Vintage has been one of the dominant trends in fashion for at least the last five years now. Other fads come and go, but vintage endures. For some it’s part of a passion for music from a different era — see ’50s rock’n’roll stylings or ’40s swing cool. For others, it’s a financial necessity or a political statement. For a few it’s escapism, a reaction against the modern world. Substance asked London’s vintage fans what it means to them...

Steven Philips, founder of Rellik, one of London’s first vintage boutiques, †reckons that these days people buy vintage for different reasons than they did ten years ago. “People are a lot more label conscious,” he explains. “In the ’80s a lot of the big fashion houses were out of vogue. Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent were for women in Knightsbridge, but you look at kids today and they’ve all got an Yves Saint Laurent brooch or Chanel scarf. You wouldn’t see that back then. It’s all about getting something different rather than something from Topshop that you know you’re going to see eight other people wearing. That will never go away, the joy people get for finding something that they know they’re never gonna get one anywhere else. But I think vintage is an over used term. People are looking for a quality item, something different. Regardless of where it came from.”
That’s something that Alistair Maddox, manager of Broadway Market, one of London’s top street markets, would certainly agree with. “It’s more about the end product. It doesn’t bother me where it comes from. If you go for a classic look, then it lasts through the ages.” Alistair wears a new suit, bought for £50 in Spain, but the traditional cut means he can dress it in all manner of ways. Here, vintage brogues from Paul Goby’s market stall, his own grandfather’s shirt and a tie his mum bought complete the look.
Old Hat, a vintage menswear specialist in Fulham
Estonian menswear designer Kristian Steinberg mixes his own designs with a vintage jacket for a great example of how vintage can casually add another layer to an easy contemporary look. “I like vintage because of the better craftsmanship,” Kristian says.
Paul Tiernan is the founder of Savvy Row, an online emporium specialising in second-hand Savile Row suits. Discovering his father’s old suits during a clear out one day started a passion for traditionally tailored suits that turned into a business when his own collection got out of hand. “When you look at these things you start to realise the tremendous workmanship and quality that’s in them,” says Paul. “They have a character that mass production just can’t replicate -the handmade detailing. These days, a suit can be made in 90 seconds, something like that. And there’s probably some accountant calling the shots, so there’s just no time for detailing. I thought these suits are wonderful things and where do we get some more. I think for a lot of people, a suit that would normally cost four figures to buy new, they can buy from us at a fraction of the price. Have a few alterations done by their own tailor and they’ve got a beautiful suit that’s been hand made, and you know, it fits them perfectly. They just couldn’t do it otherwise. Some of the suits we find from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, they’ll do the same number of years again †because they were put together properly and they were put together generously, in that you can open up the seams and make them a little bit bigger if you need to. They were made with that spare material. You don’t need to be fully kitted out though. You know, mix and match. Sometimes I see outfits out that are really contemporary pieces matched with a really distinctive vintage piece. It might be a jacket or even just a waistcoat that can really set off a modern outfit.”
Photographer Tem Stills got into wearing vintage clothing through working on market stalls himself. He discovered a whole world of style you can gain from a few unusual pieces. Wearing vintage glasses with shade attachments, hat, gloves and jacket for a really individual look. You can’t get that on the high street.
Harry, Matt and Nick, young musicians from the band Flamingo Drive and are clearly inspired by the possibilities of vintage. “There’s so much history to exploit in vintage clothing,” says Matt. “It’s definitely about the music too. Mens high street clothing is awful and embarrassing.” †All pick up pieces from Ebay, markets and even skips.
Playwright and novelist Josh Marsh wears a second hand Parker that shows a really simple way to get a strong look. Josh says he goes for vintage, or second hand as he calls it, mainly because it’s cheaper. “Plus I really don’t like half the junk on the high street. And it’s ridiculous, if you think about it, the amount of money and everything that goes into labels.”
Text: Polly Braithwaite
All Street Portraits: Alexander Sebley

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