The Vintage Craze Along the Boulevard
It’s all the rage.
Can you remember what you were wearing on your first day of 9th grade? In my mind that’s the pivotal point where a child begins their shift into a fully realized adult self. Clothes and appearance play a major role in that transition.
As it happens, I remember exactly what I was wearing that day in 1981. With my hair dyed pink, I was wearing tight leggings beneath a floral, vintage 1940s dress. A ’50s cowboy belt graced my waist, used combat boots my feet, each adorned by a set of chains. Yes, chains—and pertinently, only the chains were purchased new.
The funny thing is, just months before, I dressed only to conform. I wanted nothing more than to fit in. I begged my parents to buy me whatever was the retail rage of the day. Then, as that monumental first day of high school grew near, and hormones raged, I decided it was time I expressed my truer self—and not to conform anymore. Paramount in that decision was “thrifting.” One man’s trash was now my treasure. And the hunt for it, the self-expression therein, helped form the woman I am today.
Too bad I was not praised for it. Nor was I accepted for it. Far from it. Rather, I was labeled something akin to a freak. But that was OK. For the first time ever, I felt like me.
Cut to 2023. Thrifting is all the rage. In fact, I now hear from my teenagers, “It’s the only way.” My son, Keats, 16, expresses himself not at the mall, but at vintage and thrift shops. Same for my stepdaughter, Lucy, 17 (whose hair also happens to be pink; go figure). In her words, “I love the idea of giving clothes a second life, while expressing myself when I wear them.” Lucky for Keats and Lucy and so many of their peers, we live just blocks from one of the major meccas of thrifting in LA: Ventura Boulevard.
So here we look at the three top vintage stores on the Boulevard and why they are capturing the fancy of fashion lovers, young, and, well … not so young.
One of the longer-established stores on the Boulevard, American Vintage opened its doors in 2000 with a goal of “recycling the vintage fashion industry.” The shop provides a cornucopia of carefully hand-curated clothes, shoes and accessories spanning the decades, but with a focus on the truly vintage. In other words, harder-to-find and rarer pieces from the 1920s through the ’90s. If you’re in the market for a suit from the ’50s or you’re looking for ’70s flares, an authentic vintage rock band T-shirt, or just a cool Halloween outfit, this place is for you. In contrast to many thrift shops, everything at American Vintage is incredibly well organized and displayed, and the staff is helpful in the hunt. The sales items, noted by multicolored tags, can be epic. We suggest bringing along a friend or two to shop. Playing dress-up is key here, and it’s always nice to have a set of objective eyes when choosing that outfit (or many) that best expresses the most unique version of you. 14438 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
Their flagship store opened in Japan in 1996, quickly spreading to 700 stores in that country alone. In 2018, the company opened their first store in LA on Melrose Avenue. More recently, another outpost was opened in the Valley. At 2nd Street you can buy and sell one-of-a-kind pieces as long as they are in premium second-hand condition. With a decidedly urban vibe, the store offers a more “modern vintage” bent, focusing on street styles, Japanese and international designers, and luxury accessories. With stark architecture, bright lights, a groovy young staff, and blasting house music, it’s the kind of place where you might find yourself dancing (or dashing) as you peruse the wealth of choices on display. 14548 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
This spacious, light-filled store was first established in Berkeley in 1985—a time of big hair and loud clothes. However, its owners were more inspired by the down-to-earth grunge trends of the day trumpeted by bands like Nirvana, U2 and the Psychedelic Furs. Though styles have fluctuated wildly over the decades, the Studio City store still feels like a step back to that gentler, grungier time. Unlike American Vintage and 2nd Street, Wasteland really feels like a place by and for the people, with options for every demographic and budget. On the well-organized racks, you’ll find everything from a good condition vintage T-shirt ($18) to a mesh jersey with the Playboy logo by the coveted brand Supreme ($150) to a pristine Yves Saint Laurent dress for $450. The expression “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” rings true here. Still, there’s nothing like the sense of satisfaction when you dig and discover a treasure that speaks to the true you. It might take a minute, but it will be worth it. 12144 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
The celeb hang-out of the 80s.