A Coat Made Of Curtains

After picking vintage T-shirts for the last several years, I’ve gotten very good at the art of picking. When it comes to thrift stores, depending on my mood and the size of the store, I can get in and out very quickly. This involves keeping my head down, staying focused and not engaging with anyone. This works for me because of my introverted nature. It’s not easy for me to talk to strangers. I can do it, and I’m not bad at it, but it saps my energy and wears me out.

However, I love to listen to and observe what’s going on around me. There’s no better place to people-watch than at a thrift store. I’ve seen paramedics treat a passed-out drunk homeless person on a store sofa, old curmudgeons bitch about “high prices” and heated yelling matches between customers. It all makes for a great reality show playing out right in front of me. I just observe, smirk to myself and continue doing my thing.

One particular day a few weeks ago, I was doing this exact thing at a Salvation Army store. As I hurriedly flipped through the tees I took in the sights and sounds around me. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Certainly no drunks or obstinate people. Just the regular ambient noise of a thrift store. There was one voice, however, that continued to capture my attention. It was a joyful one. One that wasn’t too fake or overly annoying. It was enough for me to turn around and seek out who it belonged to.

She was a older lady, hard to tell how old because African Americans age so well. She was targeting each person in the store, going up to them and asking for a hug. Not for money. Not for a handout. But for a hug. With each hug she gave the same sort of pep talk: “Jesus loves you honey. We all need a little more love in this world. We are all one people. Show love today.” Something along those lines.

I’m certainly not new to “interesting” people coming up to me saying things that make me scratch my head but this woman seemed to have it together. She was nice, polite and had a smile that lit up the building.

She hadn’t made her way to me yet but I was just in the process of finishing up and moved my way to the checkout line. When I made it there, we crossed paths.

“Well, where’s my hug sugar?” She said.

“I’ve got it right here” I replied, “I’ve been listening to you and I like your style!”

It wasn’t until I said that that I noticed what she was wearing. No doubt, her coat was made from curtains. Remarkably, they resembled the curtain pattern my parents have in their house. Her knitted cap was undoubtedly one she’d made herself. It was at that moment that I was truly moved.

“Alright then, God bless you. Jesus loves you!” She said with a smile and then moved on to the next person.

“But wait,” I thought to myself, “I want to talk to you some more! Why the hell are you so happy? You have a coat made of curtains for Gods sake!”

I’m not that good at improv. I can’t really speak off the cuff. My introvered, obsessive nature makes me afraid to speak sometimes for fear of saying too much or not saying the right thing. For this reason she continued on her way. I simply sat in line waiting to check out with a forlorn look on my face wanting “a little bit of whatever that lady is taking”. The woman behind me piped up and asked the checkout employee, “Who is that lady?”

“I dunno” she said completely nonplussed.

I wanted to slap her. She was completely unphased by this woman doing so much with so little. In a world consumed with so many bad things, isn’t it nice to get a little love from an unlikely source?

“I love her. I think she’s cute. The world needs more people like her” I said.

I picked up my small bag of vintage T-shirts and headed for the door. But before I made it there I decided I wanted to tell this lady how awesome she was. So I turned around and I approached her. This is not normal for me. I don’t talk to people I don’t know and I’m not good at it. I wasn’t as graceful as she was. In fact, I was a bit awkward. I waited for her while she doted on her lastest benefactor. I felt like a fan waiting for an autograph.

When she finished, I approached her and told her what an amazing thing it was that she was doing and to keep it up. I pulled my phone out and asked if I could take a photo with her. I wanted to remember her.

“Oh honey, no photos. Maybe at a later time. We’ll have to do that later. I don’t look my Sunday best. You know, a lady’s got to get her hair done before a photo.”

I assured her it definitely wasn’t a big deal but she politely declined again and I obliged. We chatted very briefly as she seemed a little confused as to why I was so interested in her. I thanked her for her kind words and left a little more fulfilled but with many more questions I wanted to ask.

Her brief appearance in my life’s story made an impact on me. Each day, I wake up not knowing what this day will bring. Events pass by and the monoteny of each day roll further back in my memory bank with no promise of being able to recollect it in a few years. This moment though, was one I didn’t want to forget. Without a picture of her or a promise of ever running into her again, I decided to write this post. Her decision to love me that day really impacted me. I am so happy to have met her.

I hope one day to see her again.

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I’m A Toys “R” Us Kid

Growing up in Norway, there was no Toys “R” Us. Only IKEAs on every corner and supermarkets where fresh fish smells filled the air in my nostrils to a point where I can’t stand the smell or taste of fish anymore.

However, the absence of a supermarket full of toys made it all the more fantastic when we visited the States and my older brother would take me there. Nothing beat the rush of serotonin upon entering that place and getting the feeling of… well, never wanting to grow up:

What makes being a picker of vintage T-shirts so fantastic is that you never know what you’re going to run into and the memories it will bring to the surface. That’s why I love doing what I do. Being able to attach myself and other people to their past is something that never gets old.

Which is why, when I found this sweatshirt (yes, I’ll pick things other than tees if it peaks my interest), I was transported back to that time before deodorant and pubes when things were much simpler.

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In an adult size too! A miracle! (Click image to view in store)

Needless to say, Toys “R” Us had everything that Norway did not. Most importantly, to me, they had… ROCK LORDS:

What’s that? You never heard of ROCK LORDS??? Powerful living rocks? C’mon, they were the coolest! No? Well… to me they were my toy of choice.¬†Sure, they weren’t as cool as Transformers or GI Joes or My Little Pony but they were unique, different and not everyone had them which made it all the more desirable to me. I had every character and played with them endlessly.

Unfortunately, when I grew up, I sold them all for beer money. At that time, beer was more important than toys. A decision I’ve regretted for a while. The good thing about the internet is that you can find things like Rock Lords and vintage T-shirts with only a few keystrokes. Speaking of… look at my store when you get a chance. You never know what kind of memories my collection may invoke and if you have any Rock Lords, maybe we can do a trade ūüôā

 

Urgent Delivery Leads To Lifelong Memories

“Your Buyer Opened A Case Against You”

These aren’t words I like to see in the header of an email.

Usually, someone hasn’t received their vintage T-shirt (thanks USPS) or their tee arrived damaged (thanks again, USPS). Things happen. What can I do? Quite simply, I handle it as politely and as professionally as I can.

On this day, I quickly reviewed the case and found the buyer hadn’t changed his mailing address when ordering his vintage tee. It had been sent back to my P.O. box. The email was wrought with panic: “Definitely need this by Saturday!” it said.

This wasn’t the first time a buyer needed something urgently. However, Saturday was less than 48 hours away so I’d have to get it out quickly. Vintage tee in hand, I rushed to the post office a little before 4 p.m. and got it sent out with expedited shipping. It was almost a guarantee to get there on Saturday.

I messaged the buyer to let him know all was well and his package was on its way.

This was the item:

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In my business, I get thrills from a number of things. Finding valuable tees in unexpected places is one. Giving old T-shirts new life is another. Getting a handsome return on an investment is a monetary thrill. But making someones day is priceless.

This is the message I received back from my new friend Patrick:

“Chris ¬†— what an awesome, comforting response.¬† U r dealing with a 75 year old IT novice. ¬†I am blown away by ur response, chris.¬† cannot thank u enough. ¬†This is a brothers four tee. U r probably too young to know of them, but they are my all time favorite group, and my grandkids know all their songs.¬† We are going to a brothers four concert on sunday, and they were going to sign and present this tee to my granddaughter. U literally saved the day, Chris!! ¬†So very refreshing to deal w/folks like u!!

I don’t why, but good customer service is rare. However, I pride myself on it. I’ve lived my whole life around the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” By taking the extra steps to ensure Patrick’s vintage T-shirt got to him on time, I literally “saved the day”. I gotta say, that’s an unforgettable thrill.

Patrick kept me up-to-date and gave me a little more background once the tee got to him in time for the concert:

Hi, Chris. Some background– at a prior concert, one of the brothers four– Mike Mccoy– took a liking to my grandson, who knows all the words to all their songs. During the concert, grandson Luca was singing along in his usual animated fashion. The bros 4 noticed this, and wanted to make a guitar for my grandson. ¬†Since they are a vintage folk group from the 50’s– 60’s, it was highly unusual for one so young to know their music. So, Mike Mccoy wanted to make and present this guitar to Luca. That blew us away, but we did not want my granddaughter, Magda, left out. ¬†Hence, my¬†quest for the T-shirt. ¬†Everyone, esp. the bros 4, were blown away by the shirt. ¬†So, Chris, many many many thanx for ur considerable part in making this happen!

 

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Luca, Magda, A Really Cool Vintage T-Shirt, and the Brothers Four

The great thing about selling vintage tees is that the buyer often has an emotional connection to the shirt. I hardly ever get to know what that connection is, however. In this case, because of the care I put into it, I got to hear a wonderful and heartwarming story of a simple T-shirt literally bringing people together.

When I started this little vintage T-shirt company three years ago, I did it with a goal to show love in what I did. I know that sounds silly when talking about selling old T-shirts, but it’s true. What I’ve come to see is the love in every emotional connection with a T-shirt. The buyer “loves this band” or “loved that TV show” or “loved this brand when they were a kid”, etc. So I treat every package with love and as if it’s going to someone like Patrick every single time.

VTV Work Cribs

I don’t know if you knew this, but I earned a Broadcast Communications degree from an established University. Unfortunately, I didn’t nurture or use my skills for years.

“There’s no money in it.” I would always tell myself.

I just realized something: it’s not about the money.

It’s just a good time. Let’s see what kinda story’s come out of it.

These Vintage Mickey Tees Look The Same! Why Are They Priced Different?

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Outside of one being black and one being gray, what do you say the difference is?

The standard Mickey Mouse tee is perhaps one of the most overproduced T-shirts out there. I recently went to Disneyland several months ago and there was absolutely no shortage of Mickey tees wandering around the park.

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1st and quite possibly the last

So, if everybody has a Mickey tee, what makes the two tees above so damn special?

Well, the black one on the left is from the 80s. I know this because it’s a Stedman brand, 50/50 poly/cotton tee.

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It’s not super rare, but it is somewhat hard to find and is in awesome condition so I have it priced reasonably at 39.99.

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Click to see in store

Now, the one on the right is quite special.

Before I tell you why, understand that in the history of people collecting things, no one has ever wanted a reproduction. The most sought after items are the originals.

First edition Harry Potter books can sell for thousands of dollars.

The first issue of Superman sold for over $3 million dollars.

And an original Led Zeppelin T-shirt from 1979 sold for $10,000.

The gray Mickey tee on the right is not only an original tee from the 70s but it is also a “Tri-Blend” tee meaning that it was made with three materials: Cotton, polyester and Rayon.

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Coupled with the fact it is thin, threadbare and in impeccable shape for being approximately 40 years old (almost vintage for a human being) warrants this Mickey tee to be thrust into the upper echelons of vintage Mickey tees. Which is why it is priced so much higher than the black tee on the left.

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Click to see in store (Update: Now Sold)

It may not be “The First” Mickey tee ever made (undoubtedly not) but it certainly is old and has survived several decades without becoming a dust rag. It is “original”, it is “vintage” and it is “expensive”. It will “sit in my store for a long time” ¬†(Update 12/15/16: this incredible Mickey tee has now been sold) because many people probably won’t want to spend “$300 on a T-shirt” but I’m willing to wait because I guaren-damn-tee you there ain’t many of these out there right now.

It’s an investment.

Thoughts?

 

What Is Considered A “Vintage T-Shirt”?

(Update: Defunkd¬†has already written about this. He even started the post out with the definition of “vintage” like I did! Boy do I feel like an idiot.)

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “vintage” as such: “(The word is) Used to describe something that is not new but that is valued because of its good condition, attractive design”.

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“Vintage”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Why write an entire post about what is considered vintage when the dictionary explains it so well?

Quite frankly, because I don’t think Merriam Webster explains what makes a T-shirt vintage. It just says, “something”. That something could be anything! It could be lunch boxes. It could be pressed coins. Could it not also be for T-shirts?

There has to be some sort of cutoff date before each respective collectible is considered “vintage”, right?

So,¬†for me,¬†when it comes to T-shirts, my cutoff point is the year 2000. Any tee after that year (2001 to the present) can no longer qualify as “vintage” in my book.¬†Perhaps in another ten years or so, I may reexamine what can be defined as a “vintage T-shirt” but for right now, as a collector who sells tees with regularity, my standard is to keep vintage at the year 2000 and before.

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“Kinda Old” (Click photo to see in store)

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“Vintage” (Click photo to see in store)

Lastly and for the record, I happen to be 35 years old. I DO NOT consider myself vintage. The “vintage rules” that apply to tees do not have the same applications with humans. There are billions of people on the planet with the average lifespan being about 67 years old. Using the same formula with humans, I would classify myself as just “kinda old”. I’m not going to be vintage for about another 20 years.

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“Kinda Old” (and with delicious cupcakes)