A couple of months ago a reader asked me for advice on vintage shopping in my hometown of Sheffield. I finally returned to the motherland this weekend and took the opportunity to do a bit of shopping… all in the name of research. Sorry for the shit pictures, people in Sheffield seemingly get weirded out if you take photos in the street. Or maybe they just thought I looked weird?
Mysterious vintage shop, corner of Carver Street and Devonshire Street
Now updated to Ryan Vintage, corner of Carver Street and Devonshire Street
If this place has an actual name, do let me know. Please bear in mind that I don’t actually live in Sheffield any more so all my information is based on quarterly visits… As far as I gather, this place opened at Christmas. Loads of my friends went and raved about it, but I somehow completely missed it and didn’t have time to go before the holidays were over. I was hoping it would still be open (you know how these vintage shops appear and disappear with alarming regularity) and joy of joys, it was.
This place is basically the concrete shell of what used to be Yates Wine Lodge. There are no fittings, no floor, no décor of which to speak… in fact at the back of the shop there’s a big pile of rubble fenced off with clothes. Garments are displayed on rails and there are wooden pallets on the floor for shoes and handbags. All that said, the stock is great. Not having shop fittings (or changing rooms, or a till) really keeps costs down and if you’re a dedicated vintage rummager, you can only benefit from that.
There were piles of good things in here, sort of arranged by order of interest — i.e., stick the Barbours right by the door — and everything else was just lumped into skirts/dresses/coats/tops. Seemed to be a good amount of menswear too, but I didn’t have much time so didn’t investigate further. Lots of 90s sportswear — good Adidas track jackets, that kind of thing. I’d say coats and accessories are the strong point here, because although there were loads of dresses they were just a bit overwhelming. Still, I bought a black and red ladybird-esque maxi dress which I need to a get a picture of so I guess I should give the dresses a thumbs up too.
Easily the most annoying thing about this shop was the lack of a price on anything. I know that taking the time to price things would also add time/costs but it’s a bit of a pain. I guess it opens things up to haggling too, but I didn’t have the time or energy so just asked them what they wanted for my haul and paid and got out of there. They don’t take cards, be aware – there are plenty of cash machines around the area though, just remember to go first.
Freshmans, 6-8 Carver Street
How do I love Freshmans? Let me count the fucking ways. Freshmans is Devonshire Street”s original and best vintage shop in my opinion, and I have been shopping there most of my life. After my mum, it’s the first thing I want to see when I get home.
Freshmans used to be upstairs at the Forum, which was then Sheffield’s huge ~alternative~ emporium. If you’re familiar with Affleck’s Palace in Manchester, it was like that but on a small scale. A big old warehouse affair filled with vintage shops, head shops, piercers, record stores… God it was ace.
Anyway Freshmans took up most of the top floor and I spent most Saturdays in there picking up cheongsam and PVC coats in a bid to look like Lauren Laverne. THOSE WERE THE DAYS. Anyway, Freshmans has moved around quite a bit since then but has finally settled in this big space on Carver Street.
I have to be brutally honest and inform you that lately Freshmans has been selling more ‘refashioned’ vintage — get a nice vintage dress, chop it up, resell it — and more Pop Boutique brand stuff, but I completely understand that they need to include that kind of thing to make money so I forgive them.
Still, it doesn’t affect the quality of the vintage they do sell, in fact even if the selection is smaller, it’s better. I think it’s fair to say they have more menswear than women’s, but again, it’s such a good edit I can’t complain.
On my Christmas visit to Freshmans I picked up a pristine Barbour for £15 and they have loads in stock at the moment too. Great coats, good dresses and loads of brilliant old metal t-shirts (although it does weird me out that Slipknot is now considered vintage ha!). Also brilliant for jewellery and handbags.
I love Freshmans and even if they end up selling one dress for every 100 Pop Boutique pair of courdroys, I’ll still be there. The staff are all ace, friendly and knowledgeable. THUMBS UP.
Cow, 156-160 West Street
I feel like I’m cheating on Freshmans by even talking about Cow, but here goes. Cow is the new kid on the block, although I think it’s probably coming up to a year since I first went now. Cow is the kind of vintage shop you get in London but without the prices: really clean, quirky interior, edited collections by trend. It shouldn’t make a difference — and to the dedicated vintage fiend, it doesn’t — but if you want to get people through the door, making the shop as friendly, bright and welcoming as this does make a difference.
The downstairs has so many handbags displayed on bookshelves that I have not to this day been able to face looking at them. There are SO many. Look nice and all, but I’ve just been overwhelmed every time. The rest of the downstairs is divided equally into his and hers and I have been really impressed on my past visits at how in tune with trends they are.
This time there was a whole rail of pastel trench coats, lots of black lace items arranged nicely, floral jumpsuits artfully displayed. It all looks good and there’s a lot of choice. Upstairs is more of the same, again arranged really nice and clearly. Much as I like a rummage, it’s nice to have a clear run at things sometimes and this place definitely does all the hard work of editing out the crap for you.
I didn’t buy anything on this visit but last time I was there I got some Betty Barclay nautical trousers that I thought were a maxi skirt and a yellow lace maxi dress that I lived in on holiday in Italy. This time I was going to buy some Gucci sandals and Ferragamo flats, but I was in one of those shopping slumps where it just didn’t happen. They were about £20 I think, which gives a good idea on prices.
A new addition at Cow is the sale room where it’s three items for a tenner. There was a tonne of t-shirts in there, loads of knitwear, more Hawaiian print stuff than I’ve ever seen in my life and quite a lot of dresses. It was manic in that room, but if you were in the mood for a rummage you’d come up out with all sorts of gems, I’m sure.
I have one small gripe with Cow, and it’s a weird one. The rails downstairs are sort of rectangular. This means you can’t sweep items along for a quick scan, which is my preferred method of vintage shopping. Maybe it’s a sales tactic because you have to look at each thing individually then kind of shuffle it along, but it does my NUT in. Sort it out Cow!
Bang Bang, 19 Westfield Terrace
I didn’t take a picture of Bang Bang: unlike most Sheffield vintage shops they have a fully functioning website. With a blog! And information! I don’t know how long Bang Bang has been around but I’ve only been visiting it since Christmas 2009.
Here’s the thing with Bang Bang: it’s always really quiet. Unnervingly so. The first time I went in I took a bunch of things to try on and when I came out of the changing room there was no-one in sight. It’s creepy! No customers, one member of staff who’d gone AWOL… I found it a bit odd and whenever I’ve been in since it’s been similarly quiet.
UPDATE: Even though I received a comment from Bang Bang, it has remained unnervingly quiet on the last three occasions I have visited. I don’t like the American sales tactic of pretending to be your pal – I love a quiet browse. That said, it is a bit weird to never see anyone…
Bang Bang have really beautiful clothes with prices that are more Manchester than London vintage — £30-40 for a pristine cocktail dress, that kind of thing. I haven’t bought anything here yet but they have a really good selection of stock and it’s all ‘proper’ vintage too — none of your Clockhouse at C&A here. I’m really impressed with it and it’s a new stop on my Sheffield shopping trips.
Syd and Mallory, The Forum
A new discovery. It’s great to have vintage shops back in the Forum – as I mentioned, it used to be such a great shopping location and I’m glad they’re trying to bring that back. Syd and Mallory sells a combination of furniture and interior knickknacks and vintage clothing, as well as a few new pieces. I really like the atmosphere in this place and the staff are lovely too.
On my first visit, I bought a 1930s sideboard for £25 and on my second I bought some pristine Ferragmo flats for £8 so… say no more?
Lottiebel’s Boutique, The Forum
Right opposite Syd and Mallory is Lottibel’s Boutique, another lovely new addition to the Forum’s shopping options. Selling a combination of really good vintage and new pieces of jewellery and gift bits, prices are cheap and the picks are really good. The owner sells at a few really good vintage fairs, so I think it’s safe to say she knows her stuff.
Friendly, cheap, good pieces… Ah, Sheffield.
Hip, hip hooray! If you can’t make it to Sheffield to make the most of our bountiful vintage shops in person, there’s no need to miss out on the good stuff. Brag Vintage is an online store founded and based in Sheffield – all the fun of bountiful, bargain secondhand stores with all the ease of online shopping. They have a seriously huge range of both men’s and women’s pieces and update the store regularly, just like sticking your head in your favourite IRL shop – seriously, we’re talking ASOS levels of new stock.
Prices are reasonable, they ship internationally and there’s a nice solid returns policy, which is always handy when you’re buying vintage online.
What with this being the 21st century, you’ll also not be surprised to hear that they have a really nice blog as well as a Facebook page where you can check out what’s new – as well as trend-related stuff, which may come in handy for those less keen to sift through the extensive range.
A word on charity shops
Sheffield used to be awesome for charity shops, but all the good ones in the town centre seem to have gone – as is the way in most towns.
There’s still the British Heart Foundation opposite the Peace Gardens and Help The Aged on Norfolk Row, but otherwise the city centre is pretty lacking. Moorgate (The Moor) used to have loads of great shops, including the YMCA where nothing was more than £2. Everything has been knocked down now for the new market development so I can’t think of any at all down that end. There are a few shops opposite the Peace Gardens worth a nose but not many more.
It’s still worth a trip down Moorgate though I reckon — there’s the great haberdashery stall on the old market and, of course, Atkinsons. Atkinsons is Sheffield’s own department store — that dying breed. It’s a real mixed bag of stuff, but always worth a look and if you need shoes reheeling or a new zip in boots or something, you can get it done here for about a fiver. Me and Charleen always save up our shoe repairs until a Sheffield visit because it’s just so much cheaper. Atkinsons also seemed to be the sole stockist in the north of the Henry Holland x Pretty Polly tights and someone (not me) might just have bought them all and sold them at a profit (again, not me)…
Back to charity shops. Head down Ecclesall Road for the student picks or, my preference, down Abbeydale Road South. Abbeydale Road is the route from my house to town and has loads of brilliant charity shops along the way. I papped them from a moving vehicle because I didn’t have much time for shopping this weekend, but I give you my word that you will find something brilliant in these ones. On that road you’ll also find lots of good antique shops for weird home bits — it’s definitely worth a wander.
The Salvation Army Care & Share Shop, 228 Abbeydale Road South
Always amazing, always dirt cheap. Good for house stuff and knick knackery also.
Wow, great shot!
St Luke’s Hospice shop, 706 Abbeydale Road
There are a few St Luke’s in Sheffield, but this is the best in my opinion. It is FULL of amazing clothes, more at the glamorous granny end of the scale. I don’t mean that badly, if you want a pristine tea dress or quality winter coat, this is your best bet.
I also think it’s worth a drive out to Derbyshire if you have a vehicle at your disposal. Bakewell in particular is an untapped goldmine of brilliant charity shops. We used to go there after trips to Chatsworth and I’m never disappointed by their stock. If you want to look like a rich old woman who has a country house, shop in Bakewell charity shops. Barbours, quilted gilets, good hats. Awesome.
I guess that’s covered all my usual haunts… if any Sheffielders have anything I’ve missed then lemme know in a comment, I’m always on the lookout for more places to waste my money.