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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

Opinion | There is a difference between old and vintage

A+vintage+teacup+sits+near+a+window.
Hannah Levine | Staff Photographer
A vintage teacup sits near a window.

Shopping sustainably has become incredibly popular in the last few years. Buying used clothing from thrift stores or other secondhand resellers is more common than ever before. From 2021 to 2023, the secondhand apparel market went from $138 billion to $211 billion and is expected to reach $351 billion by 2027. From stores like Goodwill and Plato’s Closet to apps like Depop, Poshmark and eBay, buying pre-owned and “vintage” clothing has become quite a common practice and gotten more popular recently.

This new alternative to buying from big fast fashion companies is indeed a great practice that more people should be doing. However, some have exploited the practice of reselling old and vintage clothing, with many taking advantage of people’s love to shop vintage. 

While I do understand that the point of selling — or reselling — anything is to make some sort of profit, there is no excuse to pull a fast one on customers. I’ve noticed a pattern of resellers labeling pieces as “vintage” so they can list them at a higher price. Many on the Depop subreddit have also started to notice this. One commenter on the Reddit post said, “​​A lot of sellers are selling ripped Carhartt pants for 90$ try to say they are from the nineties Or vintage most are ripping people off and scamming them big time.” 

Personally, there were also many instances where I went to local thrift stores and bag sales and I’ve overheard people say something along the lines of “I can sell this for a lot” when they see a semi-stylish piece of old clothing. Labeling old pieces of clothing and accessories as “vintage” just so you can sell them at a higher price is, unfortunately, a common practice, and I see it happen a lot. 

There is a difference between old and vintage, though these terms have pretty loose and subjective definitions. It often depends on the era’s fashion, but certain characteristics can make something “vintage” versus it just being an old article of clothing. Age is one of the determinants of whether something could be considered vintage, but a little bit more goes into it. Vintage is usually when pieces are at least 20 years old but less than 100 years old — at that point, it would technically be considered antique. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, vintage means “produced in the past, and typical of the period in which it was made.” It is also something “of high quality and lasting value, or showing the best and most typical characteristics of a particular type of thing.” 

Another determinant of whether something could be classified as vintage is quality. Some pieces of clothing or materials hold up much better than others. A few decades ago, mass production was not as common, and many luxury pieces actually involved a lot more hand stitching. This is one of the many reasons why some vintage pieces last so long and sometimes increase in price over time. However, this clear attribute of “vintage” clothing does not stop resellers from selling poor-quality items at the same price as those that hold up over time.

One example is the vintage Chanel 2.55 handbag. First released in 1929 then reintroduced in 1955, the bag was made with the finest leather and metal. Much of the stitching and details were done by hand by skilled artisans. They also used to use 24-karat, gold-plated hardware, which was discontinued in 2008. The quality of vintage Chanel bags versus modern Chanel bags differ in longevity, which is why vintage bags are extremely sought-after and can even increase in value over time. Chanel was always a super popular and well-respected brand within fashion. A lot of what we think of when we hear the name Chanel is the tweed suit and the little black dress. These were super iconic in the ‘90s

Now, we see a lot of resellers selling dupes of these iconic vintage pieces for high prices as if it’s the real thing. With the rise of buying second-hand — especially second-hand luxury items — we also start to see a rise in counterfeit products sold. Without proper authentication, it is really easy to pass a dupe of something as real and price it as such, ripping off countless customers who are just trying to shop more sustainably and save some money. 

True vintage luxury items tend to be more expensive anyway, even though they are already discounted. Regular vintage brands and pieces tend to be a lot more affordable for the everyday consumer. At least, that’s how it should be. There is no reason why a regular shirt, skirt or whatever from 20 years ago costs almost as much as something I could buy at Urban Outfitters today. This defeats the whole point of thrifting and buying secondhand pieces

Vintage is not exclusive to luxury by any means. But to classify anything and everything as such just because that word holds value is very scammy. Quality and age are just some of the characteristics used to determine if something may be classified as vintage. They are not the only factors. The 1991 American Cancer Society Labor Day 5k shirt I found at a bag sale is in great quality and clearly pretty old. That would not classify the shirt as vintage, though. It’s a cool shirt, but it’s not really representative of the fashion or style of the ‘90s in any way. And I would certainly not pay more than $10 or $15 for it. 

There is definitely a difference between a plain old shirt labeled as “vintage” versus an actual vintage piece of clothing. Knowing these slight little distinctions can save you from getting ripped off — though, of course, not all resellers have bad intentions. They may also just be misinformed on what is truly “vintage.” Knowing this can also help if you’re specifically looking to collect certain pieces or items. 

 

Kelly Xiong writes about all things fashion, beauty, personal health and sometimes pop culture. You can write to her at [email protected]

About the Contributor
Kelly Xiong, Senior Staff Columnist