You can't beat a bit of old school glamour, and vintage shops these days are miles away from the mothballed and fusty second-hand spots of years gone by. And Bristol boasts some of the best vintage shops in the land, so whether you're searching for an haute-couture treasure, a tweed two-piece or just a few boho bits and bobs, our handy list of the best vintage shops in Bristol should be a good place to start. Happy hunting.
In a city dominated by thrifty millennials, Loot Vintage Warehouse is right on the money with its trendy interior and anti-mainstream ethos. Hand-picking its stock in the world’s coolest cities - including Miami, New York and Paris- and lovingly reworking on the shop floor, Loot takes vintage retailing to the next level. Conveniently situated just off the Bearpit, the Bristol store caters to the thriving individuality of bordering Stokes Croft; perhaps unsurprisingly to locals, this super hip setting is rumoured to have hosted many more ravers than retailers over the years. Only adding to its appeal, the store’s stripped-back design allows its vibrant contents to take centre stage- save for the impressive coloured neons of course. Packed full of ‘90s sports/street wear as well as classic and one-off vintage items, Loot is a failsafe for well-priced, well-presented hipster garms for both men and women. XL Ralph Lauren polo shirts, fashioned into mini dresses or two-pieces, encapsulate the founders’ desire to offer an on-trend, high quality product on an ethical basis. Highly sought-after American vintage is another veritable highlight, never in short supply, and the £5 bargain buckets are well worth a rummage!
Dutty has become a bit of a Bristol institution since its beginnings in St Nicholas Market in the early noughties, set up by the DJ/MC collective Dutty Girl. Now proudly nestled in the heart of Stokes Croft, the colourful store boasts a wide range of Dutty branded and customised street wear and a basement brimming with of some of the best vintage in town. Always marrying a passion for music with stylistic flair, the Dutty brand is heavily inspired by the Hip Hop and UK Garage culture of the ‘90s. Foray into this vintage treasure trove and you are greeted by go faster track pants, retro shell suit jackets and enough oversized shirts to satisfy your inner gangster rapper. Staying true to this USP, fusty rails of moth-eaten jumpers have no place here. One-off accessories are another Dutty mainstay; handbags are available in all varieties and at surprisingly good value, accompanied by a bounty of silk scarves and leather belts which seemingly hang from every inch of wall space. Students are well-advised to keep their eyes peeled for regular discount parties, offering free drinks and goodies as well as the guarantee of a soundtrack from the best local DJs.
One of the oldest exclusively vintage shops in the city, RePsycho opened its store on Gloucester Road in 1995, but has in fact existed as an entity for much longer, having previously traded at Portobello Road in London and at university campuses. The owners - who were selling vintage before vintage was even a thing - naturally know a thing or two about the lure of second-hand, offering three individual floors that could literally entertain you for hours. The ground floor is packed with all sorts of vintage clothing; printed shirts, shell suit jackets, denim, sequinned party wear and footwear could rival the selective standards of Urban Outfitters. The owners stress, however, that the RePsycho philosophy is never too precious, and items are priced in the view of moving them on to loving a new home as soon as possible. Meander up to the first floor and you find yourself in a mesmerising Sixties time warp, stacked with fun trinkets and unique homewares that make you yearn for the funkiness of yesteryear. Explore the basement and discover a wealth of second-hand records from all genres, including dance music classics, always in favour with the area’s abundant DJ population. There really is something for everyone here.
Urban Fox is epitomised by experience and quality. The owner is well-versed in the vintage business, having been in it for over 25 years. Amazingly he also co-owns the well-established RePsycho on Gloucester Road, as well as running a vintage stall in St Nicholas Market. It’s safe to say that two and a half decades have lead to an exceedingly well-trained eye, and Urban Fox is the destination for only his best finds. Not far from the market, Urban Fox is impeccably presented and well-organised to minimise rummaging frustration. Its central location benefits from streams of passing shoppers who are no doubt unable to resist the lure of the eye-catching exterior rails, usually packed full with a rainbow of retro jumpers. The store is predominantly focused on ‘young’ vintage from the ‘80s and ‘90s; hard-to-find long dungarees and coloured jeans or leathers are just a few foxy finds. Nevertheless, the store still prides itself on variety, and more traditional vintage, such as ‘60s dresses, and an array of unique accessories win over shoppers of all ages. You get what you pay for at Urban Fox so don’t go expecting big bargains, but instead revel in the promise of superior quality to generic high street throwaways or dog-eared hand-me-downs.
Holding the prestige of the longest-running vintage clothing shop in the city, Uncle Sam’s opened in 1984 and has since continued in the enduring desire to supply the very best American vintage to Bristol’s coolest cats. Importing the hand-picked stock straight from California, the store is jam-packed with pieces dating predominantly from the ‘40s to the ‘80s, resolutely avoiding any sniff of hackneyed reproduction vintage. Now one of three vintage outlets on Park Street, it is this authenticity that keeps Uncle Sam’s high in the popularity stakes. Uncle Sam’s isn’t the easiest to browse - simply due to the volume of stock occupying the small space - but keen eyes will never be disappointed, given enough time and patience. And the original cinema posters, retro fixtures and jukebox embellishing the place can only enhance the shopping experience. Quality denim, leather, varsity sweaters, sportswear and work wear are available at very competitive rates, as is the plentiful and rare vintage vinyl. The owners’ vintage obsession has also lead to the recent fulfilment of their long term ambition to launch a sister store focusing exclusively on rare, fine menswear items dating from the ‘30s to the ‘60s; Dustbowl Vintage opened in 2012 and is situated in Clifton Arcade.
Capitalising on that oh so common full-wardrobe-but-nothing-to-wear dilemma, Rag Trade Boutique cuts out the middle man to provide designer women’s clothing at a fraction of the cost. Founded upon the principle that we all hoard unloved gems in our closets, crying out to be rehomed, customers are able to sell directly to the store, either for cash or a fresh item from the rails - a more sophisticated form of ‘swishing’ if you like. And sophisticated is certainly the defining word here. Unlike your typical vintage outlet, Rag Trade Boutique gives the impression - owing as much to the quality of its contents as its bijou interior - of a truly high end affair. Garments are consequently on the dressier side of things; sparkly gowns or statement jackets dominate the rails, and more often than not are presented in pretty much unworn condition. The price point remains reasonable, however. A previous visit unearthed a unique YSL jacket for as little as £55, fitting with Rag Trade’s ‘high end designer to high street affordable’ ethos. Although not as ‘young’ as the majority of Bristol’s vintage shops, Rag Trade has carved a niche - in what is an extremely crowded local market - for the style savvy shopper of any age.
Bristolians will almost certainly be familiar with BS8 on Park Street; a retailer which has been central to the local independent shopping scene for over 20 years, and under the same ownership throughout. Having previously operated over multiple floors, BS8 has more recently decided to forego concessions and concentrate its goodness into one - still expansive - floor of up-to-the-minute young fashion. The vintage section at the rear is a key part of the store’s current identity. Thanks to an ever-growing list of nation-wide suppliers, it now stocks a wide variety of vintage styles, encompassing classic and cool in one fell swoop. The stock is hand picked, with a constant focus on quality and street style trends; a discerning approach which succeeds in providing rare designer gems - from Balmain to Versace - at a bargain price. If you’re after genuine leather or sheepskin jackets, Levi’s jeans and jackets or one-off printed silk shirts, these are definite store staples and are also not to be overlooked. Catering to its young customer base and individual approach, the store hosts local DJs from 12-5pm each and every Saturday, adding that extra ounce of liveliness to a busy weekend shopping experience.
Perhaps less known for its vintage than its range of local and handmade street wear and graff artwork, Don Majors could easily be overlooked by the eagle-eyed thrift shopper. But take a look inside and you’ll be greeted by a collection of covetable vintage street wear pieces at a comparatively low price point. Stood near the join of Cheltenham Road and Gloucester Road - the longest stretch of independent traders in Europe - Don Majors’ individual style is ideally placed. Specialising in ‘90s sports and street wear, the vintage selection features classic Ralph Lauren shirts, Levi’s jeans and jackets, quirky tees and one-offs. Lined denim jackets - increasingly hard to get hold of for less than about £80, fall between the £30-£40 mark here and are well worth checking out. Vintage snapback caps are another bonus, considering their scarcity in competing retailers. Besides the volumes of men’s clothing, there’s also a choice range of women’s vintage; mom jeans, oversized basketball vests and gaudy ‘80s-style sweats are on-point with Bristol street fashion. A slightly random, but unquestionably awesome highlight of Don Majors is the option to pay for your favourite kicks to be transformed into the trendiest roller skates you’ve ever laid eyes on - the perfect match for your retro ‘80s sweat. Only in Bristol…