Having abdicated my throne as queen of Goodwill long ago, I wonder if this semester is the season of a royal return to thrifting.
After popping in to the doctor’s (you know, about this terrible, icky cold-type illness I’m experiencing), I decided to treat myself and head out to the vintage fair that University College London was hosting. I was right by King’s Cross, anyway, so the trek over to the Euston / Euston Square area wasn’t too bad by foot or Tube.
The closer I got to Richard Mully’s Basement Bar, the more apparent it became that I was nearing a university campus. (Mully’s, as it is called, is a UCL bar. Coming from my American background, I have never heard of a university operating its own bar and encouraging students to go. Drinking truly seems to be apart of the British cultural experience, then.) As I neared UCL, the outfits got more vibrant and daring and experimental. The piercings per capita seemed to increase. And the energy on the street picked up.
There was a gentle buzz permeating the air. It grew louder as I stepped inside a UCL building and was confronted with that almost universal sight of students milling about around classes. Meeting up with friends to study (or at least, play at studying). Catch up or get to know each other better. Trade thoughts on kooky, new professors. Roast freshmen (freshers). Dish about hookups and freshly brewed floor drama.
I liked the vibe a lot. Just the sheer amount of people and the busyness of it reminded me of my own student center, the nexus of all the action. This was the first time I had truly felt a deep-seated longing for Schine. Let that sink in.
It felt familiar for that reason, but also felt unfamiliar. Different dynamic, different look, different voices and clothes and definitely different food options. (No tea or shade, but what do the campus cafés back home know about a flat white? Let me know!) And then, me, in the center of it all. An alien. To the city. This side of the pond. The campus. So, then, even worse than your average alien: awash in a contextual cluelessness comparable to that of a freshman.
I felt my face burn when I asked for directions to Richard Mully’s Basement Bar. At the time, I didn’t know it was called Mully’s, but I did feel the formality of the name I offered weighing heavily in my mouth.
I looked around for a bit. Every vintage store has its overall look and this one was very, very ’80s and ’90s: in a New Wave and grunge sense, but also in a Hand-Me-Downs from Me Cousins and Me Aunt and Uncle way as well. There was flannel, electric-colored windbreakers and dungarees. The whole bit.
What absolutely amused me, though, were the thrifted clothes reworked by Latham Street Vintage. There was this jaunty little number.
There were also shirts and sweatshirts cut into crop tops. I saw this when I went to Camden this past weekend. What set Latham Street Vintage apart were its additions of lace or tulle or decorative ribbon or a peplum ruffle to its cropped, thrifted tops.
Beyond that, what struck me was the wholehearted Americanness of the vintage selection. There were Baltimore Ravens shirts and old fare from Texas A+M University and Phillies tops and a Westpoint sweatshirt, cropped and fluffed up with lace. I was so tickled!
If I were that cool femme hype beast or fine arts student or music industry kid, straight out of London, I would be so happy to boast an edgy, American institution with my high-waisted jeans and New Balances. But having grown up in American framework, I can tell you: if I wasn’t repping any of these sports teams or universities before, I definitely had no business doing it now, in England.
I did end up buying a top. It was originally a button-down shirt from Sandro Paris. This fitted and reworked version of the garment cost me a whopping £20. Given that, in my current tax bracket, I can not afford a top from Sandro (even on a good day), I was more than O.K. with the little dent it caused in my wallet.
Having scored so well my first time thrifting in London, I hope to keep thrift fever at bay. But who knows? There are no shortage of secondhand shops in the Big Smoke and there are hundreds of vintage bargains just waiting to be uncovered. If a haul like this one isn’t enough to tempt you, then I don’t know what will.