of society is above satire. If I am to meditate properly, I would say that "fashion" and textile self expression are a healthy by-product of a society that is moving away from war.
3. In fact, I am not too sure myself about what hipster means. But I think we can both agree that a 19-year-old Hoxton trendy with ZERO substance (personality) but AMAZING clothes / haircut is worthy of satire and derision. I believe clothing should complement a personality, not make up for lack of one.
4. Selling recycled clothing at a marked-up premium to entice hipsters to pay fat prices is not simply eco-friendly, it is very capitalist! Nothing wrong with that!
All the best
Charlie
Hi Charlie,
I agree that rampant consumerism rots the brain. But vintage clothes shopping tends to be borne of a relative state of enlightenment rather than ignorance, at least when you compare it to other cultural sectors which you could have chosen to harangue.
There are shallow idiots who frequent Prick Lane and other vintage fashion outlets. And yes, it is "faintly capitalist" to be selling second-hand clothes for a greater price than which they were purchased. But what is the alternative, besides a return to bartering? Or do you expect the people who sell you things to do so at a personal loss? Then how would they feed and clothe themselves?
The vintage clothes industry (scene? market?) does operate within an imperfect system of capitalism. But I'm going to try to convince you that it's one of the better things about an imperfect capitalist system, and that choosing vintage isn't necessarily a symptom of ignorance, greed or spiritual depravity. Not only does it look cooler, vintage is often the most sensible, economical and humane option.
First, let's consider the non-vintage options for those of us shopping for clothes on a budget. Topshop and its ilk are multi-billion-pound companies which exploit workers in Britain and where their piece-of-shit clothes are made, avoid paying as much tax here as they can, and strip the world of natural resources to manufacture and transport their products.
Charity shops are also second-hand and cheap, so they don't do as much damage to the earth -- they actually do more good, since their profits go to good causes. But they have much narrower ranges. You could spend hours trawling every Oxfam in London and not find a pair of shoes or trousers that fit. So while charity shops are the number one option for the ethical, conscious shopper, it's sometimes not possible to find what you need in them.
Vintage clothes, on the other hand, are cheap -- I've bought t-shirts for under a fiver, leather jackets and jumpers for a tenner -- and you can find them all in one place, and know that you are recycling materials and saving the world's resources. Consider that vintage clothes are generally well manufactured, and you're getting a much better deal, since those jackets and jumpers I bought have lasted me years.
Sure, you can argue that blindly stumbling into Retro Heaven or wherever and splashing out on surplus clothing is excessive and shallow. I'm sure there are plenty of people who buy vintage clothes to "change inner soul through outer beauty," as you put it. But it's not an inherently nasty business, and its patrons aren't all shallow, insecure and vain, as you implied by shouting at them all as a whole. Sure, it was good natured, but it was also judgmental and shallow to assume that everybody who walks through the door of Retro Heaven is "Hoxton trendy" with "zero substance." Maybe they understand the benefits of shopping vintage, and you're judging them unfairly -- assuming that because they care about personal grooming, their choices aren't informed by a social and ethical conscience.
Don't get me wrong, vintage can be the refuge of dunderheads obsessed with self image. But it's also the choice of champions: discerning, responsible and economical.
If you'd like to venture into one of London's old-clothes shops, I'm sure one of the more fashionable cads at Substance wouldn't mind holding your megaphone while you browse the racks.
Speak soon, homeboy!
Substance
Soon after laying down the gauntlet, we received this reply from Charlie:
Yeah man. Why don't we do a little film about it? Could be cool.
Hope you guys are up for it?
Charlie


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