Being a student with a limited amount of money, shopping for clothes can be hard. Topshop is a favourite amongst many students with their range of endless, fashionable pieces, but the items’ price tags force most to end up browsing rather than buying. An alternative to high street stores are vintage shops and Sheffield offers some of the best in the country. Sheffield’s various vintage boutiques sell original pieces from every decade; clothes that are cheaper than Topshop’s but are the source of inspiration for the the high street store’s 70s floral skirts or 90s cropped shirts. Buying vintage clothes also makes you a little different and more interesting than everyone else, as well as the fact that you are supporting independent, local businesses. Walking around the city centre, it is easy to see who shops at vintage stores as their look is unique and the pieces that they wear are ones that I have never seen before, probably because in most vintage shops there is only one of everything available. This is a breath of fresh air for me, as coming from a small rural area with only three good clothes shops, everyone wears similar things and it is inevitable that you turn up to an event or a party wearing the same thing as at least one of your friends.
Olivia and Em, both sixth form pupils from Sheffield, told me that one of their favourite things about their city is its vintage shops. Olivia likes the fact that you will find most of Sheffield’s vintage treasures around the same area, meaning that when she goes clothes hunting, she doesn’t have to walk very far from shop to shop. From Syd and Mallory’s Emporium to Cow, there is no need to look further than West Street and the Division Quarter for unique finds. Olivia’s favourite is Freshman’s located on Carver Street, and it is not difficult to see why.
One of the oldest vintage shops in Sheffield, the shop has existed on Carver Street for fifteen years. It is also one of the cheapest vintage boutiques, offering 10% to all students, and the same discount for non-students every Friday and Saturday from 12 until 3. If you like checked shirts, Freshman’s is the perfect place for you, selling an endless collection of multi-coloured ones on a long rail. Other clothes that stood out for me were the brown suede coats with cream shearling wool collars, tweed jackets, corduroy pinafores, and the box of tartan scarves which invites hours of rummaging.
Just down from Freshman’s is The Forum; a small shopping centre with interesting boutiques inside. One of my favourite boutiques is Closet Treasure which has its own jewellery collection whilst also offering second-hand clothes from the likes of Topshop, H&M and Primark, including some vintage pieces. What is unique about this shop is that if you’re having a wardrobe clear out, you can take your unwanted items there and you will be given half the amount of money that each of your pieces sell for. Easier than EBay and an opportunity to support a local business, it is an ideal compromise. Next to The Forum is Vulgar; a bright, colourful vintage store that has been open since July. The clothes inside are eye-catching, from corduroy shirts to beanie hats and Doc Marten boots. There are even deer antlers available for £15, and a glass case on the counter showing off mesmerizing rings with little different coloured stones on them.
Vintage jewellery is sometimes more interesting than vintage clothes as they add detail to an outfit and it is interesting to imagine a story behind each special piece. Different to the other boutiques, Filibuster and Booth’s on Division Street only sell vintage jewellery. The owners buy the jewellery from different areas around Europe and have been doing so for as long as 45 years. Everyone wants to know exactly where the jewellery is from, but the owners refuse to conceal their secret sources, only letting me know that they do quite a lot of work in Belgium. As well as browsing customers who spend hours hunting for unique pieces to buy for themselves or as gifts, there is a group of women who go in regularly to buy broken brooches in quantities to make wedding displays. The shop is also ideal if one is looking for costume jewellery or materials for art work.
One of my favourite vintage shops, again on Division Street, is Mooch Vintage. This shop is always bustling with people; newcomers and regulars alike. It is worth becoming a regular at this store, mostly because of the owner, Wayne; an extremely friendly and chatty character who becomes friends with customers and helps them find exactly what they’re looking for. When collecting weekly new stock from his warehouse, he even picks out and keeps pieces that he knows will suit a friend. “I saw this and thought of you” I heard him say to one customer one day, handing her an emerald coloured fur coat and encouraging her to try it on. New customers also know to ask at the counter for specific things, be it an idea for a hobbit fancy dress costume for Halloween, or a fifties inspired dress for a decade’s themed fancy dress party.
One of the most well-known vintage shops in Sheffield is, of course, Cow. Located on West Street, Cow has been in Sheffield for around 10 years. There also exists a shop in Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham, as well as an online shop, a collection on ASOS Marketplace, and a small corner on the floor of Topshop stores all over the UK. Much of Cow’s stock is from different parts of America such as Florida, Atlanta and Texas, to name a few. This stock mostly consists of Ralph Lauren shirts and dresses, Disney printed t-shirts and jumpers, and New Balance and Nike trainers. However, there is a team at Cow who works downstairs, making their own clothes which are labelled with the We Are Cow sticker. The team make clothes that compliments a vintage style, creating cropped sweats and flannel shirts, shortening skirts and hems of jeans, and even transforming men’s shirts into pinafores. As well as to forage through heaps of clothes, it is worth going into Cow just to people watch. The students and locals who enter the shop are always dressed in unique outfits, not excluding the friendly workers who are always busy sorting new stock.
I spoke to one shop assistant, Bethany, who told me that she always tries to wear vintage or second hand clothes to work, and not necessarily from Cow. Being a vintage lover and a regular charity shop hunter, this isn’t hard for her. She never shops at high street stores and prefers vintage clothes because she feels that they have a story behind them; a vintage item has been pre-loved and one cares about it more than a new piece of clothing. Bethany’s favourite vintage shops in Sheffield are Syd and Mallory’s Emporium, especially as they have their own jewellery and clothes collection, and The Vault and Vintedge; two boutiques on Abbeydale Road that are definitely worth a visit.
The most recent vintage shop to open in Sheffield, located in the city centre near Primark, is Thrifty Store. This shop amazed me by seeming small on the outside, but once inside a corridor invites customers towards a huge room with endless amounts of clothes, jewellery and shoes everywhere. Bally, the owner, explained to me that since its opening on September 26th, the store already has regulars who spend hours delving through piles of second hand items, trying to find a hidden treasure. “For a rummager, like me, it is paradise” says Bally, who is proud of his stock that comes from all around the world, from America to Amsterdam. To promote the shop, Bally holds monthly vintage kilo sales at the University of Sheffield, which is an ideal way for students to buy a large amount of clothes for an affordable price. A great thing about Thrifty Store is the fact that everything is extraordinarily cheap. I spotted one man trying on a long fur coat that costed only £6.99; a bargain for those trying to find new winter clothes. What I liked the most about Thrifty Store was its quirkiness, especially the yellow post its dotted around the shop with positive notes scribbled on them, like “have a mint day”. Also, adding to its uniqueness is the shop’s large video collection, selling each for as cheap as a pound.
It is not difficult to see that Sheffield has an exquisite collection of vintage shops, all a bit different from each other and all worth a pop in when you’re next out shopping. Vinatge stores give shoppers a buzz as it is much more fun diving into a jumble of pre-owned goods, knowing that you might find a hidden gem that will quickly become the favourite piece of clothing you own, than browsing through clothes on rails that thousands of people before you have bought and are already wearing. Therefore, if you haven’t done so previously, I encourage you now to go vintage clothes hunting: you will not regret it.
Written by: Mared Gruffydd