Whilst more popular than ever, today’s vintage shopping is a bit of a blurred – even slightly mongrelised – concept, with a lot of second-hand tat fobbed off as true historical timepieces. That said its mainstream appeal has made way for a wealth of choice, which can only work in your favour; you just have to resolve what it is you want from vintage – whether it’s genuine items of bygone eras, cheaper garments to alter and amend at your will, unique statement pieces or simply the vintage repro style without the grime and stains.
Afflecks is Manchester’s iconic multi-storey treasure trove of bits and bobs, bound together by a sense of old-style, retro soul that perpetuates through each floor. The building houses everything from tattoos and piercings to independent boutiques and fancy dress, but it’s also a leading contributor to Manchester’s vintage scene with some of the region’s best names under its roof. Kuhl Vintage takes over a tiny corner of the second floor, but makes up for its modest scale with genuine classic pieces like top hats, silk scarves and brooches that can date back to the 1920s, plus American Graffiti is great for affordable second-hand coats. And whilst Pop Boutique has a standalone store across the road, its smaller space in Afflecks is particularly good for retro American-style jumpers, lumberjack shirts and playful t-shirts.
RSPCA charity shop
The RSPCA charity shop is tucked away over on Oak Street, set back from the hype of its larger, popular Oldham Street competitors. No bigger than your average living room, the tiny boutique clearly has to be selective in its curated second-hand stock, meaning that unlike the laborious trawling that comes with most charity shops browsing here is actually a complete joy. This one’s a good spot for beautiful vintage dresses, and though their stock of yesteryear’s homeware is never the most extensive, it’s always bang-on. Keep an eye on their Facebook and Twitter feeds to get an idea of what’s in store, but be sure to pop by in person to see the rails of lovingly handpicked gems up close.
A recent upgrade to the Northern Quarter in a bigger, better home proves how popular this vintage den is. Compared to some other vintage shops in the area, items can often verge on being a little pricey, which is the understandable backlash of having a stream of student customers eager to spend their loans. However, the stock is usually more hit than miss, with a dedication to bringing you the most playful, colourful vintage pieces and fun retro styles – think dungarees and bomber jackets alongside floral tea dresses and Hawaiian shirts. The store itself is also an inviting, spacious and bright space, matched by perky staff and the brand’s interminably promising reputation.
Junk Shop started life out in the suburbs, with a small boutique in the bohemian-friendly area of West Didsbury. Since then, they’ve come to play with the city centre big dogs with a store on Dale Street, in a new home furnished entirely using recycled and reclaimed materials – befitting of the sustainable ethos behind shopping vintage that the brand swears by. Their stock spans a range of styles ‘worn from sunrise to sunset by Ravers, Dreamers, Schemers, Urban Hippies, Eco-Warriors, Sci-Fi Queens and Vintage Vixens’, creating a colourful and eclectic shopping experience. So committed to the cause they are, that Junk Shop also organises regular classes in upcycling and handmade clothing, including dressmaking, shirt making and skirt making courses.
Originally debuting as a reclaimed door and fireplace specialist thirty years ago, Insitu has matured into an architectural salvage emporium with the largest, most eclectic range of second hand items in Manchester. Now stocking everything from cast iron radiators and stained glass to unusual taxidermy, homeware and clothes, it’s a one-stop vintage shop – at the heart of which lies vintage furniture and homeware retailers Planet Vintage Girl, along with other traders including Cloche Vintage Clothing, who specialise in retro clothing. And, by being just a ten minute walk from Castlefield Basin, it really isn’t in the middle of nowhere as many tend to assume.
Words: Jess Hardiman